Did Ukrainian Rob Liberia Of Over US$10m
An ex-deputy-in-chief of the Agency of State Reserve of Ukraine Victor Brechko was reportedly fired from the position because of “extremely serious violations” in operations with the material goods as the Prosecutor General’s office stated.
According to information, he moved to France and brought there his family and later went to Liberia to start big business. Two ex-intelligence Ukrainian officers who were the ex-members of the peacekeeping United Nations Mission in Liberia allegedly became his partners in crime.
According to sources, In 2009, Mr. Brechko made a business offer to a group of investors represented by Dr. Frank McGovern to start a joint venture.
Dr. Frank McGovern and his partner Michael Utkin then agreed to finance Victor’s activities thinking that this investment may open very prospective business opportunities in growing West African market.
Brechko allegedly told about the possibility of starting activities concerning fishing, geological exploration, timber production industry and information technology sector among others. It was reported that US$2 million was given to him as loan.
Report says Mr. Brechko also attracted another partner – Roger Youssef and his Youssef Diamond Mining Corp. (YDMC).
To formalize the business relationships with YDMC the Elephant Falls Mining Company (EFMC) was started in Liberia. The director of the EFMC was Victor Brechko. The proportion of the profit distribution with Mr. Brechko was 50/50.
With the US$2million Victor allegedly acquired the equipment and started the mining process.
The main task of the season 2011-2012 for the EFMC board of management was to become profitable by March and to deliver steady income during the whole season. The board also considered a possibility to get same “bonuses” the stones of bigger value, so the profit could overcome the estimated one.
A lot of workers took part in the project. It was reported that seven experts from Ukraine and Russia, 11 experienced workers from Monrovia and 39 locals.
But according to sources, no result was achieved. But sources said Victor Brechko blamed Roger Youssef for unsatisfactory work and proposed to the shareholders to hire Ukrainian geologists and work separately.
But instead of profit according to report, the business sustained a loss of $905,000. Youssef broke away from him after Victor was found illegally mining diamonds in territories not authorized by the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy. A delegation of the Ministry visited EFMC company operation areas and discovered his illegal mining activities.
Roger Youssef requested from the Ministry to shut down EFMC illegal activities and the Ministry granted his request, and Brechko was asked to move all equipment from the legitimate YDMC territories.
Sources disclosed that Victor never reported to his investors for fear that he might be cut off from further funding from his investors, and used Mr. Youssef as a scape goat for his illegal activities.
In March 2012 the project was closed down and the shareholders have asked for their money back, however, as EFMC had no profits from the diamond recovery, Mr. Brechko has promised to act as an agent and sell the mining equipment and repay the loan.
Timber harvesting and geological exploration were considered by Dr. McGovern and Mr. Utkin as a strategic direction. So they and their partners created a company in the Netherlands called West African Synergies B.V. to act as an investment holding and to develop these two projects and other business opportunities that may arise.
According to report, Victor has promised to find a suitable forestry asset, which he did based on the data brought by the ex-peace keepers Konstantin Sokolovsky and Alexander Sibirtsev. The equipment for US$2.2million was bought, the local citizens hired and the campus for workers constructed. Cavalla Forest has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the people of Cavalla District of Grand Gedeh County, under which the community would have benefited from the business activities of the company.
West African Synergies B.V. had developed a sophisticated business plan under with 3 stages: logging, processing and wood pellet production, and power generation for 50,000 – 100,000 households. There were talks with International Finance Corporation and they were interested in teaming up with the Netherlands’ company to build infrastructure for Liberia. The total planned investment was more then USD 50 million.
But after forest’s stock inventories and taxation it emerged out that there are no species of wood announced by Sokolovsky and Sibirtsev. Instead there were species of wood of low value. Besides between 60 and 70 per cent of the area had been used by the local population for agriculture purposes. The project was closed down in March 2012. Mr. Brechko has again promised to sell the forestry equipment and return the investment. However he never did that, he sold the equipment and took the money for himself and his team in 2013.
In 2011 Victor Brechko has proposed to acquire four licenses for gold exploration. West African Synergies B.V. did that and also brought a strong geological team comprising of experienced exploration geologists from the UK and Ghana as well as one of the best geological consulting companies from South Africa.
The project was going quite well until in May 13th, 2013 when Victor Brechko announced to the other shareholders about his intention to quit. He proposed his partner to pay the compensation to Victor and his team for the loss of their time.
In May 2013, West African Synergies had realized that it has no assets whatsoever as even the vehicles used for exploration were taken by Victor and his team even before his intention to exit the project.
Finally the activities of Mr. Brechko and his partners came in view of the Liberian authorities. On May 24 the Prosecutor of Monrovia issued the warrant for arrest of all three persons: Brechko, Sokolovsky and Sibirtsev. All three are charged of stealing of property.
The matter is that such businessmen like Brechko, Sokolovsky and Sibirtsev not only steal private and social property. They also harm the reputation of Ukraine in the world. It is hardly to believe that after this story people who run or start business in Liberia would deal with Ukrainian businessmen.
The result of such activities is that Liberia couldn’t receive more then $10 million investment from a socially responsible investor who had wanted to develop Liberia and especially the education sector. In December 2011 West African Synergies B.V has presented the state-of-the-art interactive teaching room to the University of Liberia. An in February 2012 has built a brand new school to Camp Freeman community, Grand Cape Mount County.