Former Liberian warlord Bill Horace, who was gunned down in June, was involved in what is known as a “black money” scam, according to a source familiar with events surrounding Mr. Horace’s death.
Mr. Horace was killed shortly before dawn on June 21 when four men tracked Mr. Horace to a London, Ont., residence allegedly in an effort to retrieve their lost money, according to the source, to whom The Globe and Mail has granted confidentiality because of the sensitivity of the case.
Police have issued a warrant for Keiron Gregory, 22, of Toronto on a charge of second-degree murder. The police have not named the other three suspects.
Mr. Gregory’s father, Trevor Gregory, a Toronto police officer, has since been charged with breach of public trust in relation to the killing. “The charge relates to access and handling of information that, due to his position as a police officer, he is privy to,” said Detective Superintendent Chris Newton of London Police Service.
Black money scams are common and have many variations. Victims are typically persuaded that the fraudster has large amounts of bank notes that have been dyed black to make them useless until they are “cleaned.” The fraudster may demonstrate how to clean a sample bill to prove that the stash is real. Money is sought from the victim to pay for cleaning chemicals or for other matters related to the notes.
“Their interactions in the weeks and days prior to the homicide were of a financial nature, and it was what led to Keiron Gregory and his three associates attending 232 Pochard Lane in London and ultimately led to Bill Horace’s homicide,” Det. Supt. Newton said, referring to the address in a quiet, middle-class neighbourhood.
“We are exploring the possibility of a black money scam, but we don’t have enough evidence to confirm that,” he added.
According to the source, Mr. Horace and an acquaintance approached two men in the Toronto area because they looked “flashy,” as though they had access to money. During negotiations, the four went to Mr. Horace’s car, which was allegedly registered in his wife’s name. The men allegedly agreed to return later with a significant amount of money and did so.
When the men realized they had been cheated, they went looking for Mr. Horace. Det. Supt. Newton said police are investigating how the four men found Mr. Horace at the London residence.
“We know one avenue for sure,” he said. “But was there more than one? That’s what we’re investigating.”
Inside the house were Mr. Horace, his wife and their children, and an unrelated man whom the source identified as an associate of Mr. Horace who was staying there. “There was a confrontation, which led to a physical conflict in the house, which eventually led to Bill Horace being shot,” Det. Supt. Newton said, adding the unrelated man received a “minor injury.”
Mr. Horace staggered outside and made it to at least one neighbour’s house to seek help before collapsing. Medics arrived and rushed him to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Before arriving in Canada in 2002 and making a refugee claim, Mr. Horace was a commander in the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, a militia led by Charles Taylor during Liberia’s civil wars.
Mr. Taylor eventually became president of Liberia, but was later indicted by the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor is now serving a 50-year-sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
A 2010 investigation by Maclean’s magazine revealed that Mr. Horace and men under his command were accused by many Liberians, including witnesses who provided testimony to Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, of mass murder, rape and torture.
Last month, The Globe reported that in 2012 a team of human-rights investigators conducted detailed research into Mr. Horace’s alleged crimes in Liberia. They interviewed more than 15 witnesses and victims and presented what they found to Canada’s War Crimes Program.
Canadian investigators did not use this information to contact witnesses in Liberia who were willing to testify. Their war crimes investigation into Mr. Horace fizzled out and he was never charged.
Mr. Horace’s refugee claim was not settled at the time of his death.
Trevor Gregory has been suspended with pay from the Toronto Police Service and is due to appear in a London court on Sept. 29.
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