18 May 2018

Liberia: Former Officials to Face Law

Photo: Liberia Government
President George Weah delivering a speech in Paris

President George Manneh Weah has told a gathering of government officials and partners in the port city of Buchanan that his administration is ready to act on the Global Witness report, which alleges corruption into the purchase of the Oil Block 13 by Exxon Mobil.

This week the committee established by the President to look into the Global Witness report presented its findings to Mr. Weah, though details of the findings are still closed to the President's chest, but he said on Thursday that those former government officials found culpable will be dealt with under the law.

"Well we got findings after three weeks and we have the information and the government will sit together and we will make determination. Those that are culpable will be dealt with under the law," Mr. Weah told his cabinet and international partners at the first Cabinet retreat in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County Thursday, 17 May.

It is not clear who might face the law, but on 29 March, Global Witness released a report titled Catch Me if You Can, alleging that in 2013, oil giant Exxon signed a $120 million deal with the Liberian Government for an oil block it knew was tainted by corruption.

Global Witness alleges that Exxon's purchase in 2013 was also accompanied by over $200,000 in unusual, large payments made by the corruption-tainted Liberian oil agency to six Liberian officials who allegedly approved the deal.

It claims that officials who received payments included Liberia's then-Justice, Finance and Mining Ministers, each of whom allegedly received $35,000 - more than doubling their annual salaries.

It named the former officials who received the payments as former Finance Minister Amara Konneh, former Justice Minister Christiana Tah, former Lands and Mines Minister Patrick Sendolo, former National Investment Chairman Natty Davis, former National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) CEO Randolph McClain, and former NOCAL Board Chair Robert Sirleaf, the son of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was reportedly working pro-bono at the time.

It says three officials who allegedly received payments - Davis, Sirleaf and Tah - have stated that they were "bonuses," authorized by NOCAL's Board of Directors for negotiating a good deal with Exxon.

Though the environmental watchdog group says there is no evidence that Exxon knew about these payments, but they were likely made from the same oil agency account into which Exxon had just deposited $5 million.

But it recommended that Exxon, Broadway Consolidated/Peppercoast, and those who received the unusual, large payments should be investigated to determine if they broke laws in the US and Liberia.

Meanwhile, President Weah says couple of weeks ago Global Witness accused some former government officials, following which he says he constituted a team to probe into the matter.

He adds that he just want "you" to know that "we are ready" to [confront] any act of mismanagement and corruption and this is the beginning. He says the final document will come and the international community will have it prepared for them and then government will move on from there.

He tells his Cabinet Ministers that his government is here for the Liberian people and to regain the confidence of all of Liberia's partners that have been working with the country to make sure that Liberia moves forward.

He assures international partners that "we are ready for business," and that its time to be honest and loyal to the quest of the people to move Liberia forward.

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