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CONEX Group response to FPA

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Authorities at the Conex Group, an international trading and investment holding company has reacted sharply to publications within the Front Page Africa newspaper which accused the entity of milking the country through the International Gateway Monitoring System or IGMS. The company has not only refuted the allegations of off book payments worth tens of millions of United States Dollars to officials of the ruling Unity Party to fund the party’s 2011 campaign but has also provided detailed information to set the records straight.

Below is the full text of Conex response to the FPA’s articles: CONEX Group is a legitimate International Trading and Investment Holding Company with a presence in Europe, the Middle East and four West African countries.

The founder, CEO, and Chairman of Conex Group is Cherif Abdallah, a natural-born Liberian, born of Liberian parents. As a business executive, it is not only incumbent upon him to create opportunities for himself, but he must also use those opportunities to foster economic growth within Liberia. Conex is a legitimate entity, and the taxes generated from our business benefit the Liberian Government and its people.

We are not ones to propagate our success or engage in publicity stunts; however, the baseless and ludicrous allegations printed in the October 3 article entitled “Unity Party Share Tens of Millions of Dollars in Off-Book Payments Under Shell Company To Fund Campaign,” and the October 4 article entitled “Unity Party Stalwarts Pocketed US$45M From Liberia During Ebola Outbreak,” both featured in the print and online versions of Front Page Africa newspaper (FPA), have forced us to set the record straight.

The Transaction
In 2011, Mr. Abdallah identified an opportunity through which the Government of Liberia (GOL) stood to benefit from the number of calls coming into Liberia through telecommunication companies. Without any direct monetary investment from the GOL, he created a partnership that would benefit the Government and people of Liberia by creating the International Gateway Monitoring System (IGMS), through which international calls could come into the country.

The initiative was put through a long international bidding process. Conex, with the strategic partnership of the Global Voice Group (GVG), won the bid. GVG is a well-known international telecommunications services company that has a positive track record in over 20 countries.
The services provided by GVG and Conex were to monitor all telecommunication companies to ensure that the GOL would benefit effectively from revenue generated by the companies.

By imposing a fee which is common in all communication sectors of the world, we structured a transaction that created an avenue through which the GOL could generate previously unavailable income. This fee was imposed on calls coming into Liberia, similar to taxes levied on all other goods and services imported into the Country. This was a method developed by Conex and GVG to ensure that no financial burden would be imposed on people living in Liberia or organisations operating within Liberia.

The entire process was negotiated by the parent company of Conex, and a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) was created for the implementation and holding of Conex’s interest in the IGMS Project. That SPV was called Conex Telecom. This is a process used by many Multi National Corporations (MNC’s) and international companies throughout the world. It is not unusual, and Conex Telecom was in no way a “shell company,” as implied by the writer/s of the previously mentioned articles.

The structure for the agreement with the Government of Liberia was as follows:
40% Government of Liberia
40% Global Voice Group (GVG)
20% Conex Telecom

Conex and GVG financed the telecom infrastructure system commonly referred to as the Network Operating Center (NOC), which is still being used by the GOL to monitor all calls being transmitted by cell phone companies for the sole purpose of tracking the correct revenue due to the GOL.

Conex and GVG trained Liberians to operate the NOC in order to completely manage the International Gateway Monitoring System (IGMS) for Liberia. The agreement was a Build Operate Train and Transfer Model (BOT), which was successfully completed. Liberia continues to benefit from the project Conex created.

It is common practice that when a business creates a revenue stream that previously did not exist, that business receives a share of said revenue. That is what business is all about – making profit. Consequently, for a period of three years, Conex received 20% of the revenue created for the Government and People of Liberia through the Gateway Project partnership. Please note that this revenue stream did not exist prior to the inception of the GVG/ Conex agreement with the Government of Liberia.

The members of the leadership of Conex are not communists, and Liberia is not a communist country. Liberia has a capitalistic free enterprise system; therefore, a Liberian-owned business is entitled to receive remuneration from its successful efforts to increase Government revenue.
The allegation that Mr. Abdallah financed Unity Party elections in 2011 and 2017 is an outright lie. We challenge Rodney Sieh , Editor-in-Chief of Front Page Africa, to present evidence of a $25 million USD contribution from Mr. Abdallah to the Unity Party at any time.

Though Mr. Abdallah did not make the donations mentioned by the writer/s of the two articles, are campaign donations by a Liberian businessperson to a Liberian Political Party a crime? Mr. Abdallah works very hard for everything he has achieved in his life. We are grateful that we live in a Country in which anyone has the right to spend his or her money in any legal way he or she sees fit. If Mr. Abdallah chooses to donate to a religious organization, political party, charity, scholarship fund, or friends and family, that is his decision to make, and it is no business of the ghostwriter of the aforementioned articles.

We will not stay silent in the face of the falsified allegations published by FPA. The stories The most shocking of the two articles was the one in which the headline read “Unity Party Stalwarts Pocketed US$45M From Liberia During Ebola Outbreak.” Is not the implication that those mentioned in the article somehow misallocated funds meant for Ebola relief? This was the most vile and offensive of the innuendo lobbied by FPA at Mr. Abdallah.

If $45 million was “pocketed from Liberian taxpayers,” does that not imply some form of financial wrongdoing? Where is the evidence of this? The sentence “GVG has attempted similar corrupt deals in the past” is curious. What was corrupt about this transaction? The onus was on the writer to explain the statement, and he or she did not. Are journalists free from accountability? Have the FPA standards for journalism fallen so low?

Speaking of accountability, even first-year journalists know that the onus is on the reporter to try to receive commentary from a person mentioned centrally in such a subversive piece of writing. No FPA staff member contacted Mr. Abdallah or the management of Conex for comments.

Is it common practice for journalists to use incendiary and editorialized language such as “schemes” and “cronies” in an article that was not identified as an Opinion piece? The FPA ghostwriter/s did not bother to do the research necessary to confirm something as simple as the correct spelling of the name of our CEO, but the Liberian public is expected to believe that writers of the articles properly researched the topic that led them to make the wild allegations printed? How preposterous.

Journalistic Integrity
It is unusual and unethical for a journalist to write an inflammatory article, full of innuendo and accusations, all under the cloak of anonymity. At the bare minimum, a quote would have lent more credence to the allegations. If FPA will not identify the unnamed sources cited in their articles, or provide proof of any campaign donations, they should, at the very least, provide some kind of concrete evidence of wrongdoing. FPA has yet to validate their statement that anyone referenced in their articles “pocketed US$45 million from Liberian taxpayers.”

The appearance of these articles just days before elections begs the question: what ulterior motive does FPA have for writing and printing the falsehoods seen in these articles? Was Conex simply collateral damage in a political war?
Shame on Front Page Africa, and shame on Rodney Sieh for allowing the kind of writing, that can only be called yellow journalism, to grace the pages of his newspaper.

In conclusion, we will add a message from Mr. Cherif Abdallah:
I want everyone reading this Press Release to know that in the future, if I identify another opportunity to structure a transaction that would benefit the Government and people of Liberia and myself, I will certainly move forward. I love Liberia. I love my role as a Liberian Private Sector Architect. If people in other African countries can appreciate the economic growth created by African business executives, I shall not be intimidated in my own country. I will continue to conduct all of my affairs with integrity, and I have absolutely no regrets what so ever..
I Rest My Case.

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