Our investigation has discovered what appears to be serious corruption in the awarding of the Cavalla Rubber Corporation in Pleebo Maryland County to the Salala Rubber Investment (SRI) over a multi-national investment company, the Bakarie Samataria Plantation (BSP) based in Indonesia.
According to investigation, the Government of Liberia accepted the bit of SRI of over US$2 million for the Cavalla Rubber Plantation over the BSP which offered the highest amount of over US$6 million for the same company.
The failure of the government to honor her pledge to award the plantation to BSP has prompted a letter from the lawyers of the BSP, the Law Offices of Dunbar and Dunbar.
In a communication written to the Acting Minister of Agriculture, Cllr. Stephen B. Dunbar, Jr. said, “We are legal counsel for BSP Liberia Incorporated(“BSP”), as such we, for and on behalf of BSP take this opportunity to request from the Ministry of Agriculture (the ”Ministry”) the status of the offer by BSP and the acceptance of said offer by the Government of Liberia the “Government” for the purchase by BSP of the fifty(50%) percent equity of Cavalla Rubber Corporation for which the Government holds the option to purchase.
The letter said, “In this connection, we respectfully draw your attention to the following: “As a consequence of the terms and conditions of the Share Sale Agreement executed between and Government and Societ De Cultures Et De Financement (“SCF”), the Government has the option to purchase fifty (50%) percent equity in Cavalla Rubber Corporation (“Cavalla”) upon payment to SCF of US$2,228.176.00 (Two Million Two Hundred Twenty-Eight thousand One Hundred Seventy-Six United States Dollars), BSP originally made an offer to purchase GOL’s fifty (50%) percent equity in Cavalla. BSP also made an offer to purchase one hundred (100%) percent of the Decoris Oil Palm Plantation. Both offers aggregated US$7.4 million”.
Letter: “The Ministry informed BSP that GOL’s fifty (50%) percent equity in Cavalla would be sold separately from GOL’s one hundred (100%) percent equity of the Decoris Old Palm Plantation (“Decoris”). The Ministry therefore advised BSP to submit a bid for GOL’s fifty (50%) percent equity in Cavalla. The Ministry also advised BSP that Decoris would be the subject of a public tender”.
In October, 2008, Cllr. Dunbar told the Acting Minister of Agriculture that BSP increased its offer to purchase GOL’s fifty (50%) percent equity in Cavalla from US$6.1Million to US$6.3million and that of the said offer, it was understood that US$2,228.176.00 (Two Million Tow Hundred Twenty-Eight Thousand One Hundred Seventy-Six United states Dollars) would be paid to SCF in full and final satisfaction of the Shares Sale Agreement between SCF and Government. The BSP’s lawyer said The balance US$4,171.824.00 (Four Million One Hundred Seventy One thousand Eight Hundred Twenty Four United States Dollars) would be paid to GOL.
According to Cllr. Dunbar’s letter, said offer was communicated to the Ministry as well as to the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Given that the offer of US$6.3 million was substantially higher than the offer submitted by Salala Rubber Investment, Inc. (“SRI”), Cllr. Dunbar letter stated that BSP offer was accepted by Government and the ministry was advised to consummate the sale to BSP of GOL’s fifty (50%) percent equity in Cavalla.
He stated that on October 25, 2008, BSP received a letter dated 14, 2008 via e-mail in which the Ministry expressed GOL’s preparedness to accept BSP’s offer of US$6.3million if BSP agreed to three (3) specified items without preconditions by Friday, October 17, 2008.
The three specified items, the letter went on were: “That BSP will be purchasing GOL’s first right of refusal to repurchase a 50% option interest in Cavalla; That GOL will advise SRI of GOL’s intent to sell its first option to BSP and encourage SRI to cooperate with BSP with respect to actions to be undertaken consistent with the purchase of GOL’s right of first option to repurchase its fifty (50%) percent interest in Cavalla: and that BSP deposits US$6.3million at the Central Bank of Liberia within three (3) working days.
The BSP lawyer indicated that his client (BSP) immediately sought clarification and confirmation from the Ministry by letter dated October 15, 2009 that: BSP’s offer of US$6.3million was for the purchase of GOL’s fifty (50%) percent equity represented by the appropriate share certificate(s), that the purchase of a right of first refusal implied that additional consideration would be required for the purchase of GOL’s fifty (50%) percent equity which additional consideration was not contemplated by BSP, that BSP was prepared to immediately place the US$6.3million in an escrow account in a bank in Monrovia to be released to GOL upon the tender to BSP of the appropriate share certificate(s) representing GOL’s fifty (50%) percent equity in Cavalla and BSP requested that the timeline for agreement by BSP without preconditions should be postponed pending receipt of the Ministry’s clarification and confirmation.
Cllr. Dunbar told the Agriculture Ministry acting boss that BSP prepared and submitted, for the review and approval of the Ministry a draft share Purchase Escrow Agreement in order to consummate the purchase of GOL’s fifty (50%) percent equity in Cavalla and that the Ministry has not up to date responded to BSP’s letter of October 15, 2008.
Additionally, Cllr. Dunbar told the Agriculture official that the Ministry has neither provided the requested clarification and confirmation nor provided a response to the draft Share Purchase Escrow Agreement.
Two (2) months later, the BSP Lawyer stated that the Ministry invited BSP to a meeting at which time, the Ministry informed BSP that the Ministry desired to obtain the legal opinion of the Minister of Justice on the draft Share Purchase Escrow Agreement.
As if it was a scheme to turn down the BSP’s offer and go for that of the SRI, the letter said “By letter dated January 9, 2009 sent via e-mail, the Ministry informed BSP that the Ministry had received communication from the Ministry of Finance that BSP had not obtained the Business Registration Certificate and Taxpayer Identification Number”.
He said by letters dated February 4, 2009 and February 6, 2009, respectively, BSP submitted to the Ministry evidence of BSP’s Business Registration Certificate and Taxpayer Identification Number for the year 2009, and that up to and including the date of the letter May 4, 2009, the Ministry has not provided BSP information on either the legal opinion by the Ministry of Justice of the draft Share Purchase Escrow Agreement or information on the date set by the Ministry on which to consummate the purchase by BSP of GOL’s fifty (50%) percent equity in Cavalla consistent with the BSP’s offer of US$6.3million which was accepted by GOL.
Investigation revealed how some top government officials after receiving kick-backs, deliberately stalled the deal between the Government of Liberia and BSP and ensured Cavalla was awarded to SRI. Efforts made to talk to officials at the Ministry of Agriculture failed. Members of the Maryland County Legislative Caucus that is said to have played a major part in twisting the deal also failed. Meanwhile, some citizens from Pleebo City, where the Cavalla Rubber Corporation is located has called on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to review the process that led to the awarding of the Cavalla Plantation to SRI. Investigation continues.