MONROVIA, Montserrado – President George Weah has signed into law an act to amend the penal code to criminalize power theft.
The Power Theft Act recently passed by the legislature was introduced by the president’s office in the wake of increasing theft of electricity through illegal connections, tampering with meters, transmission and distribution lines, and theft of assets such as light poles, wires, and transformers.
The Executive Mansion called power theft “the most singular challenge to the operations and maintenance of an effective public utility system.”
“The purpose of this Act is to establish a system of prohibitions and penalties to deal with theft of electricity for which Government intervention and protection is appropriate,” the executive mansion said in a release.
It said the new provisions would recognize and treat power theft as a national security threat and prescribe appropriate penalties.
The new law prohibits either receiving or distributing power through unauthorized connections. Those crimes are classified as second-degree felonies and can be punishable by a minimum jail sentence of three years and a fine of “US$1,000 or double the gain realized from the commission of the crime.”
For commercial entities or organized groups convicted of power theft, the law requires a fine of US$10,000 or twice the earnings from the crime.
In late 2018, Liberia’s Electricity Corporation chief executive officer, John Ashley, disclosed that the corporation was losing US$3.5 million annually to power theft.
That number increased by the middle of 2019 when Millennium Challenge Account Liberia’s CEO Monie Captan said LEC was losing 62 percent of its revenues to power theft, amounting to US$4.26 million monthly. He made the statement at a USAID-organized development conference in Monrovia.
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