Has Money Laundering Penetrated Local Banks In Liberia?

According to information gathered by the GNN, some local banks in the country are said to be engaging in business transactions fraudulently including money laundering and other criminal acts reportedly being carried out by some individuals purporting to be business executives.

According to the report, this network of money laundering has been discovered by the Financial   Intelligence Unit (FIU) in Liberia after a local bank suspected suspicious transactions of an account registered to carry out computer information technology,   is diverting and withdrawing huge sums of money into gambling business.

In order to publicly expose these criminal acts on the part of these money laundering group, a local news outlet, the New Republic Newspaper has unearthed that majority shares of these criminal cartels are owned reportedly by some nationals of Belarus.

Documents in the possession of the paper, noted that the parent company is based in Cyprus with its subsidiary in Liberia:  Korlane Investment Liberia Limited Liability. It was established that it has not been operating in line with the  purpose for which  it was established;  information Technology and  Computer services activities.  But this is contrary to the business intent. Rather, it is involved into gambling activities.

Korlane Investment Liberia Limited Liability account was opened at a local bank. The company, since it registered few years ago, it does not have physical office in Liberia.  It    has been established that deposits made into the  account  were executed  online through master, visa and swift cards from overseas. The parent company co-conspirator is  Evgeny Nikitsiuk of Belarus controls hundred percent shares and also owns  85 percent shares in the  Liberian company. He is the sole signatory to the Liberian account at a local bank(name withheld for now).

But what raised a red alert is an Ivorian national who resides in Sierra Leone, Patrick Hermann Wani Diega controls  only 15 percent shares in the Liberian company. “He usually travelled from Sierra Leone to Liberia to  conduct withdrawals when he is not signatory to the account,” an insider familiar with the investigation told this paper early Tuesday.

“The authority has asked why they are not using the master card to do withdrawals.” Diega has refused to answer. But some top government officials are trying to prevent him from coming for investigation,” an insider said.

The level of suspicion came after the local bank detected huge withdrawals in cash.  For instance, between 8-24 November 2021 an amount of US$240K (two hundred and forty thousand United States dollars) was withdrawn.  Then between  24-28 November 2021,  a withdrawal of US$256K (Two hundred and fifty six thousand united states dollars) was made. Based upon this, the bank informed the third party switch, visa and master cards company to help ascertain the origin and legitimacy of these transactions.

Following that,  on December 2, 2021 a visa member bank based in  the Republic of  Slovakia reported fraud against the visa card and the local bank blocked  all  the transactions. This was to the annoyance of Diega who was said to have gone to court to file a law suit.

On December 10, 20221, it was   investigated that a company repressing visa-issuing banks in Ecuador complained to the  local bank in Liberia  against  their card holders by the local bank’s merchant Korlane Investment.

That instead of using the services for information technology, they were using it for the collection of 1xbet, a sport betting company in the gambling sector. According to research, the betting company is based in Nigeria.

The FIU described the transaction as suspicious and needs to be investigated. An official of the FIU who was seen at the court on Monday seemed to be unhappy with the slow pace at which the court was trying to proceed with the case.

When the Solicitor General of Liberia General Syrenius Cephas was contacted if he knew about this case, he said: “I heard about it, but the man   has rather sued the bank. The case is at the high court.  I am not protecting anyone. Why will I, as Chief prosecutor do that?”

But added, someone is trying to undermine his work. The case was filed by an aid in his office which should not be the case.

GNN is doing further investigation about the existence of these criminal cartels in Liberia.

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