As the allege corruption scandal at the Port of Buchanan is yet to reach its peak, the former Buchanan Port Manager, Charles MacArthur Gull, has officially issued a statement that includes supporting documents alleging that the Managing Director, Bill Tweahway, stole more than US$7000K from the Buchanan Port. This includes the Creative Development Incorporated scandal, and his subsequent departure from Liberia.
In his over 40 page statement, which is in the possession of Dakphannah 24 News & Television, Gull said, “It behooves me to use this medium to provide maximum clarity on the scandal which transpired recently at the Port of Buchanan in Liberia, which led to my abrupt and secret departure from Liberia. I am of the strongest conviction that the public has been misled entirely and if I do not come out now to truly provide my side of the story, absolutely nothing will be done to push the perpetrators, thereby leaving the LACC to push this case under the rode. It is long but worth reading to the end.”
The over US$7000K alleged bank transfer is between NPA (GOL) & Acerlor Mitral.
He said when he took over at the Port of Buchanan on October 5th, 2018, two months into his leadership he noticed a vessel berth at anchorage (The water between the first break and the deep ocean). He asked some of his staff why the vessel was berthed on anchorage for the past months without a movement and he hasn’t seen a bill sent to Arcelor Mittal for payment.
Accordingly, he was told by his staff that the vessel has been berthed on anchorage for more than a year now and Arcelor Mittal hasn’t sent any bills simply because there is nothing in the tariff that can be used to bill a vessel on anchorage. I then read the MDA (Mineral Development Agenda) that was sent to me by a big brother from Mittal whom I had to beg because neither NPA nor the Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy have a copy of a very important instruction that speaks to how the concessionaires operate.”
“After reading the MDA (Mineral Development Agenda) I found out that there is nothing also in the MDA that can be used against Arcelor Mittal to have them pay for a vessel at anchorage, therefore I decided to just try them out of my own volition. I instructed the financial Manager, Mr. Patrick, to raise a bill using the regular tariff to bill the vessel on the anchorage. I then instructed my then Administrative Assistant, James Johnson, to write Acerlor Mittal a letter informing them about a US$600K bill that was generated from the amount of time the vessel has been stationed to anchorage for onward payment,” Gull indicated in his statement.
“When Mittal received the letter later that day, my big brother, Philip W. Doe, then called me with heavy laughter saying, and I quote: “My Pekin this job the people gave you really make you hot oh, you know how long that vessel been on anchorage and no one ever asked us to make payment? It is not possible for a dime to be paid because nothing your lawmakers put in the concession that asks for anchorage payment neither does the MDA speak to that.”
According to him, Doe’s assertion was fair enough and then he [Charles Gull] felt discouraged but he couldn’t admit to Doe that he was on a fishing expedition and he reluctantly ended the conversation by saying, “Your will pay that money by force” again I didn’t have any supporting clause within the tariff, the MDA nor the Concession between the Liberian government and Arcelor Mittal that I could use to push for payment. From my end, I was done pushing the anchorage payment.”
And after a week or so, according to Gull’s statement, he received a call from some big guys from Arcelor Mittal asking that he meet at one of their colleagues’ homes for a discussion and about 9 am that evening, he took a walk down the Loop (in Buchanan) to the sent address for the meeting, saying at the meeting, he was informed by the big guys that it was possible for them to push their management for payment of said money but provided payment made from the anchorage charges.
“I then told them that I wasn’t the one to make such a decision because I don’t control the accounts of NPA but I will brainstorm and get back to them, and so I left for home. For a week I couldn’t arrive at the decision to inform my boss man, Hon. Bill Twehway.”
“One Saturday evening in 2018 December, by bossman, Hon. Bill Twehway, and a huge delegation of men and women entered Buchanan city. On one of his regular visits, I had gone to greet him like I normally do whenever he’s around,” the former Buchanan Port manager said in the statement.
“After greeting him I walked outside to have a phone conversation and I had my body resting on the NPA pick up while on the call. My very good big brother the then Logistics Manager, Mr. Wilmot Eugene Mason, came from the back and knock me and yelled my name “Mr. PM PM” he normally called me. I ended the call and hugged him with smiles on our faces. After we had some chitchats, I felt comfortable telling him about the Mittal situation because he has always been a good big brother to me even when Cuffy-Brown denied me the job he was one of those that encouraged me to let go.
