By: Emmanuel Weedee
A former Board Chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL, Mr. Clemenceau B. Urey, Sr., was on Friday, March 14, 2014 arrested by agents of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
Mr. Urey was arrested at about 11:00a.m at his offices located on Tubman Boulevard, Sinkor, Monrovia.
According to reports gathered by this paper, the LACC’s action was based on tipoff that Mr. Urey was leaving the country on Friday, March 14, 2014 when he is being investigated by the Commission. But this paper could not independently verify the reports that Mr. Urey was leaving the country last Friday.
It could be recalled that recently, Mr. Urey admitted before the Joint Legislative Public Account Committee(PAC) of the National Legislature that he approved the payment of US$50,000 to lawmakers before ratifying oil contracts intended to benefit the country and its people.
Mr. Urey, who was invited by the lawmakers to give account for money spent under his stewardship, however, told the lawmakers that he was not informed by his colleagues that they gave them(lawmakers) additional money which amounted to US$118,000 as lobby fees.
The invitation of the ex-NOCAL board chairman took into consideration the General Auditing Commission(GAC) Reports of 2006/08/09 on NOCAL.Among other things, the GAC reports said there were several irregularities, including lobby fees that were paid by NOCAL to lawmakers as inducement to pass several contracts. But the former NOCAL board chairman had maintained that he took the action in national interest and not for himself.
Following his arrest, he averred that he was “assaulted and manhandled”by agents of the LACC.
In a special statement issued in Monrovia over the weekend regarding the LACC agents’ action against him at his office, Mr. Urey explained that he had gone to a nearby office, outside of his office building, to conduct business and was returning to his office when he was approached by three unidentified men who informed him that he was wanted at the LACC office, immediately.
He said he inquired if they had any document or warrant for his arrest in their possession and they responded in the negative.
He said he then requested permission to enter his office with the intention of taking his medication and obtaining his phone to call his lawyer, but they refused and blocked the entrance to his office gate, thereby preventing him from entering his office.
Continued Mr. Urey: “I told them that they had no right to prevent me from entering my office building or seeking advice from my counsel.I also informed them that the whole process was improper as I had not been charged of committing any crime and that there was no write of arrest to forcibly take me. They then began to assault me and pulled me from my office gate in an attempt to force me into their vehicle. I then sent to my office for my phone and called my lawyer who advised me to meet him at the LACC office.”
“When I arrived at the LACC office, there were several photo journalists awaiting my arrival who began photographing me. The reason for this whole episode I was later told was that a statement was needed from meand that they had information that I was leaving the country on today, Friday, March 14, 2014,” he further stated.
He recalled that during their first visit to the LACC, his lawyer, Counselor James E. Pierre, informed the investigation Board that he would prepare a written statement from which they could question and seek clarification from him.
However, he said that he was going on a medical trip to South Africa and would not be back until March 22, 2014.
In the meantime, Mr. Urey pointed out that he would ask his partner, Counselor Oswald Tweh, to work with him in ensuring that the statement was prepared and delivered to the LACC, which Counselor Tweh agreed to do.
Said the special statement: “I prepared the drafts statement on yesterday, March 13, 2014. Just as I was about to take the statement to Counselor Tweh, I got a call from one of the agents who inquired as to whether the statement promised had been prepared. I informed him that working on the statement was priority for me. I was anxious to put this matter behind me, because I had already cancelled a business trip to Nairobi, Kenya and would have to cancel others if this matter was not resolved quickly.”
“I told him, therefore, that they did not need to call me. That I would call him as soon as I talk to Counselor Tweh. I met with Counselor Tweh, presented the draft to him and called the agent immediately upon my return from Counselor Tweh’s office. I informed the agent that I had presented the draft to Counselor Tweh and was awaiting his response. I also informed him that I had cancelled my trip to Nairobi to attend to this urgent matter at hand, the LACC investigation.” The special statement furthered.
“I assured him that I would present a copy of this statement to him (the LACC) as soon as my lawyer had reviewed same. To my utmost surprise, the three LACC agents appeared at my office, as stated earlier, and in their attempt to forcibly take me to their office assaulted and manhandled me.”
“I would like to bring to the attention of the public that when I was cited by the Audit Committee of the National Legislature, I fully cooperated with that body by immediately and promptly appearing before it. Under oath, I told them the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In like manner, I answered the call of the LACC as soon as I was cited. I intend to cooperate with the LACC until this matter is resolved.”
“Hence, I cannot comprehend why the LACC is taking such action against an individual who was working with members of the Board of NOCAL, the Management and others who were motivated only the their burning desire to seek the National Interest; one how took a bankrupt company, with $250.00USD in its bank account, employees unpaid for more than six months, a domestic debt of about half a million U.S. dollar, and left a bank balance of thirty one million U.S dollars, one hundred ninety thousand and eight cents ($31, 190,000.08), when I was removed from office, in addition to many other contributions from which Liberia through NOCAL is benefiting from today.”
“I did not personally benefit from the transaction being investigated; Liberia did. There is nowhere in the audit report showing that I converted a diem from NOCAL to my personal use.”He stated.
“It should be remembered that a public corporation is not run by one individual but a board and a management, who act in consultation with higher authorities. Hence, the action of the agents of the LACC is unacceptable. I believe that the LACC, its agents and investigators are under a duty to be civil and courteous to all who are being investigated or who are aiding an investigation. Its agents should not be over zealous in executing their orders and infringe on and violate the rights of others,” he averred.
Mr. Urey added that it behooves all Liberians to always and at all times demonstrate to the world that “We are a nation of laws and not of men. Anything less will lead to chaos and be detrimental for our young democracy”.
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