Liberia: Drums of Sanctions are Echoing, A Caveat to Our Leaders

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TOP INFLUENTIAL public officials over the past two years have been slammed with sanctions by the United States Department of Treasury over their alleged involvement in acts of corruption.

THE FIRST IS one of the country’s known prominent lawyers and now Senator of Grand Cape Mount County, Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman.

IN DECEMBER 2019, as part of the commemoration of the International Anti-Corruption Day, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned prominent lawyer for allegedly of offering bribes to judges in Liberia to circumvent justice.

IN 2016, Sherman was indicted by the Liberian government, along with several other government officials, for their involvement in the US$950,000 bribery scheme while in 2019, the presiding judge acquitted all individuals accused of being involved in the bribery scheme. 

WHILE THE LIBERIAN government was done with the case after the court adjudged Senator Sherman and his cohorts as not guilty, the U.S. Treasury said the Senator had an undisclosed conflict of interest with the judge who ultimately returned a not guilty verdict in July 2019 in his economic sabotage case involving Sable Mining.

SHERMAN, according to the Treasury, routinely paid judges to decide cases in his favor, and he has allegedly facilitated payments to Liberian politicians to support impeachment of Justice Kabina Jan’neh who has ruled against him.  

TREASURY DEPARTMENT stated that Cllr. Sherman’s acts of bribery demonstrated a larger pattern of behavior to exercise influence over the Liberian judiciary and the Ministry of Justice.

HE IS DESIGNATED for being a foreign person who is a current or former government official responsible for or complicit in, or directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

IN 2021, the influential former warlord and current Senator Prince Yormie Johnson was sanctioned for alleged corruption.

THE SANCTIONS against Mr. Johnson, announced in Liberia in December 2021 to commemorate International Human Rights Day, come under the Global Magnitsky Act, which authorises the U.S. government to sanction those it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets and ban them from entering the U.S.

NOW A TRUSTED political ally of President George Weah, Mr. Johnson is accused in a U.S. embassy statement of large-scale corruption.

“As a senator, Mr. Johnson has been involved in pay-for-play funding with government Ministries and organisations for personal enrichment,” the statement said.

“As part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the government of Liberia, the involved government Ministries and organisations launder a portion of the funding for return to the involved participants.” The scheme involves millions of dollars, according to the embassy statement.

MR. JOHNSON also receives an undeserved salary from the Liberian government as a salaried intelligence source yet he does not provide any form of intelligence reporting, alleged the U.S. statement.

HE IS BEING paid in order to maintain domestic stability, according to the statement.

MR. JOHNSON was responsible for the slaying in 1990 of President Samuel Doe, who had been captured by his forces during the country’s 14-year civil war.

MR. JOHNSON sipped beer as he watched his men torture and mutilate Doe who begged in vain for mercy in a widely circulated video.

IRONICALLY, all of these alleged acts of corruption are happening right under the watchful eyes of the Liberian government.

OUR FAILURE to act decisively as a country on acts that undermine our national, economic and democratic growth is now paving way for international partners who pump in millions and billions of their taxpayers’ money to ensure that Liberia gets well-fitted into the comity of nations are now taking the lead on behalf of the poor Liberian citizens.

AS LIBERIA CELEBRATES 200 years of return of the free slaves from America – an occasion that eventually led to the establishment of the Republic, the U.S. Black Caucus Congressional leader and the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee is even seeking more sanctions for corrupt officials of the Liberian government.

THE RESOLUTION which is sponsored by Representative Gregory Meeks of New York and currently before the House of Representatives among other things, “calls on the Departments of State and the Treasury to continue to impose targeted sanctions and other measures against those responsible for undermining the rule of law as well as the faith and trust of the Liberian people through the conduct of corruption, gross violations of human rights, and other acts that threaten the peace and security of Liberia…”

WE WELCOME this call for more sanctions on officials known be to be involved in questionable sudden mass accumulation of wealth.

WE HAVE OVER the years observed members of the Weah-led government who assumed offices with no prior employment history suddenly owning estates and living in extravagance. The call for asset declaration and making same public has been ignored from the presidency down to the lowest in the regime. This is why we at FrontPageAfrica will crave the indulgence of the U.S. House of Representatives to consider approving the resolution that will see some of these uncontrolled acts of wanton corruption and economic sabotage reduced to the minimum.

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