“I then explained to him and he advise me to lecture the NPA MD I am sure he will accept the guys from Mittal’s proposal.”
According to Gull, he then sent his driver home for a copy of the bill I sent to Mittal so he could show it to his boss and when his driver brought the copy, he walked upstairs in the hotel room of Bill Twehway and explained to him the entire issue surrounding the anchorage charges and the guys from Mittal told him to make the deal work, saying, “My boss happily accepted the idea and asked me if I was sure the deal would work out and I told him yes once we guarantee that the guys from Mittal will get the 20% they asked for and he then told me to go ahead with the deal.
He continued: “I then called the guys from Mittal and informed them that my boss man has given me the green light but one of the guys said he wasn’t satisfied until they can meet Bill Twehway and hear it for themselves. I quickly arranged a meeting with the MD and guys from Mittal. They met and he again told them their percentage will be given to them on any amount paid.”
He said the next day he, together with his staff, began working on the deal, “I would instruct James (My administrative assistant) to write Mittal with the assurance given to me from the same guys against their company and they would also respond to me in the affirmative.”
“We dragged the issue for almost a month until Acerlor Mittal finally succumbed to pay the money but they requested that we have a meeting with their CEO. Days after I accepted to meet the CEO of Mittal, he flew from Luxembourg to Liberia and drove to my office the same day for the meeting,” Gull said.
According to Gull, the CEO of Mittal argued that they couldn’t pay a dime for any anchorage charges because the government of Liberia didn’t speak to anything in the Concession agreement nor the MDA, therefore they weren’t paying, but he [Charles Gull] dealt with the issue sufficient until the CEO of Mittal accepted to the payment but we should draft an MOU for a reasonable charge.
Gull said: “I then called my boss man on WhatsApp as he was on a trip with the President in Europe, after explaining to him, he happily accepted that we work on the MOU and whatever we came up with will highly be accepted by him.”
The next day Gull said the CEO of Mittal left the country but tasked his staff to work with him in drafting the MOU that we could use for the payment of the charges. “We worked on the MOU for weeks until it was done and I sent a copy to head office for perusals and possible corrections. The MD had returned to the country, he signed and the comptroller also signed on behalf of NPA.
“On behalf of Arcelor Mittal, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) signed and the then head of Port and railroad also signed. In that MOU, the MD agreed that all anchorage payments should be made to Buchanan Port Operations Account. Even though the operation account is only for petit cash payment. Eg, a monthly amount of US$3000 is paid for Buchanan Port operational purposes which in three years was only sent three times.”
According to Gull, in the MOU, they also agreed that they charge Mittal $7 per LOA (Length Over All) of the vessel, times the number of days the vessel will spend on anchorage before movement. So they calculated $7 USD x Length of the vessel which was 122LOA time 150 days if the vessel had spent five months before movement, they would have calculated 7x122x150=128,000 for such duration.
“On March 4th, 2019, the payment of US$174,000 was transferred to the Buchanan operational account. I called the MD informing him about the transfer that was made, he then asked me and the Financial Manager of the Port of Buchanan, but the Comptroller of NPA has the oversight to request all NPA accounts information and he will be given the bank statements. He said OK, in two weeks I will tell you what to do about the money and I said yes Sir.”
Gull’s statement continued: “After one week I called my boss man and informed him about my trip to the USA, and he asked that I go to town to meet him which I did. When I got there, he instructed the Comptroller to give me something for my trip, the Comptroller and I drove to his house in Virginia, Benjor, and he gave me US$5,000 in hundreds of bills. The next day, which was the 12th of March, I left the country for the US.”
The former Buchanan Port Manager said one week into his trip, his boss instructed the Acting Port Buchanan, who he left in charge, Mr. Tiabor Karten (The Pier Superintendent), to ask me to go back to Liberia as “the chief” wanted the money. “I then changed my flight schedule and left for Liberia. I got to Liberia on the 1st of April 2019 and then called the MD the next morning informing him that I was back in the country.”
“He then said I should wait he will call me later. After two days, the Comptroller Mr. Vakuma Dukuly called me informing me that he will send me bank account information for the money to be transferred. I informed him that we didn’t have any money discussion, I will have to speak to the MD before going forward with anything. The MD called me after few minutes in an angry tone telling me to follow every instruction given to me by the Comptroller and apologized for the disrespect…”
In the statement, Gull further indicated that the Comptroller told him that he will give the bank information to the financial Manager for the money to be transferred to said account, adding, “The financial Manager ran to my office with a GT bank information given to him by the Comptroller for the money to be transferred. The financial Manager, Mr. Patrick, Darquate wrote the cheque, and then I signed it, which he took to the Comptroller’s office. I instructed the financial Manager to ask for a receipt from the Comptroller which he didn’t get because the Comptroller told him to leave his office.”
