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TRH, others on US watchlist

For tax evasion, money laundering and terrorist financing

By Othello B. Garblah

Government-privileged Lebanese business entity TRH Trading Corporation has been put on a United States watchlist among four other Lebanese businesses for tax evasion and money laundering, the New Dawn has learned.

TRH and the four other Lebanese businesses yet to be named are also being monitored for terrorist financing and links with corrupt government officials and may be subject to US sanctions.

Also being monitored for money laundering, terrorist financing and links with corrupt government officials are some mining companies operating in the western and northern regions of the country.

TRH, a conglomerate of AJA Group has been under the spotlight of late following a major drug bust at one of its rented facilities in Topoe Village off the Japanese Freeway.

The company is said to be heavily link with some senior government officials and enjoys loose and unregulated privileges as it relates to its business dealings.

TRH/AJA is one of privileged companies that clear its containers from the port on invoices and bills of landing without going through any physical inspection. Apparently for other unknown reasons but notably they are the importer of pro-poor rice.

The company on Monday, October 17, 2022, continued to clear its containers on just invoices and bills of landings even after such practices led to the discovery of US100 million-dollar drug in one of its containers.

What is more interesting is that TRH pays far less on its import duties as compared to its competitors.

The Liberian Revenue Authority (LRA) has defended TRH in its practice. A communication spotted by this paper during an inquiry defended the disparity saying TRH is a Compliant Trader Program (CTP) participant, which allows their declarations to be accepted for immediate release by Customs, subject to post-clearance audit review.

The communication signed by Kaihenneh Sengbeh, LRA’s Manager, Communications, Media, and Public Affairs stated that the Post Clearance Audit (PCA) is a universal trade facilitation tool in customs intended to allow relatively compliant importers access to expeditious clearance subject to review after goods relating to such importers have been cleared from ports.

The LRA also claimed that the review outcomes establish purely technical matters relating to General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) valuation and that it had nothing to do with fraud.

Last week, the Financial Intelligence Agency put a freeze on the account of TRH and its parent company AJA Group accounts as part of an ongoing investigation into fraud and money laundering by the Financial Intelligence Agency.

Following intense pressure from the powers that be and lobby, FIA lifted the freeze but with an imposition of a fine of US250k to be paid into FIA Transitory Account at the CBL pending tax and compliance audit.

TRH/AJA in most recent time clear two consignments with no inspections.  They just use invoices and bills of landing, the same loose way that may have motivated the drug to be imported by or through them.

TRH/ AJA Group also enjoys other special privileges under this regime when it comes to taxation and clearance at the National Port Authority, something that even struggling Liberian businesses are denied here.

For example, multiple customs clearance notices in the possession of this paper for the same commodity-eggs, TRH paid far less in total customs charges as compared to its competitors.

For instance, on January 27, 2022, Supply West Africa Traders (SWAT) imported consignment of eggs with an assessed value of US$7,217.01. On April 1, 2022, Venus Corporation imported similar quantity and paid in total taxes US$8, 270.84. SWAT in June paid US$10, 880.91 for the same product.

On April 13, 2022, EID Supply Center imported eggs in a similar quantity and was charged US$7, 746.98. On February 25, 2022, TRH Trading Corporation imported a similar quantity of eggs like the previous importers but paid just US$2,012.55 in taxes. In most cases, TRH/AJA Groups shipments do not go through the same clearing processes as other importers. (To be continued)


The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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