International Bank-Liberia Exposes US$178,862 Revenue Fraud

By: 
Joaquin Sendolo

The International Bank Liberia Limited has exposed an attempted fraudulent transaction that would have cost the Liberian government US$178,862.39 in revenue.

The bank alerted the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) on Wednesday, December 28 of a dubious transaction in an IB Manager’s check of US$179,101.39 issued in the name of MNG Gold to be deposited into the General Revenue Account for clearance from the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) into a private account.

According to the LRA, the check was altered to read “H. General Merchandise Account” and was deposited into the H. General Merchandise Account at the LBDI.

The MNG Comptroller had also alerted the LRA’s Natural Resource Sector Section earlier to look out for the said check in its system.

The LRA found out that only US$239 was reflected as withholding tax payment from MNG, whereas the fake receipt given MNG with the same receipt number in the LRA system carried the value of US$179,101.39, representing a difference of
US$178,862.39.

It was gathered that International Bank Liberia also alerted LBDI of the potential revenue fraud and the account was flagged.

A series of actions were reportedly taken, with one Alvin Johnson claiming to be the accountant of H. General Merchandise arrested at the LBDI’s 9th Street branch in Sinkor while attempting to withdraw US$20,000 from the H. General Merchandise Account in which the US$179,101.39 was deposited.

The LRA has also suspended two of its staff members pending the completion of the investigation and requested the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to withdraw the teller the investigation has shown to have issued a receipt to an MNG Expeditor.

The LRA is working with the Liberia National Police to identify and prosecute all potential perpetrators, including the registered holders of the H. General Merchandise account into which the MNG tax payment had been diverted.

Investigation has further established that the manager of Logistics and Procurement of MNG had informed the LRA of a Manager’s Check obtained from the IBLL in favor of the General Revenue Account as payment of its withholding taxes for the month of November, and was given to the company’s Logistics Officer/Expeditor for payment at the LRA.

LRA investigation established that the MNG Expeditor logged in at the security desk at 9:15 on December 9, 2016 to make payment, but said he was told the system was down.

LRA quoted the unnamed expeditor as saying that he gave the documents, along with the Manager’s Check for processing to an LRA staff that he knows assigned in the banking hall.

“He returned at 5pm and received a receipt from a CBL teller. The receipt in the possession of MNG is however a fake receipt,” the LRA statement noted.

LRA has meanwhile commended IBLL for its honesty in dealing to expose the fraudulent act and save the Liberian government from losing revenues.

An LRA statement indicated that it is engaging relevant stakeholders in the design of a process that will prioritize and accelerate the necessary investments in the LRA to further protect national revenues.

Liberian Observer

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