Claim: Liberia Revenue Authority Shuts down Musa Hassan Bility Oil and gas company (Srimex) as a result of tax evasion and road fund scam
Source: Martin K.N Kollie
Verdict: Partly True, Kollie is wrong to say the business was closed for Tax Evasion but the fact is the business was closed because the institution owns revenue.
Full Text: On June 6, 2023, Martin Kollie posted on his Facebook page stating that Srimex had been shut down for tax evasion.
Srimex is an oil and gas company owned by businessman and politician; Musa Hassan Bility, one of the embattled political leaders of the opposition Liberty Party (LP).
Bility’s institution came into conflict with the law, and actions were taken against him by the government institution responsible for tax collection in Liberia.
When the action was taken, Kollie took to his Facebook page and wrote these words, “Liberia Revenue Authority Shuts down Musa Hassan Bility oil and gas company (Srimex) as a result of tax evasion and road fund scam This thing is getting serious.”
Screenshot of Kollie’s post
Since the post was made, it has thus far gotten the attention of two hundred thirteen(230) reactions, one hundred fourteen (140) comments and fifty-two(52) shares.
Responding to the claim, Musa Bility, too, posted on his Facebook page saying, “Yes, it’s true. The LRA has shut down the only thing I’m depending on to make all the big mouths. Join me tonight at 9 pm. Let’s talk about it.”
Following the post, Bility went live on his page and cleared the air saying that the LRA closed his company (Srimex) for withholding tax and income tax that the company owes. He furthered that the LRA did not give a prior notice as they usually do but they closed the company and put the notice on the door and told the management to go to LRA to resolve it. The LRA gave the company the bill of one hundred sixty-five thousand United States dollars, he further explained. He also said that it has nothing to do with tax, as Spoon FM and Martin Kollie presented the news to the public.
The National Road Fund Agency was Founded in 2016 with the purpose of financing road and bridge maintenance works and directly associated planning, programming and management activities; 2. The governance and oversight of the Road Fund including the approval of the Annual Road Maintenance Expenditure Program submitted by agencies authorized to undertake road and bridge works in Liberia;
And 3. An administrative structure that is capable of undertaking the core functions associated with collecting, managing and disbursing funds to and on behalf of agencies authorized to undertake road and bridge works in Liberia.
Bility filed a lawsuit against the government to the Supreme Court but was withdrawn.
Verification: After coming across the two claims and their usual reactions, TSM’s fact-checker reached out to Danicious Kaihenneh Sengbeh, Communication officer at the Liberia Revenue Authority to verify which action the LRA took against Bility’s Srimex.
In his reply, Sengbeh said that the LRA closed Srimex because they owed taxes and not for tax evasion as was said by Kollie.
Tax Evasion is defined as a person claiming tax deduction or tax credit they are not entitled to or failing to report income and concealing taxable access.
Sengbe clarified that the action was taken against the company for tax delays and not against an individual. Sengbe further explained that similar actions are routinely taken against numerous companies and businesses to recover taxes.
Although Sengbe could not provide specific details on the amount owed by Srimex, which is known to be owned by businessman and politician Bility, Bility himself confirmed on a Facebook broadcast that he owes US$165,000 in taxes.
While he acknowledged that it is routine for the LRA to request access to a company’s financial records to determine tax withholdings, he expressed confusion over the decision to shut down a major company like his. “I can confirm that the action was taken in line with the LRA’s mandate. The action was taken against a company that has delayed its taxes, not an individual. Similar actions are routinely taken against many other companies and businesses to recover taxes,” Bility stated.
in 2016, Bility was hooked for failure to settle a US$143,000 tax bill owed to the Government of Liberia (GoL).
At the same time, Bility who is contesting in Nimba refuted claims that he received $5 Million from the fund funds
Conclusion: After doing all of our investigations, we determined that Kollie is incorrect in claiming that Srimex was “close to tax evasion” rather than owing taxes. In this case, Srimex is closed since the institution owns income. However, because the LRA is not the same as the National Road Fund Agency, we can conclude that the closing of Srimex had nothing to do with the road fund.
This story was produced with the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID)’s support.