LIBERIA: President Sirleaf Orders University Of Liberia Law Dean To Investigate Her Son For Korean US$284,000 Seized

PHOTO CAPTION: Mr. Fumba Sirleaf, Head Of The National Security Agency (NSA) and Son Of Presdent Sirleaf:

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ordered the speedy investigation of one of her sons, Fumba Sirleaf who is also head of the National Security Agency (NSA) for his alleged refusal to adhere to the Minister of Justice’s mandate to return a Korean businessman’s US$284,000 seized by the NSA upon order of its Director, the President’s son.

In a letter to Cllr. David A.B. Jallah, Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, the Liberian prevailed on the learned Liberian lawyer to probe her son on the alleged misapplication of the Koran businessman money.

The order by the Liberian leader to probe her son is due to the huge criticism from the general public on the refusal of her son to handover the seized Korean businessman by officers of the NSA upon alleged orders from their boss Mr. Sirleaf.

The story of the seizure of the Korean Businessman’s money was first exposed by a local daily,  The National Chronicle on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 when this paper featured a lead story, captioned, “In Alleged Organized Crime In Gold And Diamond Deal, NSA, Lebanese Steal US$284,000 From Koreans, Seize Bank-Withdrawn Money, Infuse Counterfeit”.  

The publication alleged that NSA and the chief executive officer (CEO) of Global Steer Enterprise INT., Nasser Aly, a Lebanese, duped four Korean businessmen out of US$284,000, claiming it was “counterfeit”. According to the paper’s investigation, the Koreans, Aleck Gold, Chold Jeong Woo, Chae Dae Byoung and Cha Kwang Woom, came into the country on June 28, 2014 after a business arrangement between them and the Lebanese, Nasser Aly was concluded.

The paper also said the business discussion was for the Lebanese to sell 16KG of gold to the Koreans, with 50% down payment during the purchase and the balance paid later. Information says after the discussion was concluded through an exchange of e-mail, the Koreans came into the country on June 28, 2014 and lodged in Park Jung’s place, Point Four. Before coming to Liberia, the Korean businessmen had transferred the US$284,000 to International Bank (IB-Bank) in Liberia, in order for them to do withdrawal upon arrival to Liberia.

On July 8, 2014, the Koreans withdrew the US$284,000 from IB-bank for the transaction. As arranged, they met Nasser Aly at a hotel, located on the Old Road, for the transaction. A few minutes into the business discussion with Nasser Aly, and with the cash withdrawn from the bank on hand, some officers of the NSA entered the hotel and arrested them, took away the money and, further, took them to the NSA office, where they were charged with “money laundering”.

According to the paper, information received alleged that Nasser has escaped the country and NSA is forcing the Koreans to “forego” the money in order for them to drop the “money laundering” case against them. NSA is also planning to deport them without the refund of their money.

Report says, NSA boss, Fumba Sirleaf, is using his family connection as son of the President and has ignored the mandate of the justice minister to put the amount into an escrow account. Though the justice ministry is conducting an investigation into the money, report says Fumba Sirleaf is not cooperating with the investigation.

According to the Chronicle’s investigation, the NSA officers also took a wallet containing over US$1,000, Korean money and personal belongings from the Koreans during their “arrest”.

Following a communication from Kemp & Associates Legal Consultancy Chambers, Inc. to the justice minister regarding the NSA action against their clients, the ministry, in collaboration with Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), is conducting an investigation to establish if the money withdrawn from the IB-bank is counterfeit, as claimed by the NSA.

The Minister of Justice, Christiana Tah, wrote the director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Fumba Sirleaf. The letter reads, in part, “We are indeed very concerned about the legal implication this issue poses to the Government of Liberia (GOL), and the potential negative impact it may have on investors. In this connection, therefore, we advise that you forward this matter to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for a thorough investigation in conjunction with the NSA. To protect the integrity of the process, we further advise that the amount in question be deposited into an escrow account until the legality of this issue is determined. Additionally, we request that you stay all forms of investigation with respect to this case, pending our joint sitting.”

When contacted, NSA boss, Fumba Sirleaf, said he could not comment on the issue because it is before the Ministry of Justice for investigation. He said he could not speak on the allegation of NSA conniving with a Lebanese businessman to dupe the four Korean businessmen.

Pundits wondered how the money became counterfeit since it was withdrawn from IB-bank, Broad Street. Business analysts remain doubtful over NSA’s claim that the money withdrawn from IB-bank was counterfeit.

This is not the first of time Koreans have been duped. It can be recalled that a Korean, Lee, was duped out of US$250,000 by people in the same gold business. Lee came to Liberia to buy gold and lived at the Thinker Village Hotel. The people who transacted with him gave him brass, instead of gold, at his Thinker Village Hotel. After deceiving the Korean, they bribed the police to have him arrested.

They walked away with the money, but later the hotel manager informed the Korean authorities about the happening. The Korean authorities, after engaging the Liberian government on the transaction, the government turned over the case to the Ministry of Justice for investigation. Information says the investigation report was not published, and those involved in the crime were later released behind closed door. The Korean businessman later returned to his country without the refund of his money.

Some Liberians, again, duped a group of Korean businessmen of US$3.5 million cash, along with yellow machines and other equipment which were brought into the country for gold production. At that time, information says Chris Massaquoi was commissioner of Immigration. The case again went to the President, NBI, justice ministry and Ministry of Land Mines and Energy and nothing came out of it. Those involved in the duping were also set free. The Korean businessmen were represented by Cllr. Biney Haward. The NSA and Nasser case is the most recent one, and the public and foreign business people would love to see the end of the investigation.     All effort to contact Nasser did not materialize as he could not be reached via mobile telephone.

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