Former Buchanan Port Manager Writes President Weah, Details US$300K Transfer Scandal

Charles MCArthur Gull

The dismissed Buchanan Port Manager, Charles MCArthur Gull has written the Liberian leader, President George Manneh Weah explaining detail of how over Three Hundred Thousands United States Dollars was transferred, and who gave the alleged go ahead of the money in question to be transferred.

Mr. Gull who is currently in the United States, also in his letter dated 25 September 2021 also wrote the Chairman of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. Edwin Martin, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bhofal Chamber, the Pro-Temporal of the Liberian Senate, Albert Chie, and the Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Francis Korkpor.

Below is the full text of Mr. Gull’s letter:

It behooves me to use this medium to provide maximum clarity on the scandal which transpired recently at the Port of Buchanan in Liberia which led to my abrupt and secret departure from Liberia. I am of the strongest conviction that the Public has been misled entirely and if I do not come out now to truly provide my side of the story, absolutely nothing will be done to punish the perpetrators thereby leaving the LACC to push this case under the rode. It is long but worth reading to the end.

*THE USD$300K ALLEGED BANK TRANSFERRED ALLEGATION BETWEEN NPA (GOL) & ACERLOR MITTAL*

I took over at the port of Buchanan on October 5th 2018 in a colorful induction ceremony that was well attended by family, friends, workmates and the media. Two months down my official duty, I noticed a vessel berth at anchorage (The water between the first break water and the deep ocean).  I asked some of my staff why the vessel was berth on anchorage for the past months without a movement and I haven’t seen a bill sent to Acerlor Mittal for payment.

They told me that particular vessel has been berth on anchorage for more than a year now and they haven’t sent any bill simply because there is nothing in the tariff that can be used to bill a vessel on anchorage. I then read the MDA (Mineral Development Agenda) that was sent to me by a big brother from Mittal whom I had to beg because NPA or Ministry of Lands Mines and energy don’t even have copy of a very important instruction that speak to how the concessionaires operate.

Some of the communications

After reading the MDA (Mineral Development Agenda) I found out that there is nothing also in the MDA that can be used against Acerlor Mittal to have them pay for a vessel at anchorage, therefore I decided to just try them out of my own volition. I instructed the financial manager Mr. Patrick Darquate to raise a bill using the regular tariff to bill the Vessel on anchorage. I then instructed my then Administrative Assistant James Johnson, to write Acerlor Mittal a letter informing them about a 600k bill that was generated from the amount of time the vessel has stationed to Anchorage for onward payment.

When Mittal received the letter later that day, my big brother Philip W. Doe then called me with heavy laughter saying, and I quote: “My Pekin this job the People gave u really make u hot oh, you know how long that vessel been on anchorage and no one ever asked us to make payment? It’s not possible for a dime to be paid because nothing your lawmakers put in the concession that ask for anchorage payment neither does the MDA speak to that”.

From his assertion he was fair enough and then I felt discouraged but I couldn’t admit to him that I was on a fishing expedition. I reluctantly ended the conversation by saying

“Your will pay that money by force” again I didn’t have any supporting clause with in the tariff, the MDA nor the Concession between the Liberian government and Acerlor Mittal that I could use to push for payment. From my end, I was done pushing the anchorage payment.

After a week or so, I received a call from some big guys from Arcelor  Mittal asking that me meet at one of their colleagues’ home for a discussion. About 9pm that cool evening, I took a scroll down the Loop to the sent address for meeting. At that meeting, I was informed by the big guys that it was possible for them to push their management for payment of said money but provided a percentage be given to them on any payment made from the anchorage charges.

I then told them that I wasn’t the one to make such decision because I don’t control the accounts of NPA but I will brainstorm and get back to them, and so I left for home. For a week I couldn’t arrived at the decision to inform my bossman Hon. Bill Twehway. One Saturday evening in 2018 December, by Bossman Hon. Bill Twehway and a huge delegation of men and women entered Buchanan city on one of his regular visits, I had gone to greet him like I normally do whenever he’s around.

