By Amin Kef (Ranger)
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), in a Press Release dated 8th March, 2023 confirmed that it had commenced investigation into criminal allegations against the President/Chairman of the EAP Group of Companies, Edward Alex Olubode Philips and the “Motherland City” project, following joint surveillance exercises by the ACC, the Central Intelligence and Security Agency (CISA) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
The ACC said its investigation was related to alleged fraudulent activities by the EAP Group of Companies between 2022 and March 2023 in which the Chairman of the Company, Edward Alex Olubode Philips, was accused of conspiring with other persons to establish the aforementioned company in Sierra Leone purporting to build affordable houses for interested clients/customers for a Project titled “Motherland City/ Estate”, at York Village in the Western Rural District.
It furthered that, allegedly, the company had collected huge sums of deposits from members of the public/clients at home and abroad regarding affordable housing scheme and that the Chairman used fictitious names to open Bank Accounts at several Commercial Banks in Sierra Leone to facilitate the running of the Company and also to engage in potential money laundering activities.
The Commission said it wishes to inform the general public that it has concluded the investigation and hereby confirms the that the EAP Group of Companies with address as 25 Lawrence Street, Funkia, Freetown is a private Company incorporated in Sierra Leone on the 18th May, 2020 by the Registrar of Companies and is also registered with the National Revenue Authority (NRA) and Freetown City Council (FCC) respectively.
The ACC also revealed how the building occupied by the Company was leased from a Lebanese businessman, who due to lack of payment by the company had issued them a Notice to Quit.
According to the ACC, Edward Alexander Olubode Philips is the Major Shareholder of the Company, and the other shareholder with a minority interest is one Professor Ricky White who is said to be residing in the United States of America with one Mabinty Philips, wife of Dr. Philips-Chairman of the EAP Group of Companies serving as the Vice President of the said Company.
That Edward A.O. Philips is the holder of a Sierra Leonean passport issued to him on 11th March 2021, by the Immigration Department.
It was also established that between 2017 and 2021, Edward A.O. Philips was issued four (4) Sierra Leonean passports by the Immigration Department, and that the passport dockets which will give a clear history about the four (4) Sierra Leonean passports issued in favor of Edward A.O. Philips within the said period could not be traced at the Immigration Department due to apparent destruction by his collaborators within.
That through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria, the ACC learned that Edward A.O. Philips is a Nigerian citizen and convict known as Olufunmilade Adeyemi who escaped criminal charges by the EFCC for real estate fraud in July 2018.
Also, that Mr. Philips is also a holder of a Ghanaian passport with serial number G1517140 with the name Moses Alexander, and also known in Dubai as Alex Moses. He also is a qualified lawyer having passed Lagos Bar in 1999.
The ACC said the the primary alleged objective of the EAP Group of Companies was to engage in the construction of houses for its clients at the York Village which otherwise would have been known as the Motherland City Project.
That the Company entered into several agreements/contracts with various persons for the construction of houses ranging from two bedrooms at Two Hundred and Sixty (New) Leones (NLe:260,000) and three bedrooms at Three Hundred and Sixty (New) Leones (NLe: 360,000) basic flat; Economy two bedrooms at Seven Hundred and Twenty (New) Leones (NLe:720,000) and three bedrooms flat at One Million and Eighty (New) Leones (NLe:1,080,000); and Premium two bedrooms at One Million Eight Hundred (New) Leones (NLe:1,800,000) and Economy three bedrooms flat at Two Million, One Hundred and Sixty (New) Leones (NLe:2,160,000) respectively.
Based on the ACC investigation, the modes of payments to EAP Group of Companies were through bank deposits and cash payments in installments to last for over a period of twenty years or less depending on the income level or mode of payment of interested clients.
The ACC said at the commencement of the investigation, visitation to the project site at York village was made and that no construction works had commenced by the EAP Group of Companies on the proposed Motherland City Project, but excavation work could be seen.
