An independent investigation conducted by the Liberian Land Authority (LLA) has unearthed that an officer of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) has forged the signature of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on an illegal land deed.
The falsification of the public land deed was discovered when Madam Adriana Sirleaf filed a complaint against the LIS Officer Varney Gray who allegedly sold a parcel of land to a man only identified as Abednego Howard who is said to be on the run.
Madam Adriana Sirleaf in May 2018 of this year filed a complaint at the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) accusing Abednego Howard of demolishing her house that has already reached roof level.
According to LLA Coordinator Paul A. Tolbert, at the time the Immigration officer claimed to have bought the land was during that period former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf placed a halt to all public land sales and as such it was not possible for the accused to buy public land during that period.
“Our investigation shows that the former President’s signature was forged and as such the document could not constitute a valid deed,” the LLA Coordinator Paul A. Tolbert noted.
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Tolbert said they recommended that the accused LIS officer Gray be sent to court for further investigation and if found liable, he should be prosecuted according to the laws of Liberia.
On the due process, the LLA’s coordinator said the accused was invited on several occasions and during one of the meetings Mr. Gray said he acquired the land in the Omega Towel Community when he was working at the Paynesville City Corporation but sold portion of land to one Mr. Howard who is said to be on the run.
The LLA Coordinator said normally during the mitigation process that is intended to inquire from both the complainant and defendant there can be no legal representation until it is being forwarded to the court for further actions.
Mr. Tolbert noted that disputes are resolved without going through the court because the intent of the ADR is to get the views of the various parties involved but indicated that once there is a legal implication, they can now revert to the Court, the final orbital for justice.
The LLA pointed out that once there is a legal concern, the case can be forwarded to the court for further decision or hearing; and besides; there is a legal collaboration between the LLA and the Supreme Court of Liberia because it gave birth to the ADR at the LLA.
According to him, when cases leave the LLA and transferred to the court, the parties are summoned along with the LLA to provide facts because it’s their job to serve as witness in the case, after which the court will review evidence that will be provided and at the same listen to the parties involved, testimonies and cross-examine them for the court to be able to make sound decisions.
He said based upon the methodologies surrounding the ADR of the Land Authority, they had to live within the confines of those procedures.
Speaking on other issues; the LLA quoted the criminal conveyance law as saying “offense#2 (f) a legislature or person holding a national level position such as ministers, deputy minister, director general, deputy director general or any senior ranking officer of law enforcement agency or any public officer who abuses his or her offices by influencing or compelling the conveyance of a parcel of land knowing or having reason to know that without the use of such influence or compulsion the conveyance of said land is not possible is guilty of second degree felony.”
Mr. Tolbert further indicated that the criminal conveyance law that was enacted since 2014 clearly spells out the issue that has to do with the criminal conveyance of land or double sale of land which is in the case of the LIS officer, Varney Gray.
“What is important is to make sure that the issue of land especially when it comes to people illegally selling land know fully well that it’s wrong for public officials to use their positions to criminally take money from other citizens,” he said.
“We went through the procedures laid down by the land authority and both the complainant and defendant and other parties to the case were able to submit their deeds and other relevant documents for verification at which time they were able to discover the fake land deed,” she added.
The former Assistant Development Superintendent of Montserrado only identified as Bah and others were invited for the investigation but disclosed during the interrogation process that he (Bah) bought five acres of land from Montserrado County evidence with a tribal certificate issued him during that time.
Mr. Varney Gray, an Immigration Officer who claimed to have acquired four acres of land from the Paynesville City Corporation and a deed was issued him and signed by the former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf selling a portion of the land to Abednego Howard.
After going through the investigation which began in May 2018, it was discovered that the signature of the former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was forged and faked by Mr. Varney Gray, an Immigration Officer.
In an interview, the LIS Officer Gray pointed accusing fingers to the Licensed Land Surveyor Lansana Massaquoi whom he believed duped him by giving him fake land deed but expressed that he is willing to negotiate with the complainant in order to settle the matter.
Mr. Gray noted that he did not know how the surveyor obtained the signature of the former President because he (surveyor) was the only person that did all the paperwork surrounding the land.
“I want us to talk about the land issue because I am disturbed and confused but I want us to settle this so that it does not get out of hand,” he averred.