After greeting him I walked outside to have a phone conversation and I had my body resting on the NPA pickup while on the call. My very good big brother the then Logistics Manager Mr. Wilmot Eugene Mason came from the back and knock me and yelled my name “Mr. PM PM” he normally called me. I ended the call and hugged him with smiles on our faces. After we had some chitchats, I felt comfortable to tell him about the Mittal situation because he has always been a good big brother to me even when Cuffy- Brown denied me the job he was one of those that encouraged me to let go. I then explained to him and he said: “I advise you lecture the MD, that your Papay, I am sure he will accept the guys from Mittal’s proposal.”

I then sent my driver home for copy of the Bill I sent to Mittal so I could show it to my Boss. He brought the copy and I walked upstairs in the hotel room of Mr. Bill Twehway. I explained to him the entire issue surrounding the anchorage charges and what the guys from Mittal told me to make the deal work. He happily accepted the idea and asked me if I was sure the deal would work out and I told him yes once we guarantee that the guys from Mittal will get the 20% they asked for and he then told me to go ahead with the deal.

I then called the guys from Mittal and informed them that my bossman has given me the green light. One of the guys said he wasn’t satisfied until they can meet Bill Twehway and hear it for themselves. I quickly arrange a meeting with the MD and the guys from Mittal, they met and he again told them yes their percentage will be given them on any amount paid.

The next day we began working on the deal, I would instruct James (My administrative assistant) to write Mittal with the assurance given to me from the same guys against their company and they would also respond to me in the affirmative.

We dragged the issue for almost a month until Acerlor Mittal finally succumbed to pay the money but they requested that we have a meeting with their CEO. Days after I accepted to meet the CEO of Mittal, he flew from Luxembourg to Liberia and drove to my office the same day for the meeting.

He argued that they couldn’t pay a dime for any anchorage charges because the government of Liberia didn’t speak to anything in the Concession agreement neither the MDA, therefore they weren’t paying. I was already armed with my RPG ready to dislodge his arguments. I dealt with the issue sufficiently until he accepted to the payment but we should draft an MOU for a reasonable charge.

I then called my bossman on WhatsApp as he was on a trip with the President in Europe, after explaining to him, he happily accepted that we work on the MOU and whatever we came up with will highly be accepted by him. The next day the CEO of Mittal left the country but tasked his staff to work with me in drafting the MOU that we could use for the payment of the charges. We worked on the MOU for weeks until it was done and I sent copy to head office for perusals and possible corrections. The MD had returned to the country, he signed and the Comptroller also signed on behalf of NPA.

On behalf of Acerlor Mittal, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) signed and the then head of Port and railroad also signed. In that MOU, the MD agreed that all Anchorage payment should be made to Buchanan Port  Operations Account. Even though the operation account is only for petit cash payment. Eg, a monthly amount of $3000 is paid for the Buchanan Port operational purposes which in three years was only sent three times, leaving the port strangulated. But that’s a topic for another day.

In the MOU, we also agreed that we charge Mittal $7 per LOA (Length overall) of the vessel, times the amount of days the vessel will spend on anchorage before movement. So the math will be $7 USD X length of the vessel which was 122LOA time 150 days if the vessel had spent five months before movement. 7x122x150=128,000 for such duration. Note, it’s only an example of how the charges for the anchorage worked.

On March 4th 2019, the first payment of USD $174,000 was transferred to the Buchanan operational account. I called the MD informing him about the transfer that was made, he then asked me who all are signatory to the account; and I informed him it was only me and the Financial Manager of the Port of Buchanan, but the Comptroller of NPA has the oversight to request all NPA accounts information and he will be given the Bank statements. He said ok, in two weeks I will tell you what to do about the money and I said yes sir.

After one week I called my bossman and informed him about my trip to the USA, and he asked that I go to town to meet him which I did. When I got there, he instructed the Comptroller to give me something for my trip, the Comptroller and myself drove to his house in Virginia, Banjor, and he gave me USD $5,000 in hundreds bills. The next day, which was the 12th of March, I left the country for the US.

