Allegations lacked substance and reason
By EDDIE OSIFELO
EMBATTLED foreign consultant Dr Deogratias Harorimana has dismissed allegations levelled against his company AIPF SI Ltd in recent days.
Some clients who had sought assistance from Harorimana (Deo) to revive their businesses have accused him of money laundering and breaching banking regulations in the country.
Former Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration, George Kosui is helping the “victims”, mostly local business people allegedly duped by Deo into signing loan commitments and business agreements that have left their businesses on the brink of collapsing.
Allegations raised against Deo include:
- the company’s shareholdings;
- private residence at Panatina believed to be sold to Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare;
- incomplete CT scan project at National Referral Hospital;
- company’s mortgage to help clients;
- 4 percent commissions and service fees;
- Honiara Refrigeration and Air Condition saga; and
- His core critics on social media and print media.
Deo stated all these allegations lacked substance and reason.
Here, he responded to each of the allegations:
- It was claimed AIPF holds multiple joint ventures based on the title value. At the present moment and in the past, AIPF have not had any Joint Ventures based on title Co-Ownership in Solomon Islands.
- It was alleged our private residence is owned or was purchased by the current Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare. This is not true. It has never been purchased by Prime Minister Sogavare. The right place to check is Land register not kava houses and security of the residents as put down by Sasako in the Solomon Star. Also, among the clients claimed victims – is East Bauro Enterprises. AIPF has never dealt with such a client or its owners. We do not know who this is. INo client of AIPF (past or present) has that name.
- It was alleged the CT scan is failed project. CT Scan project was due to complete in May 2021 and the contractor is Hatanga not AIPF SI. Budgetary matters are Ministry of Health and Medical Services to clarify but all the arguments run in the paper are simply false. Our experience is based on several completed projects among them, Mokolo, TR Heights, Telekom TH4 Ranadi roundabout and many others. These are all projects managed by AIPF with great results. These projects have lifted the image of Honiara and we will objectively continue to work to inspire and support all desirous Solomon Islanders to help them access to finance. Where more work is still needed, is ongoing capacity development to manage long term strategic growth and cash flows.
- It was alleged that we pay for approvals for banks to grant offers. This is Big No. We have never done and would not. The public should keep in mind that banks lend their money at much greater risks. Like you, they do not lend who they know, they invest for business- a business that they assess in financial terms, we say, – they underwrite their risks. Our Job is to guide our clients in the complex lending stages. Including coordinating the various specialists who are commissioned by the clients to produce various reports. In most instances, we do help our clients to meet upfront costs for Valuers, accountants, land rentals, building insurances, design of the building plans& approvals, etc. These costs can be expensive (and they constitute one major barrier to accessing finance for most Solomon Islanders). When we do this, it is a business risks which must be mitigated. A contract is therefore a must have to make sure clients understood the seriousness of their commitment. We do not rush into contracts. Indigenous Solomon Islanders do struggle to access financing and this is the market gap for our private sector. The complex banking requirements also require competent individuals and our work is not free. By the way, we never sign a single document to the bank on behalf of the client. Our client knows this. No single instruction come from AIPF to an individual client.
- With a week in media, I still, I do not understand what our critiques do not like? (a) Is it that we help indigenous people to access funding with low interest rates compared to others? Or (b) Is it that we also make money as a private business (a) or is it that locals we help are struggling to meet bank repayments (just as everyone is affected by Covid-19)? If this is the case, how does that become AIPF problem? What is their problem? Even our fees are the lowest in the market compared to our competitors in project management and building businesses. Better and lower than everyone. For those who do not know, it is a common practice for professionals to charge in % forms. It is a universally agreed way of the capital finance and proposal development. Nothing fishy here.
- Clarification about HRAC: The issue of Honiara Refrigeration is well structured commercial transaction based on business assets and liabilities not just the land (which had less than a year left on its lifetime to expire). The contract (for which stamp duty was also paid) had been discussed and settled months before it was signed. It was witnessed by one Son representing the other family members (we were told); and a friend and a retired police officer. It had been achieved after lengthy discussions and assessment over 2-3 months between parties. The owner (as per company house records, we consulted) show her as the only one sole owner since 1990s up until recently 2020 a year after purchase and only after the site has been developed. Anyone who bother checking, you cannot add a shareholder who has died (no consent can be obtained from a dead person). Their advisor/Lawyer, Gary Fa’aitoa, should have known better that one cannot falsify historical records to defeat an already signed contract.
