Liberia: Man in Weah’s Shadows – Controversial Figure from Tolbert, Doe, Taylor Era Resurfaces
Washington – Shortly after the April 14, 1979 rice riots which killed scores of Liberians and led to millions of dollars in damage, late President William R. Tolbert tipped Mr. Emmanuel Shaw II, then one of the rising young men in the True Whig Party to chair a committee setup to get the views of people around the country and make recommendations in a bid to make adjustments in the party and the country and make it more inclusive to all Liberians.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
Tolbert’s Wish Short-lived
As a result of that recommendation, several young people were brought to the party at its last convention in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County in January 1980.
The committee dubbed, the TWP Special Task Force also included Chris Tah, George Boley, Emmanuel Bowier, Reginald Nance and others as members. The Taskforce concluded: “The TWP now find itself poised at a crossroad in its history and on the brink of a new decade. There is much to be done if the party is to survive; we must not only stamp out the evil, we must begin to build for 1983 (next presidential elections) and beyond.”
Tolbert got his wish but three months later lost his grip on power and his life as he and thirteen members of his government were slain in a bloody coup d’etat led by Samuel Doe, which ended decades of Americo-Liberian rule in Africa’s oldest republic.
Shaw survived the coup but would later resurface in the Doe-led government as Finance Minister. His most notorious legacy was him being the engineer behind President Doe’s purchase of a presidential jet which most who were around the time say, he later sold for millions before exiling in South Africa.
During the waning days of the Doe era in 1990, the New York Times under the headline “Liberia’s Leader Finds Himself with Few Allies”, wrote:
“The small circle of friends with whom President Samuel K. Doe has surrounded himself was notably smaller today with many of the palace regulars having left this capital in the face of an approaching insurgency. Among those who had not been seen here and are now believed to have fled the country is one of the President’s closest collaborators, J. Emmanuel Bowier, the Minister of Information. Other high-profile Government figures who have dropped out of sight are Emmanuel Shaw, the Minister of Finance, and Elijah Taylor, the Minister of Planning.”
Shaw was gone.
During much of the civil war, he spent his time in South Africa where multiple stories about his escapades dominated the headlines and a few wanted posters on the streets of Johannesburg.
In December 1990, the Mail & Guardian under the headline: `His main occupation was stealing’; cited US court documents showing how Shaw privatized Liberia’s oil industry to benefit himself.
The article which was published after Mr. Shaw was tipped to help reshape South Africa’s oil industry, reported that Shaw was accused in a United States court of masterminding a fraudulent scheme to pocket the profits from Liberia’s petrol sales while serving as the country’s finance minister.
The newspaper published court papers which offered an astonishing expose of one of the most ambitious money-making schemes pulled off by Mr. Shaw while in power under the Liberian dictator Samuel Doe.
The papers also include several blanket indictments of Shaw such as: “It was common knowledge in Liberia, and internationally as well, that his [Shaw’s] main occupation while holding the office of Minister of Finance was to steal as much money as possible from the government and people of Liberia.”
The Mail & Guardian wrote: “Shaw is now earning at least R3-million a year advising South Africa’s state oil company on its restructuring and privatization. His controversial appointment by state oil chief Don Mkhwanazi was the subject of a three-day commission of inquiry this week at the Department of Minerals and Energy.”
Shaw, one of Doe’s closest confidants, fled Liberia ahead of the dictator’s downfall in 1990, but before he did so he allegedly masterminded an elaborate ploy to rob the impoverished country of about $27-million – in effect the remaining assets the country had abroad.
The court papers establish that Shaw set up a new national oil company in which he was a major shareholder, resigned as finance minister, and then wrote a letter as if he were still finance minister obligating the government to pay his oil company millions of dollars.
Weah Inherits ‘Bad Apple’ from Doe, Taylor, Tolbert
In recent months, since the inauguration of President George Manneh Weah, Mr. Shaw has resurfaced once more and is said to be growing prominence in the Weah government, traveling with the President on important trips while the key minister of Foreign Affairs Milton Gbezhonga Findley is being sidelined. Last week, Shaw was pictured seated prominently behind President Weah at the Extraordinary Session of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), held to focus on the prevailing security and political situation in Guinea Bissau, which is reeling a long-running dispute between factions in the ruling Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).
