ARC SCANDAL: TWO NSS OFFICERS DETAINED OVER ALLEGED LEAKAGE OF CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS FOR BOL MEL’S ARC COMPANY

By Santo Deng Akol

Sep 14, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — Two National Security Service officers have been arrested and detained at the Blue House over alleged leakage of confidential documents related to African Resource Corporation (ARC) and Equip Logistics Co. Ltd, companies owned by Maj. Gen. Benjamin Bol Mel who is also an active officer of the National Security Service (NSS) in charge of “Special Desk and Projects at the Internal Security Bureau (ISB)”.

Among the leaked documents are two new passports of Dr. Benjamin Bol Mel under different names so as to evade travel restrictions imposed on him due to the US Government sanctions.

According to well-placed sources privy to this matter, the two officers are also accused of extortion, blackmail, intimidation and death threats against Dr. Bol Mel and other local and foreign businessmen in Juba.

The two officers are Lt. Col. Kuot Garang Kuot who is in charge of Special Operations in the Office of the Director General of Internal Security Bureau (ISB) and Captain Jiel Michael Yai, who served previously as ISB Economic Intelligence Division officer attached to the Ministry of Finance and Planning. 

“Lt. Col. Kuot Garang and Captain Jiel Michael Yai have been trying to extort money from Benjamin Bol for the last few months. So far Bol has given them over 5 million US dollars in cash as well as bullet-proof cars. They kept coming back asking for more money from Bol but when he refused, they threatened to expose him or even kill him if he doesn’t give them money”, said a senior National Security Service officer who did not want to be identified for fear of his life.

Early this month, a series of confidential financial documents were published on social media accusing “Maj. Gen. Dr. Benjamin Bol Mel of amassing wealth through tax evasion and unlawful tax exemptions from the Ministry of Finance and the National Revenue Authority (NRA) worth over 30 billion US dollars for unspecified goods being imported into South Sudan between 2019 and 2020”.

According to these documents, Dr. Bol registered new companies namely African Resource Corporation and Equip Logistics Co. Ltd using his daughter Awut Bol Mel, cousins Kuol Akol Wieu and Adhieu Kuol Akol and Deng Deng Akuei as shareholders of this companies.

This is to evade sanctions imposed on him by the United States of America in December 2017.

It is not clear whether Deng Deng Akuei is related to Simon Akuei Deng, a close confidant and right-hand man of Dr. Benjamin Bol Mel. Simon Akuei Deng is the longest serving Secretary General of South Sudan Chamber of Commerce and Industries and the brain behind the success of Dr. Benjamin Bol Mel.

Simon Akuei Deng was recently named in a leaked document as being a member of October 7 Movement founded by the late Kerubino Wol Agok. On September 8, ARC released statement describing the leakage of company’s documents as:

“information meant to derail and undermine the progress we are making in our various road construction projects especially in the light of the commendable job done so far”.

 

 

Interestingly, ARC did not deny having been granted tax exemptions worth billions of US dollars as alleged in the leaked documents.

Two days after the publication of this article, Bol Mel met with President Salva Kiir Mayardit and narrated the ordeal that he has been subjected to by the two officers.

According to high-placed sources from the State House (J-1), President Salva Kiir is said to have given orders to the Minister of National Security Services in the Office of the President, Gen. Obuto Mamur to “immediately arrest Lt. Col. Kuot Garang and Capt. Jiel Michael Yai and form a committee to investigate them for threatening to kill Dr. Bol Mel”.

As per the directives of the President, Gen. Obuto Mamur ordered for the immediate arrest of these officers. The Minister has directed the Director General of Internal Security Bureau (ISB) to form a committee headed by a senior officer to investigate allegations against the two officers.

Sources at ISB say the two officers could be charged with contravening sections 62, 63, 64, 68 and 69 of the National Security Service Act, 2014 as well as South Sudan Penal Code 2008. These charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years for each charge. 

ARC has been awarded a multi-billion contract to construct Juba-Bor-Renk Highway. To pay for this road project, the Government of South Sudan has allocated almost the entire Nile Blend crude oil to Benjamin Bol through his ARC company.

So far the Government of South Sudan has paid over 150 Million US dollars to ARC. The company has also been allocated another whooping 150 Million US dollars from the loan worth 250 Million US dollars that South Sudan is getting from Afri-Exim Bank. As per the contract with the Ministry of Roads and Bridges, ARC is expected to complete Juba-Bor-Renk Highway in three years.

A senior engineer from the Ministry of Roads and Bridges says: “it will be a miracle for the road to be completed in three years”; adding that “one year has already gone since the road project started yet ARC has not even completed even quarter of the road from Juba to Bor, leave alone Juba-Bor-Renk”.