One week into my trip, my boss instructed the Acting Port manager who I left in charge Mr. Tiabor Karten (The Pier Superintendent) to ask me to go back to Liberia as “the chief” wanted the money. I then changed my flight schedule and left for Liberia. I got to Liberia on the 1st of April 2019 and then called the MD the next morning informing him that I was back in the country. He then said I should wait he will call me later. After two days, the Comptroller Mr. Vakuma Dukuly called me informing me that he will send me bank account information for the money to be transferred. I informed him that we didn’t have any money discussion; I will have to speak to the MD before going forward with anything. The MD called me after few minutes in an angry tone telling me to follow every instruction given to me by the Comptroller, I then called the Comptroller and apologized for the disrespect and also told him that I was waiting to carry on the instructions.

The Comptroller told me that he will give the bank information to the Financial Manager for the money to be transferred to said account. The Financial Manager ran to my office with a GT bank information given to him by the Comptroller for the money to be transferred. The Financial Manager Mr. Patrick Darquate wrote the cheque, and then I signed it, which he took to the head office to the Comptroller’s office. I instructed the Financial Manager to ask for a receipt from the Comptroller which he didn’t get because the Comptroller told him to leave his office.

After two weeks, the guys from Mittal asked me for their percentage of the money that was paid. I informed them that the money was transferred to my bosses and I had no control over anything again. After few days while sitting with the MD at the newly constructed NPA headquarters, few of the guys from Mittal went to see him. I was sitting with the MD and then Sekou Kalasco walked in, we all were having lunch together. The guys from Mittal were ushered in, soon the MD saw them he said “My man I gave that money to the chief because he asked for it” one of the guys from Mittal was angry and he said: “that wasn’t the discussion we had.”

Words from words, they had to leave in anger. I then walked behind them and begged them to forget it and we could fulfill our obligations on the next transaction.

So times in and out, the vessel was billed and sent to Mittal for payment and they would pay to the Operational account as mandated by the MOU. USS $179,000, $181k, $288k and so on was sent to the operations account which were transferred to accounts provided by the Comptroller for transfers. And not a single time any amount was given to the guys from Mittal for their promised percentage. They would always meet me to vent their anger and bully me on behalf of my bossman behavior toward them. The last payment was made to the operation account in the tone of USD $181,000.

In days there was a major inspection by the International Coast guard at the port of Buchanan. That inspection was very important because any report from said inspection it could determine if the Port would stay at level one or drop to lower level because of poor infrastructure, security and poor lighting system. I had written the MD and the Comptroller many communications to make disbursement to our account for a major renovation of the Port’s clinic, the fire track, the Port fence, to give a facelift to the port and also provide fuel for the lighting system. All the communication didn’t meet approval and I was worried that the port would drop to lower level, therefore certain important vessels will not berth our pier. And the port would loose millions in revenue as I have fought hard to raise the revenue from little over a million dollar to 3.5 million in 2020. I have all evidences to any financial issue raised here.

Therefore, to keep the port at level one which we had fought to do, I instructed the Financial Manager to withdraw USD $12,000 from the money sent by Mittal to the Operations Account for use of the Port. When the Comptroller was told that said amount was withdrawn from the account, he ran to the MD asking for my dismissal. The MD then called me in anger and blasted for withdrawing money from the account without giving him heads up. I explained the reasons and told him that all documents would be sent to him to establish how the money was used. He didn’t care, and he immediately requested that the balance be transferred which we did. After few days he wrote Arcelor Mittal instructing them that they shouldn’t make any payment to the Buchanan Port operation account going forward, that all future anchorage payments should be made to the general NPA account. The rest of the payments would be made to the account he provided.

On June 2020, the vessel that was on sea for which those anchorage charges were being paid, left Liberia finally as the operation for which the vessel was on anchorage was now over and terminated. And all payments owed by Mittal to NPA were made.

In October of 2020, while on my vacation to the USA. I received a call from the then Acting Financial Manager of the Buchanan Port, Mr. Amara Kamara, he was now the acting Financial Manager because Mr. Patrick Darquate was ill and couldn’t perform his duties as Financial Manager.