The statement continued: “After two weeks, the guys from Mittal asked me for their percentage of the money that was paid. I informed them that the money was transferred to my bosses and I had no control over anything again.”
Gull further narrated that after a few days while sitting with the MD at the newly constructed NPA’s headquarters, a few of the guys from Mittal went to see the NPA MD Bill Twehway, “I was sitting with the MD and then Sekou Kalasco walked in, we all were having lunch together. The guys from Mittal were ushered in, soon the MD saw them he said: “My man I gave that money to the Chief because he asked for it,” one of the guys from Mittal was angry and he said, “that wasn’t the discussion we had.”
“Words from words, they had to leave in anger. I then walked behind them and begged them to forget it and we could fulfill our obligations on the next transaction.
According to Gull, the vessel was billed and sent to Mittal for payment and they would pay to the operational account as mandated by the MOU, disclosing, “US$179,000, $181K, $288K, and so on was sent to the operations account which was transferred to accounts provided by the Comptroller for transfers. And not a single time any amount was given to the guys from Mittal for their promised percentage. They would always meet me to vent their anger and bully me on behalf of my bossman’s behavior toward them. The last payment was made to the operations account in the tone of US$181,000.
Inspection At The Buchanan Port
Gull indicated that there was a major inspection by the International Coast guard at the Port of Buchanan. The inspection was very important because any report from said inspection could determine if the Port would stay at level one or drop to a lower level because of poor infrastructure, security and poor lighting system. “I had written the MD and Comptroller many communications to make disbursement to our account for a major renovation of the Port’s clinic, the fire track, the Port fence, to give a facelift to the Port and also provide fuel for the lighting system.”
“But all the communication didn’t meet approval and I was worried that the Port would drop to a lower level, therefore certain important vessels will not berth on our Pier. And the Port would lose millions in revenue as I have fought hard to raise the revenue from a little over a million dollars to 3.5 million in 2020. I have all evidence of any financial issue raised here.”
Gull further disclosed: “Therefore, to keep the Port at level one which we had fought to do, I instructed the Financial Manager to withdraw US$12,000 from the money sent by Mittal to the Operations Account for use of the Port. When the Comptroller was told that said amount was withdrawn from the account, he ran to the MD asking for my dismissal. The MD then called me in anger and blasted me for withdrawing money from the account without giving him a heads up. I explained the reasons and told him that all documents would be sent to him to establish how the money was used. He didn’t care, and he immediately requested that the balance be transferred, which we did.”
After a few days according to Gull, Bill Twehway wrote Arcelor Mittal instructing them that they shouldn’t make any payment to the Buchanan Port operation account going forward and that all future anchorage payments should be made to the general NPA account. The rest of the payments would be made to the account he provided.
Gull continued in the statement, “On June 2020, the vessel that was on sea for which those anchorage charges were being paid, left Liberia finally as the operation for which the vessel was on anchorage was now terminated. And all payments owed by Mittal to NPA were made.”
He said in October of 2020, while on his vacation to the USA, he received a call from the then Acting Financial Manager of the Buchanan Port, Mr. Amara Kamara, he was now the acting financial Manager because Mr. Patrick Darquate couldn’t perform his duties as Financial Manager.
“On the call, Amara told me that the same guys from Mittal had gone to him to ask him for a favor. The favor was for him to give them a fake bill that they would use to get money from their company since of course our bossman Bill Twehway ate all the money and didn’t give them their promise of 20%. I told Amara to wait until I get to the country. I got to Liberia the same October and requested that I meet the guys. I met them and they explained to me the intention of the fake bill was to get some money from their company and we will be given a percentage if we help them to carry on the operation.”
“I agreed but then I left from behind them and informed my boss man Bill Twehway about what I was told. At first, he refused and said he didn’t want to get involved. The next day he called me and asked how much the guys would give him for his share and I said I don’t know. But I was angry that he had asked for his share after all the transactions which we didn’t get anything from, even though I was the brainchild of the anchorage charges. So I told him I will ask the guys to see what to do. To admit, I didn’t ask them because I didn’t even want them to know that I told my boss because they have gotten angry after knowing what my boss did to them.”
