Monrovia – Social media has in recent years been consumed with several variations of stories about the wealth of the Liberian first family. From reports that one of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s son, Dr. James A. Sirleaf, had opened a hospital in South Africa to an April Fool’s Day report that took on a life of its own, suggesting that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had launched an investigation into an alleged US$2.5 billion asset belonging to another of the President’s sons, Robert Sirleaf.
The President who criticized the Tolbert administration for practicing nepotism has herself come under fire for having three of her sons in government. In a recent Financial Times interview, Sirleaf offered no apologies. “I will make no apologies for any of them…I don’t have a long list of qualified people.”
On Alleged FBI Probe Of Robert Sirleaf “I heard some kind of April Fool day report. They put there that Rob was being investigated by the FBI; Trash! That is why they took it off the next day because I think he (Rob) had challenged it. He had challenge to get in touch with the FBI.” On Report About Hospital In South Africa “They say I have hospital in South Africa and my son has it, my son who is a Medical Doctor has not even been to South Africa. Does anyone think anybody can just go into South Africa and build a hospital there? It is that easy? I mean where are people rationality on some of these issues. I just wonder, do people just sit and just talk? They do not just sit a little bit and examine what they hear? Or what people say? Does this make sense?”
The question of the Sirleaf family wealth continues to dog the administration and the presidency. Her son, Robert, in particular has borne the brunt of the scrutiny and amid yet-to-be proven allegations from Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe in 2011 that Robert had been using Foundations and Trust Funds as Special Purpose Entities to circumvent the US Patriot Act and also to amass significant amount of funds given to Mr. Sirleaf’s many trust funds and foundation by oil companies and concessions companies doing business with the Government of Liberia. Claims by Jefferson Koijee, the National Youth Wing Leader of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change that Mr. Sirleaf had amassed a billion in years through his position as Senior Advisor to the President and also Chairman of NOCAL ended after Robert filed a lawsuit against Koijee. Both Rep. Snowe and Mr. Koijee had charged that US$10 million social contribution fund from Chevron, was given to Mr. Sirleaf through his Robert A. Sirleaf foundation. So when an opportunity presented itself on a recent Sunday, FrontPageAfrica went to the horse’s mouth for answers. ‘Politically-Exposed’: Easy to Track Family A visibly annoyed but calm Sirleaf expressed disappointment in the reports and mistruths about her family out in social media and among circles of the Liberian population. “I feel so sad because this one of the greatest lies that the future will debunk. This family does not have excessive wealth; this family live by certain principles of my mother. We do not steal, we do not steal, do you understand, we have no shares in companies, we have nothing, I personally do not own a piece of property in America where I owned houses before and sold them before coming to Liberia”, the President explained. Sirleaf said the only person who may have some resources because he has good friends is her most controversial son, Robert. “Because he has some friends in the petroleum industry, he has friends here and there and he has some friends that might support some of the projects he does here but even him, does not have that kind of money that they say he has, he doesn’t. There were one or two times when he called me and said look you have to let me something this time until I look for more resources.” Sirleaf said in a modern age of technology and international scrutiny, if even an ounce of what has been reported about she and her family was true, it would have been exposed by the international community. “The US has a system call the Politically Exposed Individuals where they track the money that everybody has, who are politically exposed, I am on that list, every one of my immediate family on that list where they track, if you have money anywhere, they will know and believe me the international community particularly the US will not stop to talk or will not stop to take actions if they figure out somebody is holding money that they got from this government.” The President added: “This family is not wealthy. Are we well off that we can support ourselves? Yes! We are educated, we are professional we have worked all of us we have made money and we have the ability to make money all of us. That is what we are trained by but to say money from this government, stolen money, I challenge it anywhere.” Assets Declaration: ‘I Will Make it Public’ Sirleaf said at the appropriate time she will make available her assets declaration to prove that she has not amassed ill-gotten wealth from Liberia. “Do you think it is easy to get money from this government through the right way, I only got the right way every time; before I get money, I go through the voucher system, I have filed my declaration of assets, at the right time, I will make it public because I have done that consistently.” The President said she has filed her personal income taxes every year, including up until 2015. “The Liberia Revenue Authority has it and they can release it any time and anybody can take my declaration they can take my personal income tax which I have filed, hardly anybody else does it here but I do, because it is my fiscal discipline, I am use to that everywhere I worked, I worked out of this country before in the private sector, the US private sector, with a major financial institution. I have worked in the UN system, I have worked in the World Bank System and I know what it is to be able be financially on top of things and to be able to keep records. When I travel, people think I only did it the first year but still make travel expenses but you see I do not talk about it because people will say you are beating your own chest. When I leave people will look at all of this, and be able to know that what I am saying is true. We are not a rich family but we are able family and over the years, we all built houses, we built houses before we became this big person in government.” Son Never Been to South Africa Addressing a report which grew life a couple of years ago linking her son, Robert to an FBI probe, the President describe the report as trash. “I heard some kind of April Fool day report. They put there that Rob was being investigated by the FBI; Trash! That is why they took it off the next day because I think he (Rob) had challenge it. He had challenge to get in touch with the FBI. They say I have hospital in South Africa and my son has it, my son who is a Medical Doctor has not even been to South Africa. Does anyone think anybody can just go into South Africa and build a hospital there? It is that easy? I mean where are people’s rationality on some of these issues. I just wonder, do people just sit and just talk? they do not just sit a little bit and examine what they hear? Or what people say? Does this make sense.”