FRONTPAGEAFRICA - "THEY ATE MY MONEY" - FRUSTRATIONS OF AN ANGRY FOREIGN INVESTOR IN LIBERIA
On Friday morning, January 10 2014, FrontpageAfrica ran the following story with a huge blazing headline “THEY ATE MY MONEY” which article came out only hours before Liberty was summoned to the honorable Supreme Court to recieve the Opinion and Final Judgment in the case of Liberty vs MLME and Government of Liberia
'THEY ATE MY MONEY' - FRUSTRATIONS OF AN ANGRY FOREIGN INVESTOR IN LIBERIA
Friday January 10 2014
"THEY (THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY) ARE ALL ROOTING FOR LIBERIA AND I KNOW THEY ARE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU (PRESIDENT SIRLEAF) BUT AT THE SAME TIME EVERYBODY WANTS TO SEE ACTION THAT TRICKLES DOWN TO WHERE SYSTEMS ARE IN PLACE, THAT THE MONIES THAT ARE SENT TO THE COUNTRY END UP GOING WHERE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO GO AND THAT IT TRICKLES DOWN AND HELPS THE COMMON MAN IN THE STREET BECAUSE THAT IS THE VOTING COMMUNITY, THOSE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT ARE HURTING." LEN LINDSTROM, AUTHOR, CORRUPTION 101 LIBERIA STYLE: LET JUSTICE REIGN EVEN IF ALL TEH RASCALS IN THE WORLD SHOULD PERISH FROM IT.
Len Lindstrom, a Canadian investor and President and CEO of Liberty International Mineral Corp and Liberty Group of Companies, says he came to Liberia with one intention: to help the post-war nation explore its mineral potential and convince other investors that the post-war nation was open for business.
It was 2004, the era of the National Transitional Government of Liberia(NTGL) headed by businessman Charles Gyude Bryant, when investors were still shy about the climate and much of the nation’s infrastructure were in tatters and mineral companies in no rush to do business in a post-war nation on the rebound from war.
Lindstrom recalls how some officials, including ministers and their deputies, lured and encouraged him to enter the mining business. “Many of the officials, invited me and said, “Len, we like what you’re doing, we like, your style, we like your spirit, would you come and revitalize our mineral sector which we have been lacking all these years because of the civil war.”
Nine years later, a frustrated Lindstrom, sitting atop the Bamboo Bar at the Palm Hotel Thursday, recalled the pains and lingering headaches which drove him on the edge of belief in a nation he says, has turned its back on the efforts he put in, trying to help resurrect Liberia from the obscurity of the international business community.
Venting Frustration in Book
Lindstrom has vented his frustrations in a controversial new book, he aptly titles: “Corruption 101 – Liberia Style: Let Justice Reign Even If All the Rascals in the World Should Perish for it.”
Says Lindstrom: “The book was a result of five years of frustration and we did everything we possibly could to solve this in an amicable manner warning government officials and different people at Lands, Mines and Energy: ‘You push us, you push us… you push us… finally we’re gonna to have to go public but there was no response.”
Lindstrom explains that the company waited three years after winning a famous victory in the lower court. “The judgment was clear that what Lands and Mines did was illegal, irregular and unlawful and that they should give us back our properties. Then we worked by stipulations with the Ministry of Justice and Honorable Wilkins Wright. He looked at the material, he told Lands and Mines,’ there’s absolutely no way we can win this case. It is clear we don’t have one point to argue on. It is wrong, give the man back his property, Lands and Mines would not do it. We wrote to the President and everything and nobody took any action.”
Finally, Lindstrom told FrontPageAfrica Thursday, when the case ended up in the Supreme Court after waiting almost three years to hear the appeal, there were issues raised by the solicitor general. “I said, let us settle in the lower courts and then I came back that very date, July 13 and I had already, along with our lawyers, researched transcripts and document but then I decided that I got to go in and see these things. And I started searching through the exhibits, and much to my surprise, exhibits are missing from the court room. So twice, critical transcripts had been removed from the records, then I found that a bunch of documents had been removed that are critical, paramount to the case and were part of the determinant factor in the judgment. I thought, what’s going on, then I really started researching, then I dug in and particularly became my own forensic investigator and De Facto lawyer and I started writing, compiling, researching and four months, I worked day and night, weeks and the result was Corruption 101: Liberia Style.”
Ex Ministers Signed on to Illegal Deal, Investor Says
Lindstrom lists nearly a dozen officials who played one role or the other in his current predicament.
Those named are: Jonathan Mason, who was minister of Lands, Mines and Energy at the time, Eugene Shannon, who replaced Mason in 2006, Albert Chie, Assistant Minister for Exploration, Murray Gessler, replaced Albert Chie as Assistant Minister of Exploration, Carlton Miller, replaced Murray Gessler as Assistant Minister for Exploration, Mulbah Willie, Deputy Minister of Operations, ECB Jones, replaced Willie as Deputy for Operations, John Nylander, Deputy Minister for Administration, Walter McCarthy, replaced Nylander as Deputy for Administration, Emmanuel Sherman, Head of the ministry’s Cartographic Department and later replaced Miller as Assistant Minister for Exploration when Miller was shuffled to Assistant Minister of Planning.
