MONROVIA – A United Nations Audit conducted in Liberia during the regime of Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant who was interim president of Liberia shortly after the civil war, revealed how Mr, Edwin Snowe, now senator of Bomi County allegedly duped the peace keeping force when he served as managing director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC).
The audit, a copy of which is in the possession of Smart News Liberia, revealed that at the time, whenever the Peacekeeping Mission-UNMIL approached the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company with regard to lowering storage charges, given its status as the largest buyer of diesel, petrol and kerosene, the former Managing Director, Edwin Snowe, would refused to lower the fees on one pretext or the other, even though he was fully aware that LPRC was receiving much lower storage payments from West Oil for supplies to be provided to UNMIL.
The audit disclosed that it therefore appears that Jamal Basma, who was the owner of the company, which was the largest petroleum importer, allegedly conspired with former LPRC Managing Director Edwin Snowe to inflate the charges to UNMIL.
The report further notes that at the same time, another company belonging to Jamal Basma, Creative Investment SAL, was depositing hundreds of thousands of dollars into Mr. Snowe’s personal bank account which was opened in Lebanon.
The report states that in contrast with GEPCO, LPRC entered into additional exclusive use contracts with the Monrovia Oil Transport Corporation (MOTC) and Mobile during the National Transitional Government of Liberia period.
The report says neither company was given lower rates, pointing out that Mobile, another oil company, even paid a premium for the exclusive use of LPRC tanks.
The report also indicates that GEPCO allegedly evaded taxes by manipulation of books of accounts.
In addition to overcharging, the audit reports disclosed that GEPCO appears to have evaded substantial corporate income tax.
In 2005, GEPCO received $23.875 million from UNMIL. However, in its 2005 tax return, filed on 19 May 2006, GEPCO showed gross revenue of only $12.361 million.
Likewise, the report added that in its bid submission to UNMIL in November 2004, GEPCO provided financial statements reporting revenue of $13.093 million in 2003 and $20.502 million for the first 10 months of 2004.
In contrast, its 2003 tax return claimed sales of only $2.480 million, while for the entire year 2004 GEPCO reported sales of only $11.237 million.
The UN audit said these tax returns were prepared with the help of the company’s auditor, VOSCON, a Liberian certified professional accounting firm.
Mr. Snowe is amongst 26 Liberians who were named by the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), of being responsible for economic crimes and recommended for prosecution.
The TRC also recommends that; “pursuant to prosecution for economic crimes, all unlawful acquired assets and properties of individuals recommended for prosecution shall be confiscated and nationalized for the benefit of the public good. Especially so, where the property acquired is from unexplained or unjustifiable sources unconnected to the income of the individuals.”
Edwin Snowe is a former son in law of war crimes convict Charles Taylor.
The TRC recommends the prosecution for economic crimes, as gross human rights violations, all those persons; natural and artiﬁcial, it ﬁnds responsible for the commission of economic crimes during the period of the Liberian conﬂict.
Pursuant to accountability for economic crimes, the TRC recommends that in lieu of prosecution all perpetrators of economic crimes may apply to the Independent National Human Rights Commission to make restitution of the full sum of all gains from their engagement in such economic crimes, whether in the form of cash or assets illegally acquired, to the Government and People of Liberia.
It says anyone who admits to the commission of economic crimes thereby eliminating the need for lengthy and expensive prosecution such person shall beneﬁt from mitigation of liability and sanctions, legal, judicial or otherwise.
It can be recalled that Edwin Snowe was ejected as speaker of the Liberian lower legislative chamber-the House of Representatives. He was acquitted by a Liberian criminal court after what many political watchers called a ‘sham trial’ during the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration.
The Liberian judiciary has come under criticism for allegedly serving justice to the higher bidders. In this case, it is widely believed that Mr. Snowe may have gotten off the hook due to the weak judicial situation in Liberia.
War and economy crimes’ activates are calling on the international community to take seize of the Snowe case and prosecute him outside of Liberia in a bid to find permanent closure to the massive theft case.