Persons and institutions caught stealing power will now go to jail for years and pay fines ranging up to ten thousand US dollars, after Liberia’s President George Manneh Weah signed the Power Theft Act on October 4, 2019, following its passage into law by the Legislature.
Every year, 62% of the electricity produced by LEC is lost to power theft, which amounts to US$51 million, thus prompting government to put this law into place This Act amends Chapter 15 of the Penal Law, repealing the 2015 Electricity Law of Liberia and adding Section 15.88, which establishes a system to stop power theft and stipulates penalties to deal with stealing electricity It defines the crime of staling electricity as “illegal connections, tampering with meters, transmission and distribution of line and theft of assets including light poles, wires and transformers” something the law says “remain the most singular challenge to the operations and maintenance of an effective public utility system in Liberia.”
This has caused “electricity tariff in Liberia to remain among one of the highest tariffs in the world, resulting in high production cost, which dis-incentivizes investment and frustrates economic development,” the law says and the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) loses millions of dollars from theft every year.
Power theft is considered as Second Degree Felony and an individual or institution is guilty of this crime “knowingly and willfully” tampering with transmission and distribution lines and interference or destroying of electric meter and/or improper use of it.
If found guilty in court, violators shall be subjected to tough penalties, which range from no less than 2 years with a maximum of ten in prison and fines ranging from US400.00 to up to US10,000.00 depending on the gravity of the offense.
At various levels, individual(s) can be punished for power theft it he/she causes or abets or helps in tampering with LEC power lines or meter by seeking, accepting, using, attempting to get or agreeing to receive for himself or others electric current through illegitimate means, either connection or reconnection.
For example, Section 3 d of the Power Theft law states: “Any person who has been convicted of Second Degree Felony for tampering with transmission facilities of electric power shall be sentenced to a definite term of imprisonment which shall be no less than three (3) years, and no more than five (5) years maximum, and shall be sentenced to pay a fine of One Thousand United States Dollars (US$1,000.00) or double the gain realized from the commission of the crime.”
Also, harsh penalties are also stipulated in the law for industrial, commercial entities or other organized groups or syndicates that are caught involved in power theft directly or by aiding and abetting this crime.
Section 6 g of the Act states: “Any Industrial, Commercial entity or organized group or syndicate who has been convicted of second degree felony for Tampering with transmission and distribution lines, or interference with, or improper use of electric meter of a licensee, shall be sentenced to pay a fine of Ten Thousand United States Dollars (US$10,000.00) or double the gain realized from the commission of the crime.”
At the same time, the Law says criminal group or syndicate caught involved in power theft will, in addition to paying a ten thousand UD dollars fine, shall see the “seizure and forfeiture of assets associated with the offense including vehicles, properties and bank accounts owned by the syndicate and each of the officers and operatives thereof, who shall have knowingly permitted, failed to prevent or was otherwise involved and responsible for the commission thereof,” Section 6i of the Act.