It discovered that Mr. Philips is in possession of a conveyance for 53 Acres of land at York Village alleged to be owned by the Pratt family indicating an amount of Five Hundred Thousand (New) Leones (NLe:500,000) whilst a handwritten undertaking by him stated him agreeing to make a payment of Five Million, Three Hundred Thousand (New) Leones (NLe:5,300,000) to the aforementioned family against an unspecified date.
However, the Pratt family claims that the plan they shared with Mr. Philips was not the one in the conveyance provided by Mr. Philips saying they also have not received any amount to date from him.
Another discovery of a 19 Acres of land’s site plan by the Richards family at York Village was also provided to him for his proposed Motherland City Project after he seemed to have convinced the family for which a verbal fee of One Million, Nine Hundred Thousand (New) Leones (NLe:1,900,000) was agreed upon at One Hundred Thousand (New) Leones (NLe:100,000) per acre. The Richards family, represented by Walter Richards, claimed that no money was received from Mr. Philips for the said property up to date.
The ACC continued that as at 31st March 2023, the investigations recorded Three Hundred and Sixteen (316) persons who claimed to have entered into agreement with the EAP Group of Companies for the construction of houses of different categories.
The total amount of money received from clients, according to the ACC, as against the aforementioned is Three Million, Seven Hundred and Twenty Six Thousand, Six Hundred and Seventy Five (New) Leones (NLe:3,726,675) and Eighteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Seventy Five United States Dollars (USD$ 18,575) respectively.
The ACC pointed out that there is no evidence of any funds committed to the project by the company itself or any donor, other than a facility of One Million, Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand (New) Leones (NLe:1,450,000) obtained from a local Bank by the company in late January 2023 and that paid by clients.
It stated that Edward A.O Philips is the sole signatory to all of the bank accounts and the accounts statements highlight deposits of customers, withdrawals by Edward Philips and other persons.
The ACC claimed the One Million, Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand (New) Leones (NLe:1,450,000) facility was obtained from a local Bank by EAP Group of Companies with a six-town lot title deed at Angola town in the name of Edward Alex Olubode Philips submitted to the bank as a collateral with one year duration for repayment.
It says information further provided by the Bank is that the reasons advanced by EAP group of companies for the facility by Edward A.O. Philips was for the launch of the Motherland City Project and purportedly for payment of EAP staff salaries.
Investigation conducted at the property at Adonkia, which documents were submitted as collateral to a commercial bank revealed that, the six-town lots have already been sold by the wife of Alex A.O Philips, Mrs. Mabinty Philips, that Mabinty Philips being the wife of the Chairman of EAP Group of Companies has been at large since the arrest of her husband by the ACC.
The Commission said it received responses from banks where the EAP Group of Companies hold and operate accounts saying analyses of those accounts showed unfavorable bank balances as follow:
According to the ACC, based on the above and upon interviewing and recording statements from over twenty Persons of Interest, analyzing the records of accounts, concerning the Chairman and EAP Group of Companies, it hereby confirms that the matter i.e., fraud and obtaining money by false pretenses, etc. fall within issues concerning the wider powers of the Sierra Leone Police.
The ACC said it has therefore referred the matter to the Sierra Leone Police to carry out full and thorough criminal investigations that fall within their responsibility and mandate adding that they will give the Police the detailed findings they have and collaborate with them to ensure full closure.
It says the suspect was therefore handed over to the Sierra Leone Police together with all evidence they have adding how the police will conclude and decide how to proceed with the issue, including any possible charges.
“We have notified the Police of the request from our Counterparts, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to have him returned to Nigeria to face sentencing in a prosecution that he escaped from, having been convicted, just before he could be sentenced,” says the ACC revealing how they plan to ensure that and therefore advised that issues pertaining to bail and custody should be jointly determined.
The Commission said it wishes to thank the Public for their interest and support in the course of the investigation at the ACC, reassuring the public of its commitment to address all levels of corruption in Sierra Leone.