Jurors at Criminal Court C recently have handed down a guilty verdict against two former employees of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), after several months of legal proceedings.
The former employees, Mr. Joseph Weeks and Ms. Linda Sumowood were caught in December 2015 in the act of extortion at the Customs Business Office at the Freeport of Monrovia.
The Jury of the Criminal Court C on June 14, 2017 found Mr. Joseph Weeks guilty of the crimes of Economic Sabotage and Bribery, while Ms. Sumowood was guilty of Criminal Facilitation.
The LRA, collaborating with law enforcement officers, caught the former employees in 2015 and forwarded them to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) for investigation and subsequent prosecution.
Mr. Joseph Weeks, an Assessor, was captured on Closed Circuit (CC) TV taking a bribe of US$500, which he had demanded from a taxpayer, while Ms. Sumowood was captured for concealing the bribe when Mr. Weeks was being apprehended.
A taxpayer, Mr. Abraham Sinayoko, returning from the U.S., complained Mr. Weeks of extortion to the LRA Commissioner General.
Mr. Sinayoko said though he had paid all taxes and requirements in the amount of US$4,600 on his personal effects in a container he brought from the United States, he was being asked for a bribe by Mr. Weeks before his container could be released.
He complained that his documents were seized by Mr. Weeks on grounds that an additional assessment was required on his container. Mr. Weeks reportedly requested Mr. Sinayoko to pay an extra US$2,300 but later settled down for a negotiated amount of US$1,000.
An undercover operation involving the Liberia National Police and the Liberia Seaport Police caught Weeks receiving the bribe from a customs broker as he had advised the taxpayer to channel the money, and was subsequently arrested and charged by the Police.
Ms. Sumowood was arrested as she aided in concealing the bribe taken by Weeks after he had been apprehended.
The LRA lauded the whistle blower, the Liberia Seaport Police and the National Police of Liberia for their swift cooperation which resulted in the arrest of the culprit with substantial evidence.
LRA Commissioner General Elfrieda Stewart Tamba has since called on the general public, including the business community and taxpayers to report any form of dishonesty carried out by any employee of the LRA in the discharge of their duties.
“The LRA is taking all the necessary steps to curb this unwholesome behavior and therefore solicits the help of all taxpayers and the general public in order to win the fight against corruption in the revenue sector and to collect the needed revenue for the people of Liberia”, says Commissioner General Tamba.
Bribery and distortion are grave violations of the LRA professional and ethical handbook signed onto by all employees before assuming duties. Press Release