Liberia: Who Ordered Helicopters Purchase?

-As Urey denies war allegations

A long time closed aide to imprisoned former President Charles Ghankay Taylor Mr. Benoni Urey, now an opposition leader here says he didn't give the instruction to use US$620,000 to buy two MI-2 helicopters for war, one of the reasons he says UN had problem with him.

"The MI-2 Helicopters [were] never used for war. One was used for the police and one was used for the SSS (Special Security Service). In fact, those helicopters were used to carry UN personnel all over this country," he told this paper exclusively on Tuesday, 16 July in Logan Town.

Mr. Urey, the longest serving Commissioner of Liberia's Maritime Affairs in President Taylor's regime narrated that one of the things the UN had against him was the allegation that he provided $620,000 to buy the two MI-2 helicopters, a claim he denies.

He explains to the NewDawn that when UN personnel were sick, the helicopters were used to fly them from Lofa or Grand Gedeh Counties either to hospital or out of this country.

He, however, insists that he didn't give the instruction to use the money to buy the helicopters in question.

Instead Mr. Urey claims that he was given instruction allegedly by former Finance Minister Mr. Nathaniel Barnes who had allegedly claimed that the president had instructed that Mr. Urey instruct the agents - LISCR [Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry] to transfer $620,000 ... to purchase the two helicopters.

"The then Finance Minister Nathaniel Barnes gave me the instruction that the president had instructed that I instruct the agents -LISCR to transfer $620,000 ... to purchase the two helicopters. I didn't transfer no money," Urey says.

"I wrote my comptroller in the US, by directive of the president through the Finance Minister, you are hereby instructed to instruct our agents to transfer this money for the purchase of the two... and fortunately for me, I had the copy of the document," Mr. Urey explains further.

According to him, when the UN and the Homeland Security agents from America came to him, he indicated to them that he didn't transfer the money, but that it was LISCR that did the transfer."Why they couldn't investigate them? I only passed on an instruction," Urey argues.

This paper has contacted former Finance Minister Mr. Nathaniel Barnes for clarity on Mr. Urey's allegation, but Mr. Barnes has disassociated himself from the claim.

"I don't know what Mr. Urey is talking about, I'm sorry to say. I mean it's been a long time being a Minister of Finance, and I have no idea what he's talking about," Mr. Barnes says.He adds that "if you have no document with my name on it for me to authenticate that's what I did, I don't know what he's talking about."

However, Mr. Urey on Wednesday referred this paper to former Finance Ministry Comptroller Lewis Roberts as his reference to authenticate claim of the alleged transaction, but the latter's phone rang endlessly without response.

Meanwhile, Mr. Urey has told this paper that he is not a warrior, neither does he know how to support warring factions financially.

"I never fought any war; I never have been accused of anything, you know. But when the UN put us on this list ... to influence the removal of President [Charles] Taylor from office, at the conclusion of it, they should have written to say these people committed no crime," Urey complains.

The businessman turned - politician indicates that he has made it clear to the UN Human Rights office how putting somebody's name on a list without investigating them has got people going on national radio to call him a criminal.

He says as the longest serving Commissioner at the Liberia Maritime Affairs, he was never a signatory to any of the accounts abroad or locally.

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