On the Call, Amara told me that the same guys from Mittal had gone to him to ask him for a favor. The favor was for him to give them a fake bill that they would use to get money from their company since of course our Bossman Bill Twehway ate all the money and didn’t give them their promise 20%. I told Amara to wait until I get to the country. I got to Liberia the same October and requested that i meet the guys. I met them and they explained to me the intentions of the fake bill was to get some money from their company and we will be given percentage if we help them to carry on the operation.

I agreed but then I left from behind them and informed my bossman Bill Twehway about what I was told. At first he refused and said he didn’t want to get involved. The next day he called me and asked how much the guys would give him for his share and I said I don’t know. But I was angry that he had to ask for his share after all the transactions which we didn’t get anything from, even though I was the brainchild of the anchorage charges. So I told him I will ask the guys to see what to do. To admit, I didn’t ask them because I didn’t even want them to know that I told my boss man because they could had gotten angry after knowing what my boss did to them.

I then told the guys to proceed with the operation knowing that my bossman has given me the green light. After the money was approved by Arcelor Mittal, I was called and informed that the money was ready to be disbursed.

Then I told them to bring our share, and the guys said it doesn’t work like that. “Our company will want to see the trace of the payment and we told the company that the payment is for NPA, therefore we need to show that the payment was done to a NPA account.” I told them to send the money to the Buchanan Operations account and the guys said Bill had written them not to make any payment to that account and even if he hadn’t written them, they wouldn’t do that because Bill and the Comptroller will again request for the money and they will eat it without giving them anything.

I agreed with them 100%, because I know with certainty that could happen. We then decided to open an account in the Buchanan port’s name for the money to be paid, the money was paid to that account. A bank staffer who has strong connections with the NPA Comptroller Vakuma Dukuly informed him about the transfer. The MD called me and asked me about it which I confirmed. He then instructed me to send the money to him and I said I didn’t have control over that because it wasn’t NPA’s money neither my money. I informed the guys and the money was taken out of the account which everyone took their share.

I was given $30k of the $300,000. The rest of the guys including additional four persons from NPA were given theirs. All these happened in December 2020. The MD got angry and threatened to dismiss me for not respecting his instruction which I pleaded for mercy. Everything was left and we moved on.

*THE CDI DEAL & SUBSEQUENT SCANDAL*

In December 2020, me and the Superintendent of Grand Bassa County had gone to meet the MD. I then explained to him the possibilities of the Port acquiring a 966 machine for the purpose of handling the logs at the Buchanan port. The revenue will directly go to the port instead of hiring a Chinese company. He bought the idea and instructed me to go and look for where they sell 966 front hand loader machine. I went and asked for the machine and was told it cost around USD $65k for a fairly used one. I informed the MD and he said we would go to get the money from the Bank the next day to buy the machine.

The next morning while at my oldroad residence, the MD called me that he wanted to see me quick. I rushed to his 16th street apartment and saw that he was sitting with LACC Commissioner Kanio Bai-Gbala, Sidiki Fofana, NPA Comptroller Christain Brownell, Former Assistant Youth & Sports Minister Sneh Johnson and someone who I can’t remember. My bossman told me to work with the names listed above as they have their Machine and they will do the operations at the port. I got furious and refused to cooperate with them. He begged me to work with them and considering that Sidiki is my big brother and a CDCian, he will take care of me. I reluctantly accepted to guide them as they are all novices with the exception of Sneh Johnson who have a fair understanding about Port Operations.

They quickly set up their company which I also helped them with some information on the workings of said company. In a week, the company paperwork was ready and signed by my bosses. I saw an old 966 machine towed to the port to start the operation. I told them that the machine was old and one machine couldn’t do the work but they insisted using their power. Sneh Johnson was hired as the Operations Manager for CDI. After the first operation which they generated hundreds of thousands, they sent Sneh Johnson to go and pay the machine operators they hired. Sneh on the other hand didn’t give the money that was given to him for the operators, he deducted portion of the money and gave little amount to the Operators. When the MD heard what Sneh did, he was fired as the Operation Manager of the Creative Developers Incorporated.

