Latest reports emanating from the ongoing investigation of some customs officials speak of attempts by Mr. Mohammed Bility, Deputy Commissioner of Customs for Policy, to cleverly exonerate himself by manipulating a Fulani national to make incriminatory statement that he forged his (Bility’s) signature at a time the Acting Commissioner (Dixon Seboe) was in office.
The question now being raised by insiders at the Bureau of Customs and Excise, Ministry of Finance is, “If forgery was the most likely alternative to evade the payment of legitimate government taxes, then why was the name of the proper Acting Commissioner not used in the process when in fact he was in the country during the transaction and Instead the Fulani decided to forge the signature of Mr. Bility?”
Customs sources have described the scene as a mere comedy schemed by highly placed individuals to set free a loyal lieutenant from a trouble likely to have a colossal effect on many other issues involving big hands if not contained.
According to information gathered, the Fulani national, who now is being made to lie on himself, was promised freedom by those trying to manipulate the outcome of this case by covering up the facts.
This has made many to develop the feeling that there are bigger hands in this corruption web than what was initially made to believe at the moment. The pointer to this theory is the continuous silence of the Ministry of Finance authorities over this issue, unlike others in the past when press conferences were organized to inform the general public about such malpractices, especially where it involves economic crime.
The current investigation by the police of three customs officials assigned at the Freeport Customs Collectorate started following the discovery of a bonded entry bearing the signature of Mr. Bility that claimed the position of Acting Commissioner.
The bonded good was intended for transshipment to the Republic of Guinea. Two others officials linked to the investigation are Abel Nohun, Senior Collector and Felix Nagbe, Director of Bonded Warehouse/Transshipment.
Police authorities have already confirmed investigating the three customs officials and as things stand, Mr. Bility is said to be having an uncomfortable working session since the saga hit the news.
Inside sources at the police hinted this paper that a senior customs official has been attempting to interfere with the ongoing investigation by placing calls to the highest echelon of the police.
There are reports that since the appointment of James Kollie as Deputy Minister of Revenue, he has succeeded in bringing on board many of his former schoolmates from AME Zion to occupy key positions that they have no prior training for.
It now seems to be an open secret that as a result of this trend, massive overturn of personnel and revenue collectors has swung alarmingly, even though business activities are on the increase.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, an anti-corruption crusader, is being looked upon to institute a corrective measure at the highest level otherwise revenue is predicted to continuously decline.
This is the second time Mr. Bility, a junior brother of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) President, Musa Bility, has been accused and interrogated for revenue theft since his employment at the Ministry of Finance.
The first was in 2010 when he served as Director of the Anti-Smuggling Department, where he was investigated on allegation of conniving with a fellow kinsman, name withheld, assigned at the RIA Customs Collectorate as Chief Examiner to deprive government of needed revenue.
They allegedly assisted a consignee who brought goods through RIA customs collectorate and attempted to evade tax payment by smuggling the goods out of the customs warehouse without duty payment.
Investigation at the time indicated that they were, however, arrested around the Steven Tolbert Estate vicinity.
The former Deputy Minister of Revenue, Elfrieda Stewart-Tamba, launched an investigation which resulted into the suspension of Mr. Bility and the subsequent advertisement and filling of the position he occupied.
While undergoing the probe, he left Liberia on a fellowship to Australia for the University of Canberra. Upon his return last year, investigation revealed that without resolution of the case involving him at RIA, he got promoted to the position of Deputy Commissioner of Customs for Policy through the recommendation of the office of the Minister of Finance.
It was believed that the appointment of Mr. Bility was done without hindrance in that Madam Stewart-Tamba, who suspended and probed him for theft was already replaced as Deputy Ministry for Revenue.
The decision to appoint an individual associated with high profile scandal came as a surprise to many at the Ministry of Finance.
Some officials admitted that appointing such character embarrasses the entire Bureau of Customs & Excise. They believe that consideration was given for Bility’s appointment despite the stigma mainly on the basis of ethnicity.
Meanwhile, fresh reports emanating from the Ministry of Finance says Mr. Bility, the customs official who is currently undergoing police interrogation for alleged fraudulent activities, has been appointed as Acting Commissioner of Customs & Excise while the proper Acting Commissioner for more than a year now is away, believed to be on his way to India on an official trip. Investigation continues.