LIBERIA’S PRESIDENTIAL GRAFT SCANDAL UPDATES
NEW YORK — Liberia’s Culture of Impunity: As Tony Lawal, Turncoats Slice Additional $8.9M Taxpayers’ Money
Globe Afrique’s ongoing investigation into the Tony Lawal and Janine Johnson Bernard’s $18 million dollars graft scandal revealed that the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission’s (LACC) efforts to arrest the Chief Executive Officer of the Praise Glory Lawal Construction Company or PGL, Mr. Tony Lawal, and two other suspects, Victor Smith and the current Minister of Public Works, Gyude Moore, for their alleged links to the scandal is proving difficult every day due to intervention from the presidency.
Reliable sources have revealed that the individuals linked to the corruption spree are currently pondering about their fate in view of their link to the scandal that has robbed millions of dollars from the government and people of Liberia.
The organized graft begin when then Minister of Public Works, Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods, resigned from the government.
Globe Afrique’s investigation revealed that Tony Lawal and Janine Johnson Bernard allegedly owed a number of bogus businesses in Liberia, including the two fake construction companies.
According to credible sources, the companies are used to received and laundered funds from the Liberian government incrementally, through the acquisition of one dubious contract after another from the Ministry of Public Works.
Lawal’s company, at first, allegedly received One Million Nine Hundred Thousand United States dollars to rehabilitate the Brewerville / Bopolu road. The project is a contract awarded without submission of a bill of quantity (BOQ) to the Ministry of Public Works,” according to an LACC communication addressed to the then Minister of Finance & Development Planning.
Globe Afrique’s research found out that after Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods resigned as minister in 2016, Victor Smith served as acting minister. While acting as minister, Smith at the urging of Janine Johnson Bernard, encouraged Tony Lawal to establish another company called Praise Glory Lawal Construction Company in addition to the Pealat Construction Company.
Globe Afrique’s investigation revealed that Janine Johnson Bernard and the late Edward McClain awarded Tony Lawal the Brewerville/Bopolu road contract without any formal bidding process, as required by the PPCC law.
Soon after the new company was founded, a $3.5 million United States dollars was to the 5.5 million United States dollars in the contract already awarded.
President Sirleaf than appointed madam Antoinette Weeks at the ministry in 2013. Weeks later noticed the corruption.
Minister Weeks then forwarded the corruption case to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC). Information gathered revealed that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, acting on her sister’s complaint immediately sacked Minister Weeks and appointed Gyude Moore as the Minister of Public Works.
The LACC then communicated with then Finance and Economy Planning Minister, Amara Konneh, regarding the corruption operations at the Ministry of Public Works. A carbon copy of the communication was also sent to Minister Gyude Moore.
Globe Afrique also learned that then Finance Minister Konneh refused to disburse most of the funds relating to the subsequent fake contracts presented by Tony Lawal, Janine Johnson Bernard and their affiliates at the Ministry of Public Works.
To circumvent that, President Sirleaf encouraged Minister Konneh to take an international position with the World Bank based on her recommendation. Upon Konneh’s acceptance, the president in 2016 immediately appointed a young financial and economic policy staffer, Boima Kamara, from the Central Bank of Liberia, as Minister of Finance and Economy Planning.
Minister Kamara was then immediately instructed to make all payments due Tony Lawal and Janine Johnson Bernard.
In anticipation of the payment, Public Works Minister Gyude Moore allegedly changed the contract language and amount from $5.5 million to $8.9 million United States dollars.
According to Globe Afrique’s findings, from that amount (8.9 million), $5.7 million was allegedly paid to Tony Lawal and Janine Johnson Bernard for the so-called road project and the rest of the funds was left with officials of the two ministries. To date, no one knows where that amount went to. Sources say perhaps the funds were sent to the Office of the President.
In the interim, the LACC continued to pursue the case in an effort to bring the corruption ring to light. Globe Afrique’s investigation also found out that President Sirleaf, upon her return from the recently held United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, USA, ordered the Chairman of the LACC, Cllr. James Verdier, to her residence for an urgent meeting.
Globe Afrique also found out that after the LACC’s boss visit at the president’s residence, the next day the LACC’s staff assigned to the corruption case and that had sought the arrest of Tony Lawal, Minister Gyude Moore, and Victor Smith were immediately suspended and their vehicles impounded without any cause or reason.
This corruption saga is well-known to the Liberian Ministry of justice and all other investigative authorities in the country. But they have all kept silent by the president through financial and other inducements. Since this story was exposed, the minister of justice and attorney general of Liberia, Cllr. Fred Cherue has been mute. So too is the leadership of the “Special Presidential Taskforce” which vowed to bring all major perpetrators of corruption to justice.
Globe Afrique has also discovered that Lawal’s benefactor, Mrs. Janine Johnson Bernard, who was recently in the United States residing at her upper-class Long Island residence, has returned to Liberia in the last few days. Instead of addressing the corruption activities of Tony Lawal in which Mrs. Bernard is allegedly implicated, she is seeking to secure additional funds from the Finance Ministry.
A number of Western financial professionals like, David Robbins, say Liberia will be broke when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf leaves office. Globe Afrique’s investigation found out that widespread funds transfer, money laundry, and public corruption have become excessive as the regime comes to end.
Sources say, most of the stolen wealth is being deposited in financial institutions in the Middle East and Asia.