Money laundering Network Busted

By Al-gblor Toweh

MONROVIA-A new Republic Investigation has uncovered  what seems to be a money laundering  network  in Liberia involving  European and Africans.  This  has been busted by the Financial   Intelligence Unit(FIU)  in Liberia after a local bank suspected suspicious transactions of an account  registered to carry out computer information  technology,   is diverting  and withdrawing huge sums of money into gambling business.  The majority shares  are owned  by national of Belarus.

Documents received by this paper have also  supported  the story.

The  parent company is based in Cyprus  with its subsidiary in Liberia:  Korlane Investment Liberia Limited Liability. It was established that  it  has not been operating in line with the  purpose for which  it was established;  information Technology and  Computer services activities.  But  this is contrary to the business intent. Rather, it is involved into  gambling activities.

Korlane Investment Liberia Limited Liability account was opened at a local bank. The company, since it registered few years ago, it does not have physical office in Liberia.  It    has been established that  deposits made into the  account  were executed  online through master, visa and swift cards from overseas. The parent company  co-conspirator  is  Evgeny Nikitsiuk of Belarus controls hundred percent shares and also owns  85 percent shares in the  Liberian company. He is the sole signatory  to the  Liberian account at a local bank(name withheld for now).

But what  raised a red alert is  an Ivorian national who resides in Sierra Leone,  Patrick Hermann Wani Diega controls  only 15 percent shares in the Liberian company. “He usually  travelled from Sierra Leone to Liberia to  conduct withdrawals when he is not signatory to the account,” an insider familiar with the investigation told this paper early Tuesday.

“The authority has asked why they are not using the master card to do withdrawals?” Diega has refused to answer. But some top government officials are trying to prevent him from coming for investigation,” an insider said.

The level of suspicion came after the local bank detected  huge withdrawals in cash.  For instance, between 8-24 November 2021 an amount of US$240K(two hundred and forty thousand united states dollars) was withdrawn.  Then  between  24-28 November 2021,  a withdrawal of US$256K (Two hundred and fifty six thousand united states dollars) was made. Based upon this, the bank informed the third party switch, visa and master cards  company to help ascertain the origin and legitimacy of these transactions.

Following that,  on December 2, 2021 a visa member bank based in  the Republic of  Slovakia reported fraud against the visa card and the local bank blocked  all  the transactions. This was to the annoyance of Diega who was said to have gone to court to file a law suit.

On December 10, 2021, it was   investigated that a company repressing visa-issuing banks in Ecuador complained to the  local bank in Liberia  against  their card holders by the local bank’s merchant Korlane Investment.

That instead of using the services for  information technology, they were using it for  the collection of 1xbet, a sport betting company in the gambling sector. According to research, the betting company is based in Nigeria.

The FIU described  the transaction as suspicious and needs to  be investigated. An official of the FIU  who was seen at the  court on Monday seemed to be unhappy with the slow pace at which the  court was trying to  proceed with the case.

When the solicitor  General of  Liberia General Syrenius Cephas was contacted if he knew about this case, he said: “I heard about it, but  the man   has  rather sued the bank. The case is at the high court.  I am not protecting  anyone. Why will I, as Chief prosecutor do that?”

But added, someone is trying to  undermine his work. The case was filed by an aid in his office which should not be the case.

More details will follow in our subsequent  report.

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