Since mid-2010, a legal circus that pits Bassam Jawhary and the Milad Hage Testate Estate on the one hand – and Mrs. Oumou Sirleaf Hage, her children, and their bankers, Ecobank Liberia Limited, on the other hand, has riveted and continues to rivet Liberia’s attention and curiosity. Listening to the cacophony that surrounds this legal drama and without access to the facts, one could easily reach a conclusion, any conclusion. This article, the first in a series of articles to be written on this ongoing drama, seeks to pierce the venial that camouflages the hard core truth and to take the reader to the heart of the story, provides the incontrovertible history of the loan arrangements, exposes the web of plots and conspiracy concocted against Milad Hage’s widow, children, family, and their bankers.
The article further achieves this goal through a set of questions that goes to the core of issues that, if they had been asked by competent and rational persons handling the case, could have unravel the lies, deceptions, and greed that underpin the bond that drives the men and women united in conspiracy to defraud the Hage family of their properties and assets.
The first set of questions is, who was the late Milad Hage? When did he come to Liberia? What did he do in Liberia? What was his family life like? How did he meet his Liberian wife, Oumou Sirleaf Hage? Was he legally or customarily married to his Liberian wife? Did they cohabitate – and for how long? When is a marriage recognized under Liberian law as being legal? How many children did they have? Did Mr. Milad Hage’s Lebanese family know and accept his Liberian wife?
The second set of questions is, how did Mr. Milad Hage die? Who authorized that surgery be performed on him in Liberia? Was there a motive for the hurriedly arranged surgery that was performed against the advice of the late Hage’s Lebanese Doctors? Was any member of the Hage family notified that their relative was ill in Liberia and was being taken for surgery at the Jordanian Hospital?
The third set of questions is, who is Bassam Jawhary? Does he have any family connection to late Milad Hage or any member of his family? How did he meet the late Milad Hage? Was it possible for the late Milad Hage to rationally prepare an Addendum Will that, without the knowledge of his Liberian wife, older children, or any other significant adult relative, especially when the Will purports to make Bassam Jawhary Executor of his estate while his widow, children, next of kin Mr. Tony Hage, and other relatives with more direct and personal relationship were alive and in Liberia? Is the so-called Addendum Will really a Will? Where is the original Will? Was the Will presented to the Monthly and Probate Court notarized and registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
Is there a record of registration of the Will with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Has anyone seeing a copy of the Addendum Will and taken note of the numerous legal and procedural anomalies that should have raised a red flag about its legality? How, just how, could the late Hage misspell his wife’s name or his own surname from “Hage” to “Huge”? Did the Monthly and Probate Court carefully examine the “Addendum Will”? Did anyone, just anyone, take a real close and careful look at the Addendum Will?
The fourth set of questions is, under what circumstances did the Monthly and Probate Court act or rule to designate Bassam Jawhary as the Executor/Administrator of the Milad Hage Estate? Did the Probate Court meet the minimum requirements of law, i.e., the issuance and publication of notices on the walls of the courthouse and in newspapers, 30-day wait period, conduct of hearings, etc.? Was the family or next of kin to late Milad Hage in Liberia, including Mr. Tony Hage, informed or notified? If indeed Bassam Jawhary knew and was convinced that the Addendum Will that he was presenting to the Monthly and Probate Court for certification was genuinely prepared by the late Milad Hage, was it not rational or appropriate for Bassam Jawhary to inform Mr. Tony Hage, former President of the World Lebanese Cultural Union and probably one of the best known Lebanese nationals in Liberia?
Why was there so much rush and secrecy? Did the Monthly and Probate Court conform to these legal standards? April 19, 2010, to May13, 2010, when the Monthly and Probate Court granted Executorship to Bassam Jawhary, did the legally required 30 days expire? Upon the return of Milad Hage’s widow, Mrs. Oumou Sirleaf Hage, and her immediate objection to the Will and filing of said objection, did the Monthly and Probate Court entertain her objection? Can anyone legally challenge the marital status of Mrs. Oumou Sirleaf Hage to late Milad Hage when the couple were initially customarily married – and then subsequently married western-style in a Church?
The fifth set of questions is, who owns the properties that are at the center of the ongoing legal suits? A stranger with no relationship to the Hage Clan or a store boy? Or the woman in whose names along with the names of her children property deeds on which the buildings were constructed were secured? What about the children and their natural right of inheritance, to own their father’s properties after his demise? Are they and their interests protected by the laws of their native Liberia against a Lebanese national with no tie to and no interest, direct and indirect, in any of the properties? Or does this Lebanese impostor’s interest trump the interests of natural born Liberian citizens? Where in Africa could such travesty happen? What’s wrong with Liberia? Could a Liberian dare to engage in such bold-face usurpation of the property rights of a Lebanese in Lebanon? Where? Where? And where could this ever happen?
The sixth set of questions is, who constitutes the supporting cast to Bassam Jawhary? The “human rights advocate ”? Whose human rights is he fighting for? Fighting with Bassam Jawhary to line his pocket with ill-gotten money? Or the fraudulent “right of the Lebanese impostor against the legitimate right of natural Liberian citizens? Whose human and constitutional rights have been violated? Or the Attorney at law? Is he complicit in the violation of law by participating in this fraud? Or the investigators who refused to be evenhanded in conducting an investigation submitted and then skewed a report that led to indictment proceedings against Ecobank Liberia Limited? In fact, just what wrong did Ecobank commit to be sued? Is there a fantasy here with Bassam Jawhary and his cohorts imagining that a lawsuit against Ecobank could earn them a big payday?
Should this suit, the intent to wreck Ecobank and the Liberian economy, not be the basis for the arrest and trial of Bassam Jawhary and his cohorts for the crime of “Economic Sabotage”? By concocting this crime, should Bassam Jawhary not be deported because he is working hard to undermine our post conflict economy – and is therefore an enemy of the Liberian people? Is anyone seriously following this lawsuit, the wider implications for the Liberian economy and the banking and financial sector of the economy?
These questions are only the opening salvos of many more questions that will be raised and answered to awaken the consciousness of the Liberian public to the gross bastardization of our Constitution and laws – and the injustice being perpetrated against Mrs. Oumou Sirleaf Hage and her children. Future articles will explore and expose the reasons why Bassam Jawhary and his collaborators have widened their fishing net to include Ecobank Liberia Limited. When the full truth is placed objectively in the public domain and through such revelation discovers the cabal that has organized itself to carry out the fraud against this Liberian widow and her children, then there is no doubt that justice will be served, because Oumou Sirleaf Hage and her children are the natural and rightful heirs to the late Milad Hage.