House Passes US$962million Loan Agreements

-In Three Days, But Lawmakers Get More ‘Lashes’

By Reuben Sei Waylaun
At long last, members of the House of Representatives have finally passed the two controversial loan agreements between the Government of Liberia and two financial institutions.

The government and the Eton Financial Private Limited based in Singapore signed a loan agreement in the tone of US$536million in less than a month ago and later signed another agreement with Groupe EBOMAF SA in the tone of US$426million in less than a week amounting to US$962million.
The US$426million pre-financing loan agreement with Groupe EBOMAF, a company belonging to President George Weah trusted friend, Mahamadou Bonkoungou who recently aided him with a private jet plane for travel was signed on Tuesday June 5, 2018 and passed on Thursday June 7, 2018 and the US$536million loan agreement signed with Eton Financial Private Limited based in Singapore was opened for public hearing on Monday June 4, 2018 and subsequently passed on Tuesday June 5, 2018 respectively.
The two loan agreements had caused controversies recently in the country with some questioning the legitimacy while others claimed they are right for the country’s development drive.
Under the Groupe EBOMAF loan agreement, the groupe will pre-finance once it is ratified by the National Legislature.
The US$426million loan will be used for the construction of 256.2 kilometers of paved roads and bridges in Monrovia and major corridors of the interior of the country. Group EBOMAF will begin pre-financing the road project within three months.
The roads to be constructed are the Sinkor to Kesselley Boulevard elevated Road, Zwedru to Greenville, Toe’s Town to Ivorian Border, and Tappita to Zwedru.
With the acquisition of this pre-financed agreement, coupled with the US$536million agreement to pave 503 kilometers of roads connecting the coastal cities as well as parts of Western Liberia, it is believed that President Weah’s administration is poised to construct more kilometers of paved roads within his first term as President than the entire kilometers of paved roads that have been constructed by all previous administrations combined; within the over 170 years of Liberia’s existence as a sovereign nation.
The two loan agreements were unanimously ratified by members of the House of Representatives.
Mahamadou Bonkoungou/GROUPE EBOMAF
Groupe EBOMAF is owned and operated by Mahamadou Bonkoungou, the gentleman who recently aided President George Weah with a jet plane for travelling.
President George Manneh Weah recently denied after being alleged of purchasing a private jet in the country, but said the plane was given by his friend.
Public Criticisms:
Some citizens have termed the action of the lawmakers as ‘slap’ in the faces of the larger population of the country.
Speaking to cross-section of citizens in Monrovia, many of the people spoken to lambasted the government, particularly the decision by the lawmakers to speedily pass the agreements without thoroughly considering the merits and demerits.
Citizens calling on local radio stations following the passage of the two agreements expressed also shock over the speedy passage of the agreements which the public hearing was presided over by Representative Thomas Fallah, a stalwart of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
Eton Financial Private Limited Based In Singapore:
However, it is reported that the U.S Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Treasury Department has recommended to the Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, to block the US$536.4m loan deal because it considers it as ‘money laundering’.
Money laundering is acquiring money through criminal means, which is out of the legal financial system, and illegally trying to put such money into legal financial system.
On February 23, 2016, the US treasury office of technical assistance (OTA) and the Liberian financial intelligence unit (FIU) of the central bank of Liberia (CBL) launched a joint effort to develop Liberia’s ability to control money laundering and counter the financing of terrorism. This made Liberia partner with the United States of America in the fight against money laundering.
It is being also alleged that in Hong Kong, ETON finance PTE limited, same as the name used in Singapore, was only incorporated on march 16, 2018, probably about the same time negotiations for the current agreement started, that means the company was purposely established for this loan agreement.

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