The legal tussle between Lebanese nationals Salah Farhat and Ezzat Eid continues amidst twist and turns with plaintiff Ezzat Eid withdrawing his initial complaint and charges of money laundering against defendant Salah Farhat and replacing same with charges of theft of property, misapplication of entrusted property and criminal conspiracy.
Salah served as managing partner and holds a 35 percent share and Tamer as the Assistant Managing Director, while Eid holds the remaining 65 percent share of the company.
Eid, the former president of the World Lebanese Cultural Union of Liberia, accused his business partners of stealing US$41.3million while serving in their respective capacities, which led state prosecutors to charge Salah and Tamer with multiple crimes that include money laundering, theft of property, misapplication of entrusted property and criminal conspiracy.
Before the case could start, Eid claimed that Salah transferred some of the money he allegedly stole from the company to Lebanon; thereafter, Salah withdrew US$163,458.78 from his (Salah) account in Lebanon and transferred that money to Liberia through the Ecobank-Liberia, which money he allegedly used to establish a new company, Cedar Motor.
It was based upon that accusation the prosecution added money laundering to the multiple charges against the Farhat, which they asked the court to exclude because the elements of that crime are not visible and present in the facts and circumstances in the case; the request was accepted by then-Judge Nancy Sammy.
In his testimony, on Friday, March 20, Salah admitted that he transferred US$166,000 from his account in Lebanon to the Ecobank-Liberia, where he is a customer, but he claimed that it was Eid who transferred the money through the AUGID Bank in Lebanon to his (Salah) account in that country.
Salah also alleged that the money was his share from the operation of the Tayo Motor after he and Eid decided to terminate the partnership agreement.
“I did not steal any money from Eid, neither did I transfer any money from Lebanon to Liberia to establish my company; it was Eid who transferred money there,” Salah said.
“I transferred the money to Liberia where I established a new business and I have a photocopy of the transfer from Lebanon to Liberia, which money I used to import cars from China to Liberia,” Salah added during his testimony.
Salah in his testimony also said, the check Eid sent to him as his share payment in Lebanon bounced meaning, there was not sufficient money in Eid’s Lebanon account to encash there, claiming, , he had to send the money to another country, the United States of America (USA), “which money I received in Liberia through my Ecobank account and opened the new business”, he declared.
When asked about the original copy of the check, Salah replied, “The original transfer document is in Lebanon at my house and this is a photocopy of the said transfer document.”
In their request to drop the money laundering charge against the Farhats, the government lawyers said that it is legally appropriate to charge the crimes of theft of property, misapplication of entrusted property and criminal conspiracy because the elements of these crimes are visible and present according to the facts and circumstances available to them.
“It is convenient and convincing to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt if the indictment is amended and limited to the charges of theft of property, misapplication of entrusted property and criminal conspiracy,” the prosecution maintained.
Money Laundering, according to a legal expert is hiding the source of illegally obtained money. “This happens when someone receives a certain amount of money in order to do something illegal, such as drug trafficking, payment for murder, terrorist attacks, etc. Such money is dirty money and the source of it (the business transaction) is not legal,” the Supreme Court lawyer explained.
He added that “if such money would be placed in a bank account, that bank would ask the person to provide the proof of the money’s source, and the source must be from a legitimate business.
“In case a person cannot prove the source or there are indices that the money comes from illegal activity, the bank is obliged to report such suspicion. If the source is not proven or legitimate there is a risk: for the money can be seized by the authorities and the person can be criminally charged,” the lawyer said.
The lawyer also said money laundering is an illegal activity, stressing, “Banks are required to report all suspicious transactions and other signs of money laundering.”
In their indictment, the prosecution claimed that between the periods of 2011 up to and including 2018, Salah Farhat and Eid have been friends and members of the Lebanese World Cultural Union of Liberia, and when Eid served as president, Salah was a member of the organization’s executive committee.
During that period, the court record alleges that Eid visited China and developed an interest in the importation and selling of Chinese manufactured vehicles on the Liberian market.
Based upon the relationship coupled with Farhat experienced in this line of business, Eid provided the funds to establish a partnership enterprise with Salah, and they both established Toya Motors Liberia.
They agreed that Salah’s monthly remuneration for his services as managing partner of Toya Motors should be US$2,000, while his son Tamer who assisted his father in the running of the affairs of the business would receive US$1,000 monthly.
Contrary to the agreement between the partners of Toya Motors, the document alleges that from February 1, 2016, up to and including February 28, 2018, the defendants increased their monthly salaries to US$5,000 without the knowledge and approval of the majority owner, Eid.
Eid also claimed that the Farhats were involved in several other fraudulent activities that cost the company to lose US$1.3million
Eid further alleges that Salah used his company’s money to establish another company named Cedar Motors Inc that is currently engaged in the importation, sale, and distribution of Chinese-manufactured vehicles in the country.