US Sanctioned Officials To Face Dark Cloud, If…

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Supporters and leaders of opposition political parties have raised alarm over what will become of US sanctioned officials that participated in the October 10 elections, if President George Manneh  Weah is not re-elected. It can be recalled that the Supreme Court of Liberia handed down two-year prison sentences on Liberia former defense chief Brownie Samukai along with deputies Joseph Johnson and James Nyuman Ndokor after they failed to return U.S.$1.1million worth of stolen money from a government pension account. The funds were stolen from the Armed Forces of Liberia pension account during the mandate of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf when Samukai headed the defense ministry. The three men were ordered by the court to pay U.S… [$537,828.15] within six months but failed to do so. Meanwhile, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) is facing mounting pressure from the Center for Transparency and Accountability (CENTAL) to investigate and potentially prosecute former and newly elected public officials who have been sanctioned by the U.S. The LACC, which changed leadership about two months ago, with Cllr. Alexandra Zoe taking the helm of the anti-graft body, has yet to publicly confirm its plan about the case even though its new leadership has indicated its commitment to effectively combating corruption. The Zoe administration’s silence has prompted CENTAL to reiterate its calls for the prosecution of Senator-elect Nathaniel McGill and other former and elected public officials who have been sanctioned by the U.S for alleged corruption. “We call on the new leadership of the LACC to break the culture of impunity for corruption in Liberia by engaging the U.S for evidence to aid the prosecution of elected sanctioned officials and others accused of corruption and the abuse of public trust and resources,” Anderson Miamen, CENTAL Executive Director, said. Miamen’s calls come as three of the four sanctioned officials who contested for public office have been elected to the Senate, with one winning reelection bid. McGill and Bill Twehway are two of the sanctioned public officials who won their respective senatorial bids in Margibi and Rivercess Counties, respectively. While Senator Prince Johnson won his re-election bid in Nimba County, Senator Varney Sherman failed in his reelection bid in Grand Cape Mount County. McGill is the former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Chief of Staff to President George Weah, while Twehway is also the former Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA). However, the country’s former Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutor, SaymaSyreniusCephus, did not contest. They were sanctioned for engaging in corruption, the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, and corruption related to the extraction of natural resources. The Treasury Department noted that during McGill’s time in government, he “bribed business owners, received bribes from potential investors, and accepted kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest.” While Twehway was accused of orchestrating the diversion of US$1.5m in vessel storage fee funds from the NPA into a private account and forming a private company to which he later unilaterally awarded a contract for loading and unloading cargo at the Port of Buchanan, the Treasury Department said. As for Cephus, he was accused of receiving bribes from people in exchange for having their court cases dropped and has also shielded money launderers and helped clear them through the court system, the Treasury Department said. The three officials who have yet to be investigated, however, resigned from their respective posts as a result of the sanctions. Johnson was responsible for the slaying in 1990 of President Samuel Doe, who had been captured by his forces during the early years of the country’s 14-year civil war and was sanctioned in 2021 for being involved in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment. “As part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the government of Liberia, the involved government ministries and organizations launder a portion of the funding for return to the involved participants,” the U.S said. Johnson has, however, never been investigated by the LACC. His colleague Sherman who was the country’s first postwar Liberian official to be sanctioned for public corruption, was in 2019 acquitted of all individuals accused of being involved in the bribery scheme. The U.S accused the outgoing Senate judiciary Chair of offering bribes to multiple judges associated with his trial for a 2010 bribery scheme, and he had an undisclosed conflict of interest with the judge who ultimately returned a not guilty verdict in July 2019. The lack of investigation and possible prosecutions of the other three cases, according to Miamen, is responsible for the elections of “the corrupt officials,” as there was no legal grounds that would have stopped their candidacies since they were not charged locally. Miamen noted that corruption poses a significant threat to the country’s socio-economic growth and development, and that the Zoe administration cannot just watch impunity grow without demonstrating its commitment to tackling corruption and upholding the rule of law. He believes that the investigation and prosecutions of sanctioned officials are an opportunity for the Commission to prove its independence and dedication to the fight against corruption. “So, we are pleased by the anti-corruption commitments from the tipped U.S. envoy and encourage him to do more to bring sanctioned and other allegedly corrupt officials to justice,” Miamen added. “Corruption remains the greatest threat to inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development in Liberia. We cannot have quality teachers and students learning in a conducive environment in public schools across the country when there are officials who use the national budget to channel public funds to their private businesses/facilities and those of their families and friends.” However, prior to the elections of former Minister Nathaniel Farlo McGill in Margibi County, citizens of Margibi stage numerous protests insisting that McGill was sanctioned by the US Treasury department for Corruption. Accordingly supporters of McGill shafted blames on Senator James Emmanuel Nuquay of supporting protest against Margibi Senator elect Nathaniel McGill, indicating that he didn’t want competition in Margibi County at the Liberian senate.  Source: mykmtvnews.com

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