By Othello B. Garblah
The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has ordered all accounts of TRH Trading Company and its owners frozen as part of investigations into suspicion of tax evasion amidst the recent drug bust at one of its rented facilities, the New Dawn has learned.
Sources told this paper that owners of TRH and Abi Joudi spent the entire day at the Liberian National Police Headquarters on Saturday, October 8, 2022, answering questions relative to the drug bust and tax evasion.
TRH Trading Corporation originally from Hungary, has its main offices on Jamaica Road, Bushrod Island with several sub-branches across the country.
The company is also part of AJA- Group Holdings, a conglomeration of ABI Jaoudi & Fresh Frozen Food.
Documents in the possession of this paper show that Tannah Abrahim, the wife of Bilal Abrahim owns 98% share in TRH, with the remaining 2% being split between J. Johnny Momoh and Jason Weni.
Before the recent drug bust at its rented facility on SONIT Liberia Inc. compound in Topoe Village, FIU had been investigating the suspicious tax evasion activities by TRH Trading Company.
The company, according to report, has been clearing its containers on mere invoices and bills of landing without going through the proper customs inspection, which also includes physical inspection as is legally required for right taxation.
Sources at the Liberian Revenue Authority (LRA) have neither denied nor confirmed the allegation when this paper made contact. But say TRH Trading Company tax disparity had been put under review and that the LRA does conduct post clearance audit of the company’s shipments to reconcile the difference.
Well, highly placed sources say such practice may have led to the alleged smuggling of drugs by the company.
It could be recalled that on Saturday, October 1, 2022, Liberian security busted drugs with street value at US$100m at SONIT Liberia Inc. compound in Topoe Village outside Monrovia after a tipoff from the United States Government.
Documents obtained by this paper showed that the containers in question were shipped by Castrolanda Cooperativa in Brazil and loaded at the port of Itajai on August 23, 2022, before being forwarded to Maersk Line Liberia Limited with TRH Trading Company as the consignee.
What brokers have found more interesting about this shipment and the privileges being enjoyed by TRH Trading Company is that the Global Tracking Solution, which tracks all shipments from around the globe warned that the consignment which contained the drugs be subject to physical inspection.
But customs authorities at National Port Authority ignored the warning and allow the containers to leave the port without any physical inspection.
Sources close to the FIU say the discovery of the drugs in the TRH Trading Company rented facility may have prompted the financial compliance unit to freeze the accounts of the company and its owners.
Initial traces of evidence have placed SONIT Liberia Inc., at the scene of the crime with its owners being subjects of media attention.
However, documents obtained by this paper indicate that SONIT Liberia Inc, represented by Hassan Hadi Saadé, signed a corporative rental agreement with TRH Trading Corporation represented by its CEO, Mr. Bilal Ibrahim for the use of the former’s cold storage facility in Topoe Village along the Japan Freeway.
Under the rental agreement, SONIA Liberia made available its infrastructure and equipment at Topoe Village to TRH Corporation, including a landscape covering an area of 5.5 acres with fence and electric cables for electricity, hanger containing three (3) cold rooms with storage capacity of 2,700 tons, and cold equipment, compressors and installations.
This has led to other suspects such as the AJA- Group Holdings, a conglomeration of ABI Jaoudi & Fresh Frozen Food Inc, also has in its chain SONIT Liberia Inc which owns the warehouse in Topoe Village.
Addressing a news conference last week in Monrovia, the President of the Customs Brokers Association of Liberia James Hinneh, accused TRH Trading Corporation of being behind importation of the consignment of drugs brought in the country and blamed the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for allegedly aiding the process.
Mr. Hinneh explained that the bill of landing document validates the specific owner of a particular consignment or container, including the CTN certificate as well as invoice from APM Terminals, which all proved that the consignment was brought into the country by TRH.
He said the Association remains supportive of Government of Liberia’s fight against illicit drugs and other unwholesome substances entering the country.
According to him, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry allegedly provided undue privilege to TRH Trading Corporation, something that led to the huge consignment of cocaine sneaking in, bypassing Customs Brookers at the Freeport of Monrovia.-Investigation continues.