Deo said HRAC, which was already taken over through the contract (witnessed and stamp duty paid), stands challenged by ill-informed people, who have selfish motives.
“Again, delaying development that we are championing to change Honiara and develop this country.
“How can that be right? Again, this is not how the business is done, contracts are important avenue to ensure parties stay true to their commitments,” he said.
Deo said the national government should really look at how to actively work to reduce the current hostility towards the private sector and “improve the doing business standing”.
“We say this because from our experience now, AIPF stands as a victim of harassment, libel and character defamation by those who owe us money, lost in the high courts of this land, and, in some cases, are trying to walk away from their formalized commitments,” he said.
Further to that, Deo has criticized his staunch critics who are busy in social media and newspapers to attack his company and business dealings:
a) George Kosui, initiator; a person who was fired from the Central bank for (it is said) fraud activities. Fired from government, for corruption and abuse of government assets. An agent of a client who has lost the high court case in November 2020 and should simply focus on negotiating how to pay what is owed.
b) The client in Naha (aka Robert Leeson) in the social media: AIPF paid for his mortgage (using AIPF own funds) to rescue their family homes in Naha from being reposted by Pan Oceanic Bank (POB). AIPF paid for their two-building insurance, 9-year land rental and, helped him and his wife to refurbish the house so as to turn around their sinking ship. Without AIPF and Dr Deo’s money, by now they would have no home. The mortgagee in possession was ready to sell. AiPF spent on him over 128k to help this family. After the refinance, AIPF received some of its loaned money refunded. Their fees had even been reduced to 2% to help them. A refurbishment funding was applied for and secured. The client, without much involvement of AIPF, entered into a bidding contract (drafted by himself). He employed a local company (JNS owned by Salome). Salome and her local boys completed their job as per contract. After it was all done, this client took the keys, and moved in his house since October, 2019- still owing the full payment. He had the money in his account, but he misused it. This client has not paid even a dollar to JNS! Not for Labour, not for material, everything. He failed to honour the contract in place. He is now out there acting as one of the victims. Contacting every past client, he got to know and try to recruit them. Fortunately, many of our clients have rebuffed them and called to informed us. This person has an interesting past.
c) Joyce Konofilia, a well-known critique of every successful Solomon Islander and recently attempted to bring down one of the upcoming leaders- MISS Solomon, Gladys Habu for fishy reasons. She has never been a client of AIPF. Yet she has called every client, posing as one of them. She has trolled our movements, search clients contacts and share information. Make up scrupulous theories- which hold no water. And her only objective in her word “Take Salome down”- for what may I ask? I know it is a democracy, but this practice of freedom of speech is now new to me.
Deo said there is a pattern here.
He said these individuals are supposedly been all educated.
“This country has spent so much money to educate them to be professionals, to help the development.
“Instead, they have veered off the road. They hold no career. No job. No business.
“They spend the day on social media. Their frustration is now showing through baseless attacks to the government leaders, to the private sector leaders of this country and every successful woman entrepreneur. A sad outcome indeed,” he said.
Deo said those misleading the public should be reminded that they are not a public company.
“We welcome robust debates, critiques, because they make us better. We can learn from it, and we can improve.
“However, there are limits to debate and freedom of speech,” he said.
“Going into finding residential of a private person, checking their clients seeking illegal access to information from accounts, and private person’s lawyers, commenting carelessly on social media about private life matters, and many other criminal things are not welcome debate.
“They are what they are, criminal activities.
“We as a private company we reserve the right to take to court everyone making unfounded allegations both in social media and in the prints as well as those going around revealing privileged business information,” he said.
Furthermore, Deo said: “We cannot end this rebuke without thanking our clients and friends who have stood up to these opportunists.
“We are happy to see clients who have been subjected to unwelcome recruitments have stood their grounds and refused to be drawn into conspiracies and selfish motives claims.
“It is sad that newspapers are not asking hard facts to these so-called investigators. They should in the interest of the newspaper readers.
“We want to assure the public that AIPF SI remain committed to serving our clients with the most competitive and professional services.
Island Sun understands the victims have reported their cases to Central Bank of Solomon Islands, Solomon Islands Financial Intelligence Unit, Ministry of Commerce, Inland Revenue Division and Police for investigation into Deo’s dealings.