By Hassan Fadiga and Al-Hussein Fadiga
In light of the speedy ratification of the controversial US$536 million loan deal between Eton Finance Private Limited and the Weah-lead government, a group of well-meaning Liberian professionals initiated a private investigation into the company. Multiple investigations across three continents were launched with the aim of reaching a thorough understanding of the business history of Eton Finance Private Limited and its stakeholders.
Having gathered the necessary business information from the Hong Kong government website, on June 13, 2018, an investigative team from the United States visited Hong Kong to ascertain the authenticity of Eton Finance Private Limited. This Radio Africa team visited the registered address of the Eton firm at 6/F, Fung Sang Trading Building, 54 Bonham Strand West, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Our team spoke with two individuals who stated that the address was correct, but they were not aware of Eton Finance Private Limited.
The men—who were executives of a wholesale distributing company, Ultrasia Limited Uniwell (HK) Limited—further noted that their company had been at the address mentioned for about ten years. The Radio Africa team continued its investigation by visiting another business establishment with a similar name: Eton Property Limited, at Eton Tower, 8 Hysan Ave, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. A representative of Eton Property Limited told us that Eton Finance Private Limited was not an affiliate of said company.
The Radio Africa investigative team observed that both signatories to the Eton firm were residing outside Hong Kong. Sang-Hun Kwon’s on-record residential address is 301 46-I Daesagwan-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Metropolitan, Republic Of Korea, while Mr Shigesato Kono’s residential address is 11 Adelabu Street, Surulere Lagos, Nigeria.
A background check into the shareholders of the controversial private firm revealed that Mr Shigesato Kono, a director of Eton Finance Private Limited, is a Japanese national, and Sang-Hun Kwon is a citizen of South Korea. Mr Shigesato Kono’s background check also reveals that the sixty-eight-year-old Japanese citizen emigrated to the United States in the 1960s and settled in Sausalito, Ca. In 1982, Shigesato Kono registered the Kono Sushi Company in the state of California under the legal form of Domestic Stock. The entity identification number is C1109973, and its registered address is 41 Marin Ave, Sausalito, 94965 CA.
A further inquiry into the background of Mr Kono also revealed that on April 20, 1992, a federal tax lien of $47,398.00 was filed at the Marin County Court (rd) in California, on Mr Kono’s property at 107 Caledonia St, Sausalito, CA 94965-1956. Additionally, several litigations were noted in Mr Kono’s past. Meanwhile, there is limited information on Sang Hun Kwon online; therefore, no further information was provided.
The government of Liberia stated that the Eton Financing loan would cover 505.3km of roads including the corridor from Grand Bassa County in Buchanan through Cestos City in Rivercess County. Additionally, the Weah administration also said that the loan would be used to construct 316km of road from Greenville City in Sinoe County to Barclayville City in Grand Kru County. The road construction projects, according to President Weah, are expected to be completed during the first term of his administration.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial institutions have voiced their concerns about the Eton Financing loan agreement. Under the Article IV program of the IMF, when a country joins the IMF it agrees to submit its economic and financial policies to the scrutiny of the global community. The findings of fact in the Eton Finance Private Limited investment company suggest troubling signs that this company is less than transparent. While it is true that Liberia needs roads and other infrastructure improvements, it is incumbent on the President and other stakeholders to rethink the plan to borrow money from Eton Financing.