Senator Teahjay Indicted for ‘Embezzling’ US$764,500

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By Abednego Davis 

On March 1, the Grand Jury of the Third Circuit Court of Sinoe County returned an indictment against Senator J. Milton Teahjay and former Development Superintendent T. McDonald Wlemus for awarding contracts valued over US$764,500 to individuals and companies in total disregard and violation of the Public Procurement Concession Commission’s (PPCC) procedures and processes.

The alleged act occurred between December 2009 and March 2012 when defendant Teahjay was serving as superintendent of the county, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission said.

The amount was intended for the construction of several projects in the county that included the Greenville City Electrification at the cost of US$495,000; the Diyankpa Administrative Building at the cost of US$40,000; the Kunjwau Clinic, US$35,000; and the Pyne Town Administrative Building, also at the cost of US$35,000. Others were Jalay Clinic valued at US$35,000; the Numonpo County District Administrative Building, at US$49,500; and Greenville Sports Stadium valued at US$75,000.

The value of each of the seven projects was above the threshold of US$10,000 and should have required a competitive bidding process and procedures, as called for by the PPCC Act and its attendant regulations.

The indictment charged the defendants with commission of multiple crimes, including economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal facilitation and conspiracy, and violation of the PPCC procedures and processes in awarding contracts.

According to the indictment, at some instances, the defendants awarded those contracts with the full or substantial amounts paid to individuals and companies that did not have the capacity and ability to perform, which led to delays in performance, while other projects were ongoing.

The court records claimed that during the period of December 2009, up to and including March 2012, Teahjay and Wlemus used their respective posts and withdrew US$12,000, “which money represent[ed] a portion of the proceeds realized from the sale of rubber seized from illegal tappers from the SRC plantation.”

During that same period, the defendants, while serving as chief custodians of the County and Social Development Funds, as well as other monies allotted to the county by the government and other private sources, did create the opportunity and withdrew US$50,000 from the county’s account.

The money should have been used for the county’s development purposes, which usage was to be based on the county’s development agenda emanating from the County Council Resolution, “but, the defendants were not mindful of the developmental needs of the citizens and used the funds for their personal benefits,” the document alleged.

The record alleged another US$50,000, which amount represents a 30 percent share of land rental fees paid by forest concessionaries to the government, was diverted by the defendants.

“Defendant Teahjay claimed that US$35,000 of the said money was used to purchase a Mitsubishi Jeep for use by the county authority without any evidence of the purchase,” the document further alleged.

To the contrary, the court records claimed that “in 2008, the government did purchase and distribute Mitsubishi Pajero jeeps to all County Superintendents including defendant Teahjay.”

The document alleged that “the jeep issued to Sinoe County was still in prefect running condition and was being used by the defendant when he purchased the new jeep.”

The indictment also claimed that during the period, another vehicle, a Mitsubishi Double Cabin Pick-Up, was purchased by the county authority for the amount of US$33500; “the pick-up that was purchased with an Ecobank Check number 00541627, dated May 27, 2011 was money Teahjay withdrew out of the county development fund Account Number 10-2101366-22-016 and was co-signed by Wlemus.”

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