UP party stalwarts pocketed $45 million USD from Liberian taxpayers during the EBOLA healthcare emergency from a controversial telecom deal in December 2011 to implement an International Gateway Management System (IGMS).
Ebola, which took the lives of 4,810 Liberians and affected livelihoods throughout the country hit the following year in 2014 brought in thousands of international aid workers and created a flood of calls from the Diaspora checking on loved ones. As a result, according to industry experts with inside knowledge of international call volumes during crises, the estimated volume of international calls to Liberia increased 20-fold during the EBOLA crisis from 2014 – 2015.
As FPA reported earlier, the lucrative contract was signed between the Liberian Telecommunications Authority (LTA), Global Voice Group (GVG) and Conex Telecommunications Incorporated, a local shadow company created 5 days before the deal by fellow party stalwart Sheriff Abdullah.
The scheme taxed all incoming international calls $0.14 USD per minute and split that revenue between stakeholders. According to LTA annual revenue data for the period of January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013, the first full year of the scheme, IGMS produced $11,228,033.05 USD in total revenue for stakeholders. Altogether, this means that the IGMS scheme took in $224,560,660 USD during the Ebola crisis, with Varney Sherman and his cronies’ share from the deal totaling $44,912,132 USD during the crisis.
GVG has attempted similar corrupt deals in the past. They were kicked out of Senegal and Haiti for business practices revealed as scams that distorted local telecommunications markets. GVG’s shady deals with corrupt officials is well documented. A 2010 exposé in The Africa Report called GVG’s scheme The Great Telephone Racket.
In 2011 and 2012 local advocacy groups, Campaigners for Change scrutinized the deal, calling it “corrupt” and demanding that the Liberian anti-corruption commission (LAC) investigate. The case was never taken up by the LAC even though the LTA stopped making annual revenue data publicly available in 2013.
The IGMS scheme was not renewed by the Government of Liberia in 2016 and FrontPage Africa has learned that Global Witness is likely to view the paper trail on the GVG transaction.
To date, neither the LTA, Vice President Boakai nor the Unity Party Gang could be reached for comments.