Gull said he then told the guys to proceed with the operation knowing that his bossman has given me the green light. After the money was approved by Arcelor Mittal, he was called and informed that the money was ready to be disbursed.
“I told them to bring our share, and the guys said it doesn’t work like that, saying, “Our company will want to see the trace of the payment and we told the company that the payment is for NPA, therefore we need to show that the payment was done to an NPA account. I told them to send the money to the Buchanan Operations account and the guys said Bill had written them not to make any payment to that account and even if he hadn’t written them, they wouldn’t do that because Bill and the Comptroller will again request for money and they will eat it without giving them anything,” the statement indicated.
“I agreed with their assertion 100% because I know with certainty that could happen. We then decided to open an account in the Buchanan Port’s name for money to be paid, the money was paid to that account. A bank staffer who has strong connections with the NPA Comptroller Vakuma Dukuly informed him about the transfer. The MD called me and asked me about it which I confirmed. He then instructed me to send the money to him and said I didn’t have control over that because it wasn’t NPA’s money neither my money. I informed the guys and money was taken out of the account which everyone took their share.”
Gull continued: “I was given US$30K of the US$300,000. The rest of the guys including the additional four persons from NPA were theirs. All these happened in December 2020. The MD got angry and threatened to dismiss me for not respecting his instruction. I pleaded for mercy. Everything was left and we moved on.”
The CDI Deal and Subsequent Scandal
In December 2020, according to Gull, he and the Superintendent of Grand Bassa County had gone to meet the MD Twehway, there he then explained to him the possibilities of the Port acquiring a 966 machine for the purpose of headling the logs at the Buchanan Port, saying that the revenue will directly go to the Port instead of hiring a Chinese company.
He said MD Twehway bought the idea and instructed him to go and look for where they sell 966 front hand loader machines. “I went and I asked for the machine and I was told it cost around US$65K for a fairly used one. I informed the MD and he said we would go to get the money from the bank the next day to buy the machine.
“The next morning while at my Old road residence, the MD called me that he wanted to see me quickly. I rushed to his 16th Street apartment and saw that he was sitting with LACC Commissioner Kanio Bai-Gbala, Sidiki Fofana, NPA Comptroller Christian Brownell, former Assistant Youth and Sports Minister Sneh Johnson, and someone who I can’t remember. My bossman told me to work with the names listed above as they have their machine and they will do the operations at the Port. I got furious and refused to cooperate with them.”
According to Gull, based on his refusal to cooperate, he begged to work with them, and considering that Sidiki is my big brother and a CDCian, he will take care of him which he said reluctantly accepted to guide them as they all were novices, with the exception of Sneh Johnson, who has a fair understanding about Port operations.
Gull indicated further in the statement they quickly set up their company which he also helped with some information on the working for the company, indicating, “In a week, the company paperwork was ready and signed by my bosses. I saw an old 966 machine towed to the Port to start the operation. I told them that the machine was old and one machine couldn’t do the work but they insisted on using their power.”
He continued: “Sneh Johnson was hired as Operational Manager for CDI. After the first operation which generated hundreds of thousands of US dollars, they sent Sneh Johnson to go and pay for the machine operators they hired. Sneh, on the other hand, didn’t give the money that was given to him for the operators, he deducted a portion of the money and gave the little amount to the operators. When the MD heard what Sneh did, he was fired as the Operations Manager of Creative Development Incorporated.”
“CDI was now used time to time load the logs at the Port until the, MD Bill Twehway, took the machine to Reivercess to do some work at his housing project he was carrying on in Cee town, Reivercess County.”
According to him, because they drove the machine on the road and by mechanical advise, that machine isn’t for a long-distance drive, the machine engine got damaged and CDI was left with zero machine.
“There was no money to even purchase a new one as they were always sharing the revenue generated from the operations with zero amount in the CDI account, “CDI now would compare shippers to use their own machine to do the loading and then pay the US$8 per cubic meter to CDI which they promised to give US$2 per cubic meter to the several companies did their own work and paid the money to CDI, which they never got the US$2 promised.”
Meanwhile, all efforts from Dakpannah 24 News & Television to reach the spoke person of the National Port Authority did not materialize, as his phone rang many times with no answer.