Africa

International Justice Group Seeks Explanation of Missing Bank Notes In Liberia

WASHINGTON, DC ––In the past two days and prior to that, Liberia has been stained by lots of serious economic crimes––from money laundering, organized corruption to illicit contracts and the abuse of power to possess state assets such as the International Trust Company (ITC) which has now been renamed as the International Bank.

Scales of Justice

According to a blog posted on its website, the IJG says some of these deadly criminal acts allegedly date back several years, particularly in the last two decades. However, these crimes became excessive in the past 21 years, beginning in 1997 to 2018.

Meanwhile, the IJG fullest attention is drawn to the recent extreme and undue level of theft of public funds and the misuse of public trust exhibited in the country with the printing and personal possession of more than LD$16 billion Liberian

dollars which cannot be traced or accounted for so far.

Accordingly, the printed funds disappeared despite documents showing that the previous and current Liberian administrations were fully aware of the funds’ arrival in the country.

WHY IS THE CDC-LED ADMINISTRATION REFUSING TO AUDIT THE ADMINISTRATION OF FORMER PRESIDENT SIRLEAF?

From all applications and indications, this action by those allegedly involved, including those who authorized and approved such activities, is considered an economic crime in general and money laundering to be specific.

The IJG calls on the current Liberian President George M. Weah and former President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to explain to the Liberian people and the international community, in clear terms and unwavering terms, what happened to the money and where it is. The IJG is also engaged with the international community and various international financial security institutions, global intelligence agencies and others to ensure that a full investigation in this matter is reached, especially since money laundering of this nature has global implications including the fact that the money was printed in Lebanon.

Map of Liberia

The IJG urges President Weah and the Liberian government to institute an immediate inquiry into all financial and economic crimes committed in Liberia in the past 20 years. We also call on President Weah to heed the call of the Liberian people, Liberia’s international partners, and global human rights organizations to commit to the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia.

“There can be no genuine reconciliation, unity, peace, and development in any nation without justice. Liberia and the Liberian government need to do the right thing by establishing and supporting an international framework that holds accountable anyone who committed these crimes”, says IJG Executive Director Counselor Jerome J. Verdier, Sr.

“The ongoing money laundering saga in Liberia is because of rewarding impunity and protecting murders and abusers in Liberia. This must stop now! Or else, President Weah’s administration, his officials and officials from former President Sirleaf’s administration will have to make a decisive choice: endure international isolation including a travel ban and asset forfeiture or elect to protect war and economic criminals,” said IJG’s Chief Counselor Verdier.

The IJG is putting in place a mechanism to ensure that all those accused of war and economic crimes, money laundering etc. will be exposed to the international justice system for tough actions, including asset tracing/tracking and confiscation, international arrests, trial, and imprisonment if found guilty.

The IJG calls on all foreign diplomatic missions accredited to Liberia and West Africa to refrain from granting travel visas to Liberian national (both civilians and officials) and others suspected of economic and war crimes in Liberia to enforce the doctrine that impunity has no space in civilized societies.

This is not the first time that a missing container saga occurred under a presidential watch. In 2007 two ships allegedly with printed money disappeared at the National Port Authority in Monrovia. Then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf cried when her National Security Agency told her that former Minister Morris Saytumah, now a Senator for Bomi County, was responsible as part of a Criminal Cartel. That criminal cartel is still operational, and impunity is fueling their zest for the crime.

We also recall the mishandling of the EBOLA funds; the US$30 million maternity fund, etc., the Japanese Fund, the Police Uniform corruption saga, the Executive Mansion’s annual revolving funds/allocations, the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company’s corruption, the milking of NOCAL and stealing of funds obligated through multiple contract deals; the Ministry of Public Works/Nigerian Praise Tony Lawal’s millions of dollars illicit and unfinished contracts corruption, and the multiple public theft and organized corruption at the Ministry of Finance from 2011 to 2018.

President George M Weah

We are of the firmed opinion that the Weah Administration believes it can benefit from ignoring national, regional and international calls for justice and accountability in Liberia, thereby furthering the institutionalizations of the impunity it hopes will not hold them accountable for crimes they intend to commit.

If the current government, under President Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), fails to pursue justice by refusing to fully implement all the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia and the various audit reports which implicated higher government officials, some of whom filed annual taxes every year in the U.S. reporting bogus earnings and committing fraud, theft and economic crimes generally as U.S. citizens, THE GOVERNMENT RUNS THE RISK OF TURNING LIBERIA TO THE PARIAH STATE IT ONCE WAS.

In another development, the IJG will file a formal complaint and Freedom of Information’s request to obtain the tax filing documents of individuals with U.S. citizenship or Permanent Resident status, have filed taxes in the U.S. while working in Liberia (and with the Liberian government, past and present) and have under-reported their alleged stolen wealth obtained through organized corruption and money laundering.

An additional request will be made to the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Internal Revenue Service at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The reason for this is to expose and investigate the stolen wealth these individuals acquired from Liberia over the past few years.  In the coming weeks, the IJG will name all those suspected of economic crimes and organized corruption in Liberia during the past and current Liberian administration and will submit same to the international criminal justice system, including Liberia’s partners.

Amongst those suspected include former cabinet ministers, deputies, assistants, heads of autonomous agencies, members of the legislature, and some well-connected business people, family members and friends of those in power.

Finally, there is credible information that prominent Liberian journalist Philibert Browne and his family are in danger, receiving constant threats from individuals and gangs allegedly claiming to be operatives and supporters of the authorities. He is under serious threat, his wife and children all received death threats on their cell phones including on Facebook.

We applaud the Weah Administration and the Liberian police force for deploying several police officers including armed men at Mr. Browne’s place for their personal protection.

Ex-President Sirleaf presents President Weah with a golden football. Who is protecting who?

Mr. Browne, publisher of the Hot Pepper Newspaper, is the publisher/investigative journalist who first broke the story about the missing money and the container when, in June this year, IJG’s investigators visited Liberia as part of the ongoing fact-finding on organized corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking, war crimes and crimes against humanity as well as the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.

On behalf of the international community and Liberia’s foreign partners that are watching the unfolding circumstances in the country, we urge the Liberian government to continue to provide protection for Journalist Browne and his family. Meanwhile, a small team of the IJG investigators will continue to remain in Liberia to gather additional information on economic and war crimes.

International Justice Group ((IJG)

Washington DC USA