-Prosecutors release indictment
Two of the three suspended senior members of the management team of the National Housing Authority (NHA), including its managing director Duannah Siryon, are said to have fled the country, after Criminal Court ‘C’ in Monrovia approved a bid by prosecutors to re-arrest them following a release of their indictment by the Grand Jury of Criminal Court ‘A.’
Defendant Isaac Roberts, deputy director for Technical Services, according to the court’s record, was the only person that was served with the indictment and subsequent writ of arrest. His hearing is expected to begin early February 2019. However, the whereabouts of Siryon and his Deputy Director for Administration, Tugbeh C. Tugbeh, remain unknown and therefore they have not been served with the indictment and writ of arrest on grounds that they had allegedly fled the bailiwick of the country.
The defendants were enjoying a US$92,000 bond secured by Sky International Insurance Company before the new writ of arrest and indictment were issued against them, of which the court is finding it very difficult to relocate Siryon and Tugbeh.
Siryon, Roberts, Tugbeh and one Ambassador Augustine Weah, believed to be the chief executive officer of Guss Group of Companies, were earlier charged by the Liberia National Police (LNP) with multiple crimes that ranged from theft of property, economic sabotage, bribery, criminal conspiracy, and criminal solicitation for allegedly extorting US$92,000 from a man identified as Emmanuel Tapsoba, former coordinator for a Burkinabe company called GHLPAZ-IMMO, which has been in the country to construct over 5,000 housing units along the Roberts International Airport (RIA) highway.
In the indictment, a copy of which is with the Daily Observer, prosecutors alleged that GELPAZ-IMMO through its Chief Executive Officer Alain Z. Zoungana, had expressed interest in the growth and development of the country through a proposal to construct over five thousand housing units along the Roberts International Airport (RIA).
Shortly afterwards, prosecutors claimed Siryon was contacted through GHLPAZ-IMMO’s former coordinator, Tapsoba, regarding the company’s intention to build said structures in the country since he, Siryon, was at the time managing director of the National Housing Authority.
The indictment further said between August 16 up to and including September 16, 2018, the defendants, with criminal intent organized a scheme in which they extorted money from GHLPAZ-IMMO under the pretext of offering the contract.
Because of the scheme, the record said, Tapsoba GHLPAZ-IMMO’s coordinator left Burkina Faso for Liberia with the amount of US$50,000, on September 23, 2018, for the purpose of bribing officials of the NHA to have them “soften the ground” for his company.
The indictment claimed that during the same period, an executive of the company, Benao Bazonon, traveled to Liberia from Burkina Faso along with one Urban Planner and Demographer, with an additional amount of US$42,000 and delivered the money to the company’s coordinator Tapsoba, who later reported sending money to Weah as part of the softening exercises.
Not being satisfied with the process, the document claimed that Tapsoba presented an amount of US$80,000 to Siryon when they both met at the Royal Grand Hotel to liaise with other government officials.
Immediately after receiving the money, Siryon, the court’s record claimed, invited Weah and gave him US$20,000 for Weah to deliver to Siryon’s office the next working day, while the remaining US$60,000 was left in the possession of Siryon. It was claimed that Siryon divided the US$60,000 among some government officials.
Weah’s US$20,000, the record said, was distributed to the two other managing directors, Tugbeh and Roberts.
It was during the distribution of the money, the document claimed, that confusion broke out among the managers, leading to the discovery of the scheme.
It may be recalled that in an audio voice recording during the confusion over the alleged distribution of the money, the representative of GELPAZ in Liberia, Augustus Weah, who is also the vice president of the company, alleged that NHA Managing Director, Mr. Duanah Siryon, had requested kickback in the tone of US$160,000 for NHA, US$100,000 for Justice Minister, US$100,000 for Nathaniel McGill and US$100,000 for the Finance Minister before the contract could be consummated.
According to Augustus (Gus) Weah, vice president of GELPAZ Liberia, he said during the negotiation with Siryon he told the NHA director that GELPAZ Liberia did not have that amount of money on hand. However, Gus said he made a transfer of US$80,000 via Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) to him (Siryon), to be shared with Minister McGill, his team and the NHA.
“After that the US$80,000 was presented to Duannah Siryon, and he told me, ‘I’ll give you US$20,000 to keep and I’ll take the US$60,000 to McGill to disburse,’” Weah is heard saying in the leaked audio recording. Weah further alleged that the NHA Managing Director requested and was offered a percentage in the construction, but pleaded that such would be kept secret from his principal deputies.
The matter was exposed when Augustus Weah, President Weah’s cousin, claimed Siryon had earlier accused him of receiving US$400,000 for President Weah and other members of the Executive branch for the consummation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in order for GELPAZ Liberia to start construction work. Gus had said he was confronted about the money by the President via a WhatsApp message when he was in Paris, France, in September.