Mr. Shaw’s fingerprints are also said to be visible in the controversy surrounding the Weah-led government’s controversial US$536 million loan from an Asian conglomerate currently entangled in criticisms over the government’s failure to make an MOU signed recently public and its failure to exercise transparency and accountability over the deal. The latter were two key criticisms the current administration threw around during the reign of its predecessors, the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-led government.
Shaw Reportedly behind 1 Year, 237-Days Old Firm
The loan said to be handled by the Singaporean-based firm, Eton Finance Private Limited is said to be geared toward construction of roads linking Monrovia to the Southeast region of Liberia. But investigation by FrontPageAfrica has uncovered that Eton, which operates as an investment company in the asset management industry is an unlisted private company with no public information on the total capitalization or its net asset value (NAV).
Further investigation by FPA has also uncovered that the company, like the controversial Israeli firm, Elenilto, which was given rights to Liberia’s Western Cluster, is fairly new. Eton Finance Private Limited was incorporated on August 22, 2016 and was recorded as Private company limited by shares. As so far this company has running for 1 year(s) 237 days, our investigation has found.
This is why many are wondering why Mr. Weah, who ran on the backs of a Pro-poor agenda is resurrecting one of the most controversial figures from Liberia’s troubled past and visibly parading Mr. Shaw around the world. Mr. Shaw was also on the delegation to Paris, France, one of Mr. Weah’s first overseas trip.
Despite his resurrection, Mr. Shaw’s most damning legacy stems from a court filing in New York in the 1991 case where it was alleged that while Liberians were dying in a civil war, Mr. Shaw the Liberian National Petroleum Company (LNPC), set up by him in January 1989 making him the “sole and exclusive supplier of petroleum products” to the Liberian market. Also saw him having a 60% stake in the company.
According to the report, citing US court document, after resigning before Doe’s downfall, Shaw wrote a letter to the LNPC as if he were still finance minister, in which he confessed that the government owed the millions to the LNPC. “In effect Mr Shaw, acting as finance minister, negotiated and signed the two guarantee agreements relied on by plaintiff in order to assure his own company payment of $20-million,” the US court was told by a representative of the interim government of Liberia, which took over after Doe was executed. The interim government was the defendant in the case.”
The report added that Mr. Shaw’s letter persuaded the British High Court – presumably unaware that Shaw and his accomplices were actually the plaintiffs – to order the government of Liberia to pay up about $8.4-million in August 1990. “With Liberia crumbling, no defence was mounted by the country’s government. The British court attached a Liberian Boeing 707 parked at Stansted airport as security and issued an injunction over other Liberian assets. Shaw obtained an injunction on more Liberian assets in a New York court in 1990 and then tried to pull off the same trick by suing for $19-million in a US district court in New York. But by then the interim Liberian government was ready to defend itself and Judge David Edelstein of the US District Court of Southern New York dismissed the case. The lifting of the injunction allowed the Liberian interim government to tap about $16-million that had been frozen.”
Shaw’s ‘Ingenious Scheme’ Exposed
Cllr. Philip Banks III, who was minister of justice at the time argued that Mr. Shaw was operating an ingenious scheme.
Banks argued that in 1986 Shaw, Liberia’s justice minister Jenkins Scott and several other private individuals started plotting to acquire control over the sale of all petroleum products in Liberia. Their plan came to fruition in January 1989 with the creation of the LNPC, which immediately triggered a fuel price rise.
“Although the monopoly power exercised by LNPC inured directly to the benefit of Minister Shaw, who held a substantial ownership interest in LNPC, it came at the direct expense of the Liberian government and people. As soon as LNPC obtained control over the supply of petroleum products to Liberia, the price of those products increased sharply.”
Banks, according to the report, said that the exclusive contract between LNPC and Liberia’s existing national petrol company – the Liberian Petroleum Refining Company – was condemned by the judiciary committee of Liberia’s House of Representatives, which said the agreement “brings in no new investment and will only raise the cost of products for LPRC”. The house declared the contract null and void, Banks said.
