Africa Confidential has another very good [gated] article on corruption cases in Liberia, and the politicization of the anti-corruption institutions as elections near. A theme is that while Sirleaf has dismissed many senior officials on allegations of corruption, few (if any?) are being prosecuted. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt I found interesting:
[Ellen] Johnson Sirleaf gave up her presidential right to appoint the head of [the General Auditing Commission], ceding it to the European Union, which undertook to pay the [Attorney General's] salary for four years and bolster the independence of the office. In 2007, the EU appointed Morlu, a distinguished auditor who had worked in business and government in the United States and in Eastern Europe. He quickly made his mark but antagonized Johnson Sirleaf with his public criticism of government corruption. In April, his contract came up for renewal and she offered him a job in cabinet. When he turned her down, she declined to renew his contract.
This African Confidential article on Liberian politics is the Page Six of Liberian gossip. Or to mix metaphors, Harry Potter for Liberiaphiles. (h/t to Jairo)
Unity insiders say US diplomats had told Sirleaf about alleged connections between members of her security apparatus, including her son Fombah Sirleaf, Director of the National Security Agency, and a mysterious Russian businessman.
The Russian, Victor Bogosyan, was deported in May 2009. A source close to the presidency says he ‘had a line of government people waiting to see him’. Money-changers in town said he paid massive premiums for loans, while he set up a popular nightclub run by attractive Peruvian women. The US officials are said to have linked Bogosyan to drugs deals. A Unity Party insider said that the President then summoned an informal meeting with all her security chiefs, at which [former Minister of Justice] Banks’s officials explained that they knew all about this, and ‘it was not something Madam President needed to know about’. Banks was soon fired.
- Sirleaf is credited for breaking up the Lebanese monopoly on importing rice, but this article says the Liberian who Sirleaf’s government helped enter this market is Allen Brown Jr., the son of a former Charles Taylor associate.
- The article explains how the the merger among the Unity Party and other parties further cements Americo-Liberian rule.
- Apparently Varney Sherman (a main contender against Sirleaf in 2005, strong ties to Lebanese) is legal counsel for ArcelorMittal in Liberia.
The Minister of Information, Laurence Bropleh, has been suspended. I’m pretty sure Bropleh has been with Sirleaf since she was elected, and I’ve always thought he handled his responsibilities more than competently. And remarkably I’ve never read anything bad about him in the papers. But there are now allegations that he put on the payroll ghost media employees at Liberians embassies, amounting to perhaps $300,000 in salary that didn’t go to the people named on the payroll.
What does this mean? Many senior officials in Sirleaf’s government have been charged with corruption over the past year. Is her government especially corrupt, or is she doing a better-than-average job of dealing with corrupt officials?
Outgoing prosecutor in the Charles Taylor trial, Stephen Rapp, recently answered questions from readers of the Trial of Charles Taylor blog. While addressing issues of Taylor’s money he referenced a UN Panel of Experts report that showed bank documents from Taylor’s old personal LBDI account. These documents showed deposits of stolen money. I had been unable to find this report, but a reader kindly pointed me to it. You can access it here. (The bank documents are from pages 44-46.)
“During the time it was open, millions of dollars were deposited in the account. The most notorious transaction was one where the Oriental Timber Company deposited US $1,999,975 in the morning into the Liberian Treasury and the same US $1,999,975 went into this personal account at LBDI that very afternoon. “
The image above shows the second part of this transaction. The caption says:
Debit ticket for deposit of $1,999,975 on 8 July 2000 from Natura Holdings (associated with the Oriental Timber Corporation) to Charles Taylor’s personal bank account
So unless I’m mistaken, Rapp seems to have his facts wrong. (Or the caption is wrong.) According to the caption the money went straight from Natura to Taylor. But this seems nitpicky. Taylor stole money (at times directly, at times less directly) from his government. The UN has proof. The bigger issue, I think, is whether all of the stolen money has been spent.
Harry Greaves has been fired from his post as managing director of the government’s Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation. It’s about time. Greaves, as I have written, was on the list of those the Truth and Reconciliation Commission originally recommended be barred from holding office. But apparently this version of the TRC report was not supposed to be public. After it was taken down from the TRC site, a new version was posted. Greaves’ name had magically disappeared.
Greaves was fired because he favored a bid for a contract to renovate petroleum storage tanks that was submitted by a Lebanese-owned corporation (Zakhem International Construction Ltd.) over a different bid from a company that said they could do the same work for half the cost. He made this decision even after the legislature told him not to. A detailed discussion of all this can be found in this truly excellent Daily Observer article.
The article notes that this is not the first time Greaves has gotten into trouble. After having a disagreement with Chris Moore, the head of a government program to create tax incentives for businesses to operate outside Monrovia, security guards seized Moore’s vehicle. They said they were acting on orders from Greaves. And there’s more. This guy was bad news.