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Foreign business owners face power theft charges

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By Winston W. Parley

The Liberia National Police (LNP) has charged and sent to court two foreign nationals accused of power theft and tampering at their business centers, roughly a week after the United States Ambassador to Liberia Michael McCarthy urged the government here to address the widespread nature of power theft.

39 year – old Turkish national defendant Faut Gebara and Lebanese national defendant Shouki Eid, resident of Mamba Point in Central Monrovia, were charged separately with power theft and tampering and turned over to the Monrovia City Court Thursday, 2 September for prosecution.

Shouki is the Chief Executive Officer of Eid Supply Center, while defendant Faut is the owner and General Manager of Gebara Business Center, all of which are located in the Freeport Community on Bushrod Island.

Police link Shouki to power theft and tampering covering January 2019 to 31 August 2021 at Eid Supply Center, Freeport Community, on Bushrod Island, while also linking Faut to the same charges covering the period March to September 2021 at Freeport on Bushrod Island. The accused have denied the charges.

Faut and Shouki were arrested on Tuesday, 31 August in relation to the charges based on complaints filed against them by Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) Security Manager Patrick S. Nyumah.

Nyumah alleged that during the LEC power theft team’s routine patrol to curtail power theft, defendants Faut and Shouki failed to provide any receipt or payment slip when asked for the source of electricity supply at their various business centers.

During a police investigation, the charge sheet indicates that defendant Shouki narrated that LEC management issued him a meter in December 2016 and it was installed on the light pole.

As for Shouki, police said he indicated that his business was using its own generator to get electricity, but he had a LEC line connected to the business.

In the course of their trial, the defendants will be challenging the prosecution to prove that they did use LEC supplies illegally, given their alleged initial defenses contained in the police charge sheet.

But the arrests of the Turkish and Lebanese nationals come at a crucial time when U.S. Ambassador McCarthy stated late last month that there have been zero convictions of businesses and individuals for power theft, leaving the U.S. Envoy to ponder how this can be, considering the widespread nature of the issue.

Amb. McCarthy on 26 August 2021 said he had been told by multiple sources that there is a well-organized electricity theft cartel that benefits well-connected businesses and even government officials.  

Having invested so heavily in the power sector here, the U.S. Envoy indicated that it’s not too much for the U.S. Government to ask that the Liberian Government do more to protect the investments and its own power sector.  

He added that some LEC investigators trying to fix this problem have been harassed by some representing themselves as security officials.  

Amb. McCarthy warned that this is absolutely unacceptable, noting that as a major investor in Liberia’s power sector, the U.S. calls on government officials to do everything possible to stop this corruption and prosecute the perpetrators, no matter how important they may be.

“Nowhere in the world is electricity-free.  I pay an electric bill at my home in the United States.  As Minister Tweah said last week, Liberia is no different: if you want electricity, you must pay for it.  Nobody has ever promised free electricity to the people of Liberia,” the U.S. Envoy said.

“The reality is that no utility anywhere in the world can survive where less than half of its electricity is paid for.  And LEC is no exception.  If LEC can’t resolve this power theft issue, it will continue to weaken financially, become even more dependent on government funding, and reduce reliability in operations,” he added.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/high-price-to-pay-now-for-power-theft-as-new-law-takes-effect-compiled-by-frank-sainworla-jr/

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