HOOKED OR CROOKED?
COULD EMBASSY SALE PROBE HURT TUBMAN’S PRESIDENTIAL QUEST?
Timing of Revelation in probe into controversy dogging presidential candidate raises the stakes. How serious are the charges? Are they Politically-motivated?
Rodney D. Sieh, firstname.lastname@example.org
or years, Ambassador Winston Tubman distanced himself from allegations that he was involved in the sale of the Liberian embassy at 8 Rue Jacques, Bingen Paris, 75017, France. In the last 48 hours it appears Tubman’s quest for the presidency of Liberia could be in for a rude awakening if the government of Liberia and the Ministry of Justice implements a finding suggesting that Tubman and others “acted in bad faith” in the sale of the Liberian embassy in France.
The report dated November 2009 recently obtained by FrontPageAfrica reads: “In view of the foregoing, it is my(Justice Minister Christiana Tah) considered opinion that the notary public, Mr. Dominique Ader, Counselor Winston Tubman, Ambassador Aaron George, Mr. Trohoe Kparghai, Mr. Alain Carron, and all others involved in the sale of property belonging to the Liberian people and Government, located at 8 Rue Jacques, Bingen 75017 France, acted in bad faith, as the facts are unequivocal that they knew at the time of the transaction that the sale was illegal and that counselor Winston Tubman had no authority, power or ownership interest to transfer said real property.”
The probe was sanctioned by former Foreign Minister Olubanke King-Akerele who, in 2009 named the Liberian chanceries in London, Paris, Nairobi, Belgium, and other areas as missions subjected to investigation.
Tubman, who reportedly provided the investigation with an affidavit detailing his role in the investigation, has consistently dismissed suggestion that he benefited from the sale or did anything illegal.
Said Tubman: “I never did anything like that and will not steal from our country. I am not a thief”.
Addressing members of the Liberian Youth for Progress, a youth group based in the New Matada Community, in 2009, Tubman explained that following the death of the late President Samuel Doe and during the interim government of Dr. Amos Sawyer, the contractor of the embassy building in France wanted to know from him and the Government of Liberia (GOL) as someone who represented the legal interest of the former Doe’s government as to whether they could get their funding for the completion of the project.
Tubman said he told the contractors that all arrangements and obligations assigned to the Liberian government under the agreement for the contractor to construct the building remained unchanged in spite of the death of the late President Doe. He told the youths, who were very eager to hear his side of the story that he personally wrote the contractor as a representative of the government that the project should go ahead as the change of government in Liberia at the time and the subsequent death of the former President Doe, whose government started the project did not mean that the project should be abandoned.
Tubman, who ran as Presidential candidate in the 2005 elections said as far as he is concerned, the embassy was not legally sold contrary to what some had thought, stressing that although money was paid but it was done into the account of the government and not to him as an individual. Cllr. Tubman urged those he claimed are making politics of the issue to stop and admonished the Liberian government to make efforts to get back the embassy building because as he put it, the property was not legally sold and still belongs to the Government of Liberia.
While holding Tubman to the fire, the report omitted the name of another presidential candidate, Dew Mayson.
Mayson, like Tubman has for years been linked to the sale of Liberian embassy in France. In an interview with FrontPageAfrica earlier this year, Mayson denounced the reports as rubbish. Said Mayson: “There is not an iota of truth to these stories. And the Government knows this. If I had in any way been involved in the sale of government properties, would not the Government have prosecuted me by now? The truth is that I resigned as Ambassador to France in l985 with the distinction of being one of the few Liberian government officials who have had the courage to resign on principles. I understand that the embassies were not sold until about 1996, almost eleven years after I had left the post of Ambassador. How could a mere citizen sell Government property? Which fool in any part of the world would just buy a government property from a mere citizen? All this rumour-mongering is simply poppycock—nonsense. The Government knows or should know how its properties were sold.”
When the government first announced in 2009 that it was pursuing a probe of the embassy sale, many interpreted the move to mean that the incumbent government was looking to expose weaknesses in both Tubman and Mayson
While supporters of both Tubman and Mayson have accused the government of harboring political motives for the probe, critics say it is only fair hold the candidates aspiring for the highest office to answer questions relating to their character and judgment especially regarding the sale of a government property at the height of a civil war when thousands of Liberians were struggling to make ends meet.