Lindstrom also lists officials he says were signatories to MLME letters authorizing payments to the Ministry of Finance for illegal licenses issued to third party companies over Liberty licensed properties in direct violation of highly-prohibitive court orders. Those officials include: John Kollie, Director of Finance, Cooper Pency, Director of MCIMS and Sam Russ, Deputy Minister of Operations.
Ironically, Lindstrom writes that both Sherman and Miller worked for Liberty as geologists during the company’s initial period of exploration prior to their appointment to executive positions at the ministry, and during the period gained first-hand knowledge the mineral potential of Liberty concession areas.
This, Lindstrom asserts, coupled with Liberty’s filings and further geological reports submitted to MLME, gave them, and other executives at the ministry, insider confidential information as to the substantial mineral potential of certain properties within the Liberty portfolio, which knowledge and geological data and subsequent reports submitted to the ministry was commonly reported to have been used to entice new investors to greatly desire the Liberty Properties. The deception, according to Lindstrom, constitutes yet another highly unorthodox practice in the inner shrouded workings at the ministry and additional potential for great abuse of government appointed positions and protected information.
In addition, Lindstrom writes that former Minister Shannon, Roosevelt Jayjay, Miller and Sherman were also principle signatories to illegal licenses issued by MLME over Liberty Properties, all of whom surely knew and understood the Mineral Law and the constitution of Liberia and consequently had to be fully cognizant of the utter illegality of their actions.
During the period, the investor says his company brought in some 21 geologists from Ghana and employed up to three hundred people in the forest, especially contract workers in the outline areas, working hard and heavy, transitioned into mineral expedition agreement. Lindstrom says all of those agreements were ratified under the current regime, under the UP government and have gone through by GEMAP, approved by the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy.
Last October 26, 2013 marked the fifth anniversary of the date that Lands, Mines and Energy and the Government of Liberia were bound by a contract to extend the company’s mineral license, paving the way for a dilemma poised to present yet another international embarrassment to the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s government.
‘Five Years of Utter Nonsense’
In the book, Lindstrom describes the treatment meted against him and his company as the worst any company or investor has had to been subjected to in Liberia.
“After five years of utter nonsense, empty promises, repeated delays, starvation, tactics, and still no clear solution, the time has come to set aside failed diplomatic measures and to finally speak out and relate the full Liberty story complete with simple documentations to verify and substantiate this report of the many injustices perpetrated against the Liberty Company and its hundreds of committed shareholders.”
Asked by a journalists whether he felt the 610-page read will wake the Liberian government to its senses, Lindstrom could only hold out hope that light is at the end of the tunnel.
“Personally, I think it really has to because the case is solid; I don’t believe there’s ever been a case that has been well documented against the government of Liberia and the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy. It is going to be very, very difficult for anyone to try to tweak it. We already had the ruling, we were only waiting for the appeal. We’re sitting, waiting in a frustrated state, over seven hundred investors, people hurting, people suffering, all kinds of additional costs, derogatory comments around the world and you’re waiting, waiting, waiting and you’re not getting the judgment.”
After months of legal wrangling, Lindstrom laments that the high court is yet to take up the case. “We decided to get the opinion of the Supreme Court in the October term, I’m sorry in the March term because we were heard July 1st, then that never came in the October term, Christmas came and court is closed, court’s open again but as we stand at this moment, there’s still no assignment, no opinion. So they sent the case into arbitration as a totally unwarranted delay tactic just to try and make Liberty run away with their tail between their legs as have happened to so many other companies.”
A Plea to EJS: Do the Right Thing
The frustrated investor says, he is simply a victim of a corrupt system that has eaten his money and left him to dry as he pleads with President Sirleaf to intervene:
“Madam President, I have promoted your government and you around the world and I have stood with you and champion your noble fight against corruption is public enemy number one and in one article, I may not quote you directly you stated, I am not God, I cannot do it all and I understand that corruption is pervasive and engrained in the system and one person cannot root that out.
So I admire all of the beautiful and great things that you have done to change that system, but at the same time I would encourage you to take a stronger stand and to show the international community that you really mean business by not allowing those that are exposed in corrupt activities to continue on with impunity but rather to take some very punitive action and to clear the mess up because the entire international community is watching.
They are all rooting for Liberia and I know they are all rooting for you, but at the same time, everybody wants to see action that trickles down to where systems are in place, that the monies that are sent to the country end up going where they are supposed to go and that it trickles down and helps the common man in the street because that is the voting community, those are the people that are hurting. I know so many of them personally that are so deprived, so broke, so beat up and everybody just wants to see you stand up and lift Liberia up to the position in the world that it can be.
The resources are here, the people are here, there just needs to be the willingness to institute the steps and make it truly happen. The Liberty case has gained international attention and global awareness and many, many eyes are looking at the outcome of what is going to happen here and so we have become kind of a landmark case and I would without trying to tell anyone what to do, I would just that we would greatly appreciate it if this matter could be brought to its rightful conclusion in a very expedient manner and the international community can say thank God they did the right thing and there is truly is hope for Liberia.”