Interview conducted by Whatsapp with Ambassador (Prof) Dew Tuan-Wleh Mayson
BEALDED: Professor Mayson, in the last week, your name has been mentioned on radio and in the newspapers about an indictment in which you and Lebanese business man, George Haddad are accused of “theft of property”. What has happened?
THE PROF: First of all, I must thank you for being one of the few journalists who has bothered to get my side of the story. Simple justice and elementary journalism demand that a story must be checked with all those involved; in this case, the accused must also be heard. This was not done.
But be that as it may, I want you and our people to know that I am completely innocent of any and all of the charges which I SWEAR can never be proved even in a Kangaroo court, let alone in a court of JUSTICE.
The facts of the matter are as follows:
In June 2008, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi of Nigeria, Mr. George Haddad, one other Liberian and I formed a Company, DAS Inc. , with the objective of importing several commodities (rice, sugar, cement, etc.). Mr. Haddad brought to the company his considerable knowledge and experience in commodity importation and trading plus a warehouse and other equipment needed for the operation. Ogunbiyi contributed about 250,000 US dollars. I contributed about the same amount. A Letter of Credit (LC) was opened through Ecobank and the order was placed for the rice.
Meanwhile, the then President Sirleaf called to request that we loan her our warehouse to store some goods belonging to the Group of 77. As a respectful citizen (how do you refuse a request from the President!) and with a passion for physically challenged people, I readily obliged. The President promised solemnly that the warehouse would be returned to us in a month, prior to the arrival of our consignment of rice.
As the time of the arrival of the rice approached, the warehouse was still being occupied, this time by a private group with close links to the President–as rumors had it at the time. When we approached the President to honor her promise to return the warehouse, she replied, and I quote from her e-mail to Dr. Sawyer: “You should go and sue”
At this point, Dr. Sawyer, throwing off his characteristic mantle of coolness and politeness, replied the President in terms almost bordering on insult. He reminded her that when we delivered the warehouse to her it was not done through a court of law. But the President, stiff-necked and unrepentant, refused to budge. And our own warehouse remained unavailable to us.
When the ship arrived and we could not make available a ware house for the rice consignment, the Suppliers declared that we were in breach of contract. The LC was cashed by the suppliers and we were asked to pursue arbitration in L:ondon as provided in the contract with the suppliers. The path of arbitration in the United Kingdom is perhaps still open to us. We have not taken that path because of the expenses involved and the bureaucratic hurdles to over come.
Like Dr. Ogunbiyi, I was an absentee investor in this deal (I live in Nigeria). So there are perhaps gaps in this narrative which can best be supplied by Mr. Haddad who was on ground during this operation. Questions in the mind of Dr. Ogunbiyi can also be answered by Mr. Haddad.
BEALDED: Most Liberians who know you, know that you have been a person of integrity. From your days as a founding member of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA), you have never been smeared with integrity problems. Choosing to remain a faithful member of MOJA, you refused the lucrative offer by President Tolbert to be Superintendent of Sinoe when you were only 27 years old. You went to jail for your progressive activities. Unless most of your colleagues, you refused to join the Ellen Sirleaf government after the 2011 elections despite the many overtures made to you. What is the secret?
First, Mr. Bealded, I congratulate you for doing your home work so well. You seem to know so much about me. As a Catholic, I can only say that thanks to God’s grace, I have managed to live a life devoid of scandals and acts of corruption. Oh yes, the enemy of progress will always spread this or that rumor aimed at smearing one’s good character. But these rumours are quickly dissipated,. They can’t last for long. Because, as Gautama Siddhartha (Buddha) reminds us: Three things cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. As a progressive, we are all bound to commit what Amilcar Cabral has called “class suicide”–that is , we must throw off all our pretensions to bourgeois privileges in order to be reborn as working men and women–up right, honest and courageous. I pray that to my last breath I will be among this number.
BEALDED: You have been instrumental in bringing major Nigerian businesses to Liberia. We have not heard of any issues between you and them. Can you tell us about them?
As a business person, I have tried to establish in Liberia branches of the companies with which I am involved. Yes, I was instrumental in the implantation on Liberian soil of GT Bank, Mutual Benefits Assurance (I am Chairman), Emzor Pharmaceuticals (I am Chairman) UBA bank (I was its first Chairman and resigned only when I decided to go into politics; Specialist Inspection Services (I am Chairman), Comercio (I am Chairman of this cyber security company.)
BEALDED: Prof, you have been doing business in Nigeria for over a decade now. No reported problem of integrity. I understand that you were even commended by the Central Bank of Nigeria for your honesty. What was that about?
Again, Mr. Bealded , guided by our Catholic religion and thanks to His grace, we have tried to run our businesses above board. With regard to the episode with the Central Bank of Nigeria, my Company, Global Inspection Services, following an open international tender, was contracted by the Nigerian Government as one of three companies to inspect for quality, quantity and price of all of its exports–a huge task. At a certain point, the Finance Ministry which paid us on a monthly basis, sent me an over payment of about USdollars One Million Two Hundred Thousand. As soon as this was brought to my attention by our Staff, I immediately ordered the return to the Central Bank of this amount for which the Central Bank, on behalf of Government, sent me a glowing letter of praise and commendation. I understand that the other two companies, who were similarly over paid, have still not made restitution!
Sorry, Mr. Bealded. I must leave now to participate in a Zoom meeting. But let me repeat: I am completely innocent of any and all of the charges. And I am ready and prepared to prove my innocence in court.
Blessings for you and your work.
BEALDED: Thanks for your time. Was a pleasure speaking with you.