According to the investigation’s conclusion, the embassy sold by certain individuals including Tubman, in 1992, was exclusively owned by the Government of Liberia and had been owned by the Government of Liberia since 1953.
While no detail is specified over whether Tubman benefited financially from the sale of the embassy, the report holds the former ambassador responsible because it was under his signature that the sale was perfected. “We understand that the document upon which the Notary Public in France, Mr. Dominique Ader, relied upon to perfect the sale was signed by Counselor Winston Tubman. We further understand that other individuals involved in the transaction included the late Ambassador Aaron George, the Liberian Ambassador to France at the time; Trohoe Kparghai, former Advisor to Samuel Kanyon Doe; and Alain Carron, the then Liberian honorary consul in Lyon, France.”
The report goes on to say that none of the aforementioned individuals, including Tubman, had the authority to dispose of the Liberian government assets above described.
Said the report: “Mr. Winston Tubman, who signed the purported “transfer of title” did not have the requisite indicia of authority in March 1992 to transfer a good, clear and free title of any property belonging to the Government and people of Liberia, particularly the property located at 8 Rue Jacques, Bingen, Paris 75017 France.” Thus, the report stated that the purported transfer was illegal and null and void ab initio.
The report also insinuates that Tubman may have imposed himself in the role when it states that Tubman “claimed to have been offered the position of Special Envoy of Dr. Amos Sawyer in 1990.”
Even at that, the report declares that neither position in and of itself confers the authority or empowered Tubman or anyone else to dispose of assets of the Government of Liberia unilaterally.
Said the report: “Usually, Government assets abroad, such as embassies and consulates are under the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Therefore, in order to deviate from what has historically been the norm would require that the Head of State confers special authority on the individual who assumes this role. We have no evidence that counselor Winston Tubman was designated by Dr. Amos Sawyer, or anyone else to dispose of the Liberian government property in Paris, France, above described. He was not an official of Government in the capacity to carry out such function; and even if he were the foreign minister or someone designate by the then “interim head of state”, Dr. Amos Sawyer, the authority would have still been questioned since, as we stated earlier, Liberia was disunited and split up into several factions, thus barring the Liberian people the opportunity of making firm, unified decisions under a representative government.”
Had the notary public in France, Mr. Dominque Ader, who possessed the document of sale for the above described property at 8 Rue Jacques, Bingen 75017 Paris, France, just simply exercised due diligence, as is usually done in transactions of this nature, the report asserts that he(the notary public) would have known that the sale of the said property was improper and illegal and the purported seller(s) had no authority to convey a clear legal title to the said property. “A person cannot convey to another what he or she does not own. In fact, the news about the civil war in Liberia was reported so widely and regularly around the world that the ordinary person almost everywhere was aware that Liberia was in a state of turmoil and, as such the citizens of Liberia was disunited, displaced, and disorganized, leaving only a few factional groups of Liberians, with questionable authority, laying claim to power. How then could anyone under these circumstances believe that he or she was involved in a legitimate transaction with an individual or individuals with legitimate authority.”
In an election year filled with a lot of intrigues and political plays, it is unclear how the unfolding developments will affect Tubman, who was recently tipped over football legend George Weah to lead the grassroots Congress for Democratic Change into the presidential elections. Motives about the probe will no doubt linger as Tubman and supporters of CDC ponder the timing. But critics, too will also be looking to see how Tubman handles the controversy and findings of a report with multiple consequences for his immediate political future. More importantly, political observers see the controversy as a doubled-edge sword for Tubman, who has been vocal and critical of the incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the ruling Unity Party. Would Tubman’s own controversy bordering issues of corruption, transparency and accountability hinder his ability to assault Sirleaf’s Achilles? Only time will tell as voters decipher the findings of a report and controversy which has dogged the Ambassador for years regarding the sale of the Liberian government property at 8 Rue Jacques, Bingen 75017 in Paris, France.