CDI was now used time to time to load the logs at the port until the MD Bill Twehway took the machine to Rivercess to do some work at his housing project he was carrying on in Cee town, Rivercess county. Because they drove the Machine on the road and by mechanical advise, that machine isn’t for long distance drive. The machine engine got damage and CDI was left with zero machine. There was no money to even purchase a new one as they were always sharing the revenue generated from the operations with zero amount in the CDI account.

CDI now would compare shippers to use their own machine to do the loading and then pay the $8 per cubic meter to CDI which they promised to give $2 per cubic meter to the company that’s doing the work.

Several companies did their own work and paid the money to CDI which they never got the $2 promised. The companies started  refusing to do the loading because they weren’t getting anything back. The shippers started writing me many protests emails asking the Port to get a workable machine as the other machine that was being rented by CDI after the shipper refused to do business wasn’t in good condition. I forwarded the emails to the MD and CDI people for actions but nothing was done about the poor services provided. I started having issue with the company for the poor handling of the logs operations and the unnecessary pressure I was under from ship owners and logging companies.

I started telling companies to do their work and shouldn’t give any percentage to CDI, they should only pay NPA $4 per cubic meter and have the rest of the money. CDI people started threatening me of making me to loose my job if I continue to work along with Shippers to load their vessel without giving them their money. One point in time Sidiki Fofana even threatened me at Oportos Restaurant in the presence of my fiancé and Mr. Muncrauu Sackor who had come to the country from USA on a vacation.

He intervened and said “but what the Pekin did to you guys that you want to have him fired?” At first I felt it was all jokes, until I told Booming Green, a company owned by a Chinese National to also do their work using their machine without paying a dime to CDI. Kanio called and texted me to have me convinced the company, as the guy told him he wasn’t paying a dime aside from the $4 per cubic meter he will give the Port.

I started receiving threatening statements from CDI executives that I would loose my job if I don’t allow Booming Green give them their percentage even without doing any work. I stood my ground that Booming Green wasn’t paying a dime unless CDI can load the vessel.

Mr. Christain Brownell who’s the Deputy Comptroller at NPA and also the Financial Manager of CDI, told many shippers that they have leverage and they were using it to their advantage. Instead of giving Booming green $100,000 invoice, I gave them $50,000 to pay NPA percentage and the balance $50,000 Booming Green would keep it because they did their own work using their fuel and manpower to load 12,000 cubic meter of logs.

I was called by the Comptroller asking me why I didn’t give $100,000 invoice to Booming Green for CDI payment, and I said they didn’t do the work so I wouldn’t give them free $50,000 just because they have leverage and power. Kanio and the rest of the guys ran to MD to lodge my complaint that I was spoiling their operations.

*MY SUSPENSION, ARREST & SUBSEQUENT DEPARTURE FROM LIBERIA*

The next morning, I received a call from the HR that I was invited to head office. I got to head office to see the MD because I was hinted then that I was going to get suspended. The MD wouldn’t allow me see him, because he had been told by his close followers and associates that I was using African voodoo on him, when he sees me his heart will change on suspending me.

The LSP Director Mr. Logan Davis intercepted me and Amara Kamara, walked us to the HR office with the instructions that we received the suspension letter and investigated. We then signed for the letters of our indefinite suspension. In the letter reads “By directive of the MD, you are hereby suspended for opening an account without the instruction of management”. I knew we were out as they promised that they will get us fired.

We walked with Mr. Logan Davis to the LSP office with their instruction given him that we be jailed until the next day and taken Buchanan for investigation. We were taken to the LSP charge of quarter. Our phones were taken from us by the LSP and we were asked to make statements in the public. Fortunately for us, Mr. Timothy Sudue, the ISPS commander came and asked that we go in the office of Mr. Logan Davis to explain what happened. We went into the office, I had nothing to hide at that point. I open up and explained exactly what I wrote here. Mr. Sudue and Mr. Davis said my statement was indicting the MD, the Comptroller and the Entity, so for that reason they won’t jail us but go to see the MD for words.

