An Anti-money laundering specialist says the case of 400,000 transferred using a computer at the home of President Sirleaf in 2008 is a typical case of money laundering and must be prosecuted if Liberia is serious to fight money laundering.
Money Laundering involves taking the criminal proceeds and disguising their illegal sources in anticipation of ultimately using the criminal proceeds to perform legal and illegal activities, simply money laundering is the process of making dirty money looks clean and the specialist believes the practice is common in Liberia.
"Money laundering is taking place in this country, higher ups are mostly involved in this act, take for example somebody sat at the home of our President and transferred 400,000 using a computer to another person, that was in the Dunn Commission report, today we do not hear about it again, why, people are cleaning their dirty money and the LACC must take the lead and investigate these things void of political influence", Edwin W. Harris, Jr. National Director of Center Against Money laundering and Terrorist Financing in Liberia.
Harris said the Dunn Commission report since its submission is dusting on the shelves when individuals should be held accountable for their actions.
The Dunn Commission was an investigative committee headed by Dr. Elwood Dunn to investigate a stream of emails linking officials of the Liberian government to acts of corruption published by FrontpageAfrica.com, (FPA). In August 2008, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed Dr. Elwood Dunn to head the investigative commission to ascertain the facts.
In the final report the Commission indicated that a computer from the home of the President was used during the transaction including the transfer of US$400,000.
"A computer from the President home was used by a sister to the President of Sierra Leone to transfer 400,000 that is dirty money, you see that lady use the highest office in land to clean her money and we Liberians sit and look at these things, bigger ones could be taking place in this country, we need to prosecution", Harris stated. According to Harris there are predicated crimes that are committed before money is laundered indicating that all those crimes are visible in Liberia which indicates that money laundering is prevalent in the country. He named corruption, embezzlement, tax eviction, bribery and other crimes as those that are common in Liberia, something he said makes the country a suitable place for drug kingpins and other foreign criminals to clean their "dirty" money.
Harris said money laundering takes place in various forms and such as individuals who have acquired money from criminal sources disguise their source of the money operating businesses which they later claim to be the actual source of their illegal money.
"We need to do worth analysis here, President Sirleaf told us her son Robert Sirleaf was working on Pro bono basis at the Oil Company, but we see Robert Sirleaf Foundation, BYC football Club, where did he get that money to do what he is doing? That is an example of money laundering, money was acquired somewhere illegally and people want to clean it", he disclosed.
The civil society activist said many other instances are taking place in the country with individuals hiding their criminal money under the pretext of doing business. Speaking at a one day symposium under the theme "building a concerted effort in the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and illicit drug trafficking in Liberia", Harris disclosed that because of political connection, Harris said individuals are allowed to commit crimes in Liberia and go free, citing the drug trafficking problem affecting Liberia as an example.
"Every time we hear about security vehicles used in transporting drugs, people are using political connection to use our country to traffic drugs", he alarmed.
With Afghanistan as one of the major sources of drugs, through Pakistan to other countries Harris said members of the Pakistani contingent of the United Nations Mission in Liberia should not be given preferential treatment when they are traveling from Pakistan to Liberia.
"You cannot have people travelling from country like Pakistan, which is a transit point for drugs from Afghanistan and you give that person special treatment, not searching their bags, drugs trade is a money making venture and even security personnel can transport it like we are seeing here, so we do not need special treatment, else our country will get rotten with drugs".
Liberia, a boiling point
Col. Sam Lomax, Chief of Operations of the Protective and Internal Security Division of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization said money laundering is a serious issue in the entire sub region.
"Money laundering is a serious issue within the sub region and not only Liberia. However, Liberia is being considered by criminals as boiling point for several criminal conducts and as such, it requires the consolidated efforts of every Liberian to safeguard the country", said Col. Lomax. Col. Lomax warned drug traffickers that by using or trafficking drugs they could become addicted to the act.
"As we go on fighting the usage of Drugs in the country, let me flag this aspect to those who are trading in this act to know that, if you use drugs or trafficking same, you are more at risk of crossing the line from casual use to drug abuse and addiction".