This is not the first time for Benjamin Bol Mel to be awarded huge lucrative contracts by the Government of South Sudan for road projects. In a report released in 2012 by the Auditor General of National Audit Chamber, Bol Mel through his ABMC company was paid nearly 2 Billion US dollars for road projects in South Sudan. To date, Bol has not delivered a single road projects despite being paid billions of US dollars. One wonder why would anyone in his right mind award such a huge contract to an individual who failed to deliver on the same project before?

It appears that Benjamin Bol Mel is enjoying his newfound wealth, power and status that he can influence the arrest of individuals perceived to be very powerful and well connected. Case in point was the brief arrest of Brig. Gen. Akot Lual Areech who is an active officer of NSS and former Private Secretary to President Salva Kiir Mayardit. Gen. Akot Lual Areech was detained for two days in July for threatening to kill Dr. Benjamin Bol Mel for refusing to pay him 15 Million US dollars for facilitating the award of Juba-Bor-Renk Highway road project to Bol Mel’s ARC company.

Sources within ARC says Dr. Benjamin Bol had given 5 million USD dollars in cash to Akot Lual who was not happy as he was expecting more. Akot was also accused of making several phone calls to foreign diplomats as well as conducting secret meetings with them to push for US Government to impose sanctions on President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Gen. Akol Koor Kuc. Even though the charges against Akot Lual were serious, he was released before he could be investigated because of pressure from the so-called Awan Muorkuau Mafia who literally controls the affairs of the state. The mafia is reported to have threatened President Salva Kiir to release Akot Lual or else they will withdraw their support to him as a community. 

Bol Mel has also established a very good relationship with powerful individuals like Brig. Gen. Manasa Machar Bol Yai who is in charge of Security at the Ministry of Petroleum. Sources at the Ministry of Petroleum says that Manasa has ensured that allocation of crude oil cargoes for Bol Mel’s ARC company are not tampered with. A few months ago, former Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mayiik Ayii Deng pushed for the transfer of Brig. Gen. Manasa Machar Bol Yai and Brig. Gen. Atak Deng Akol to the Ministry of Defense & Veterans Affairs. However, this decision was reversed due to the intervention of Maj. Gen. Bol Mel who convinced the President to cancel the transfer of these two officers.

The United States Government sanctioned Benjamin Bol Mel for “corruption, bribery and human rights abuses” in 2017. His two companies ABMC – Thai South Sudan Construction Company Limited and Home & Away Limited were also sanctioned.

According to the US Government, “Dr. Benjamin Bol is the principal business partner and financial advisor to President Salva Kiir Mayardit”.

Analysts believe that sanctioning Bol Mel who is seen as a close business partner and financial confidant of President Salva Kiir is “sending a direct message to President Kiir to distant himself from Bol Mel or else he too could be place under US sanctions”.

“It is unfortunate that President Salva Kiir continue to award huge contracts to an individuals sanctioned by the US Government. This is literally showing the US Government a “middle finger”. The decision to award this contract to Bol Mel will further lead to deterioration of relationship between South Sudan and the United States”, said the analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He added that President Salva Kiir Mayardit should distant himself from Benjamin Bol Mel, Kur Ajing Ater and other businessmen who have been sanctioned by the US Government or else South Sudan as a country risk being place under sanctions by the US Government which could leads to collapse of the economy of the country leading to political unrest and a return to civil war.

Lt. Col. Kuot Garang Kuot together with other 5 officers of the National Security Service were sanctioned in December 2019 by the US Government for their role in the disappearance and alleged killings of human rights lawyer Dong Samuel and opposition politician Aggrey Iddri in January 2017.

Lt. Col. Kuot has also been accused of being the head of the so-called “unknown gunmen” in South Sudan. Together with Captain Jiel Michael Yai, they are widely accused of using their positions within the National Security Service as well as the name of the Director General of Internal Security Service (ISB) to extort money from local and foreign businessmen.

During his deployment to the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Capt. Jiel Michael Yai amassed millions of US dollars by ensuring that he gets huge commissions of up to 20% from businessmen receiving their payments from the Ministry of Finance & Planning.

Documents leaked from the Ministry of Finance in September 2019, shows that Capt. Jiel Michael had received USD 135,000 in cash from the Bank of South Sudan to clear a “car loan” from Lou Trading & Investment Co. Ltd, a company owned by tycoon Kur Ajing Ater who has also been sanctioned by the United States of America.

Stay tuned for more information in the next article where we will reveal more details about this lucrative contract awarded to ARC’s for roads projects in South Sudan and the role played by Simon Akuei Deng to secure the award of the contract to ARC. We will also reveal how the allocation and pre-sale of crude oil to private companies and individuals like Benjamin Bol Mel, Kur Ajing Ater, Paulinon Diing Madol, Majok Chol and Akol Ayii of Trinity Group for infrastructural and other developmental projects could be contributing to the deteriorating economic situation in South Sudan.

I am an investigative journalist and writer based in Juba, South Sudan. Reach me on: dengsanto7@gmail.com


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