When they got back from seeing the MD, we were asked to go make a written statement in the office of the head of Intelligence LSP, Sabatoe Dennis. When we got there, I was advised that the first statement I made was so bad and the MD would be the one to settle everything so I should change the statement. At first I refused, but then we were threatened that if we don’t, we will be jailed and turned over to NSA, I became afraid because we all know what has been happening in the country over the few months.

As my fiancé and family didn’t know where exactly I was. I then phoned Hon. Acarous Gray to inform him about the happening, he answered and said he was in session and could get to me later. I left him a message informing him that I was being held by LSP office and it was almost 6pm. I then succumbed to make the statement the way they wanted it be made. I didn’t know they had installed a camera in the room, after I wrote the statement, the LSP Director read it and then asked that I read the statement. At that time, I was only thinking of going home to my family as I was very afraid that everyone had left the Port and it was only the LSP officers and US (Me and Amara Kamara).

I read the statement which I was recorded secretly without my knowledge. We left later and went home, early morning we were on our way to Buchanan. We again wrote many statements, each time a statement a slightly indicting the higher ups, they would return and ask that we write it over until it was satisfactory to them. When the news broke on Social Media, I called Hon. Gray again to explain to him the actuality but he couldn’t allow me make a statement as he has already spoken to my Bossman Hon. Twehway, and he was told that my crime was grave and he didn’t want to get involved. I was left in the cold to be eaten by the wolves. After all the investigations for almost two weeks, I took all my stuffs from Buchanan because I knew what I was up against.

Hon. Bill Twehway then wanted to relax on the report from the investigation because many things said in here were about to be exposed. It was a tough decision to give the report to the public. But the public pressure and that of Kanio who advised the MD to do what they did because if he didn’t give the report the public would say that he was part of the money issue.

So when I was hinted about what the report would be after a two days locked and intense meeting, they finally decided to throw me/us under the bus. I got furious that we would be the sacrificial lambs.

Later that evening I got a call from an insider within the NSA that it would be risky if I slept in the country. I was so disturbed because I didn’t plan to leave my family in such manner. I then told my fiancé that I was going Buchanan, I took my backpack, put few clothes and my laptop and I was off to Freetown. I had to use the bush roads, ride canoe to make my way to freetown. I then spent five days in Freetown, did my Covid-19 test, bought my plane ticket and I was off to the USA. I was later informed that a black Jeep was parked in front my home for two nights asking for my location.

As I write this statement, I am prepared to come at anytime to Liberia to appear in court and give a statement with my lawyer once I am guaranteed protection. While in Liberia, I also accepted that I would accept a payment plan to restitute the said amount that was personally given me. But later I understood that they didn’t want restitution but my dismissal which I accepted but wouldn’t allow them take my life.

To my friends and family.

I know I have done some wrongs, things happened that was above my control. It was never my intention. I have fought for three years on that job, it came a time I even lost interest but was only waiting to start my Law School to take transfers or resign. It’s not about the job that hurt me, it’s a about the manner in which my name has been dragged, disgraced, destroyed. I am worried about my kids and unborn kids, coming to this world hearing the negativity surrounding their Dad. I know I have made many enemies while defending this government and my party CDC.

For that reason, my name was like candy in the public. I want to use this medium to apologize to people who I have wronged directly and indirectly. I have learned a lesson of my life, people who we fought for with our lives and blood paid us with a terrible disastrous cheque. I have already gone to some people inboxes directly to apologize and those of you who I can not reach directly, pls this should serve as an apology to you. To people who this statement might expose or even might have them fired from their jobs, I am sorry. It took me months to come out with this statement to the public, I just had to, because even close friends believe that I transferred $300,000 to my personal account. At this point, I have gotten an early lifetime public stigmatization, cooked, that damaged my little reputation. Working in government is the worse I can think about now, it’s either you play by the rules or you get yourself in danger.

THIS IS MY TRUE STATEMENT/CONFESSION AND SO HELP ME GOD.

Yours truly,

Charles MCArthur Gull

Former Port Manager – Buchanan P

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About Cholo Brooks 15641 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.

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