Banks explained how Shaw secured himself a 60% stake in the new oil company through a company called Synergy Resources and also siphoned off all the lease payments LNPC was supposed to make to LRPC under the January 1989 agreement. Those payments were made to a company called Global Enterprises, which was owned and managed by Shaw.
Shaw was the LNPC’s chief executive and later appointed as president his trusted associate Mark Wolman. Wolman, a South African, ran a private oil company called Tiger Oil, which was a key sanctions- buster. Shaw acted as a “consultant” for Tiger when he arranged for it an exclusive contract to supply petroleum products to the LPRC in 1987 in a similar scheme to the one he pulled off with the LNPC. Wolman was brutally murdered in Cape Town in what appeared to be an execution by a drug gang. Shaw’s passport was found in Wolman’s briefcase.
The papers, which suggest Doe was in on the scam, explained in detail how Shaw fraudulently wrote a letter in his capacity as finance minister to help LNPC obtain its money. “In short, with the country burning around them, Shaw and Scott decided to plunder the government treasury one more time.”
Banks said Shaw signed two guarantees obligating the government to pay at least $20-million, while Scott wrote a letter waiving the government’s immunity from legal attack abroad. He said Shaw wrote his letter as if he were still finance minister on July 18 1990 even though he had resigned in June 1989.
After Doe’s demise, Mr. Shaw again resurrected under the Charles Taylor led government where he served as one of Mr. Taylor’s most trusted aides and economic advisors.
Mr. Shaw was also Liberia’s ambassador extraordinaire and head of the country’s banking commission under the Taylor.
Shaw’s ‘Corrupt Scheme’ With Taylor
The Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1521 (2003) concerning Liberia restricted Mr. Shaw and several of Mr. Taylor’s closest aides from traveling while also freezing their assets.
Although the sanctions were lifted during the Sirleaf-led government, much of the international community’s concerns stemmed from the notorious Dutch gun-runner Gus Kouwenhoven, who made public a communication from Mr. Shaw detailing how he and Shaw were involved in various corrupt schemes in which he and Kouwenhoven engaged.
Although Mr. Shaw debunked the letter as fake, some of the documents reportedly had among them, a handwritten note by Kouwenhoven acknowledging receipt of the letter.
Shaw was also the subject of a top Dutch newspaper, Parool report, linking him and former President Taylor to a notorious drug syndicate. The article claimed that in return for protecting the syndicate, the two politicians received a cut of its profits.
Sirleaf Recalled RIA Appointment
Even amid the many frailties and entanglements, Shaw sought a brief attempt at the limelight in 2012 when former President Sirleaf appointed him as chairman of the board of the Roberts International Airport(RIA) but the US government through former Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield prevailed on Sirleaf to pull the plug on the appointment, paving the way for the appointment of businessman Musa Bility.
In announcing Mr. Shaw’s recall, Sirleaf through an Executive Mansion statement, wrote:
“The Office of the President has issued the following statement said the appointment was intended to bring an experienced financial and aeronautical professional to assist in developing the plans for modernizing Roberts International Airport and to guide the process for correcting the continued difficulties found in International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) assessments of the airport safety and operational adequacy. “The assignment was meant to be temporary as the Government seeks management that is willing to assume responsibility for planning and implementing the long-delayed development of RIA and other domestic airports. However, given details regarding sanctions imposed against Mr. Shaw by the United Nations and the United States Government that have been brought to her attention, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has withdrawn the appointment.”
This is why many are puzzled as to Why President Weah is now showing Mr. Shaw off as his shining star in the open.
The resurrection of Mr. Shaw is raising new questions and drawing scrutiny over President Weah’s inauguration declaration and pledge to tackle entrenched corruption which has dogged Liberia for years. “Those looking to cheat the Liberian people through corruption will have no place,” said President Weah, but the resurfacing of Mr. Shaw, political observers say, is threatening to undermine the President’s pledge. More importantly, many are pondering how will Mr. Weah go about ridding Liberia of an age-old problem while indulging the resurrection of a relic of the country’s painful past, now taking center stage with a lot of visibility in the shadows of the President trumpeting a pro-poor agenda.