WASHINGTON/MONROVIA: President George Manneh Weah’s most trusted Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel Falo McGill, who is widely referred to as “Liberia’s Prime Minister,” along with two other senior officials of government has been slammed with sanctions by the Government of the United States of America (USA), for corruption.
“Corruption has long undermined Liberia’s democracy and its economy, robbing the Liberian people of funds for public services,” the United States Treasury Department said after sanctioning Minister McGill along with the Country’s flamboyant Solicitor-General, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, referred to in many quarters as “Chief Prosecutor”; and powerful National Port Authority (NPA) Manager Director, Bill Twehway, also known by many aliases including “ELEPHANT” and “Gbekugbeh Jr.”
The trio was on Monday, August 15, 2022, hooked by the United States Government through its Treasury Department for corruption.
Minister McGill has been the torch-bearer of President Weah’s second six-year term in rural Liberia following the defeat of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), a conglomeration of three political parties: Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of ex-football legend, George Manneh Weah; former President Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (NPP), currently headed by his former wife, Jewel Howard-Taylor; and Liberia People’s Democratic Party (LPDP) of former House Speaker, J. Alex Tyler, who was a candidate in the December 2020 Special Senatorial Elections.
The ruling Coalition lost nearly ten seats in the Upper House of the Legislature (Senate) to the once powerful Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), that comprises Unity Party of former Vice President, Joseph Nyuma Boakai; Liberty Party of renowned legal expert, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine (late); and Alternative National Congress (ANC) of Corporate Executive, Alexander Benedict Cummings.
Interestingly too, after the 2020 senatorial polls, the ruling establishment, through the Minister of State, allegedly decided to pre-campaign for the crucial 2023 Presidential and legislative elections in rural Liberia, particularly in Margibi, Bong, Nimba and Western Liberia.
However, following intense investigation into Minister McGill’s political and economic activities, the United States has now placed targeted sanctions against him for “POLITICAL CORRUPTION.”
“Through their corruption, these officials have undermined democracy in Liberia for their own personal benefit,” said Under-Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E Nelson, in a statement.
“Treasury’s designations today demonstrate that the United States remains committed to holding corrupt actors accountable and to the continued support of the Liberian people.”
Following the actions by the US, all property and interests in property of the three individuals that are in the US or in the possession or control of US persons must be blocked and reported to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
“In addition, persons who engage in certain transactions with the designed individuals risk being exposed to sanctions or subject to enforcement action,” the Treasury said.
In its statement, the Treasury Department pointed out that corruption has been a long challenge for Liberia’s democracy and its economy, robbing the Liberian people of funds for public services, empowering illicit actors, and destroying the rule of law.
All three government officials are being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who has engaged in corruption, the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain and corruption related to the extraction of natural resources.
The Treasury Department added that during his tenure in government, McGill “bribed business owners, received bribes from potential investors, and accepted kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest”.
McGill “manipulated public procurement processes to award multi-million dollar contracts to companies in which he has ownership” and used government funds allocated to other Liberian government institutions to run his own projects.
He also made off-the-books payments in cash to senior government leaders, and organized warlords to threaten political rivals, the Treasury said.
Cephus received bribes from people in exchange for having their court cases dropped and has also shielded money launderers and helped clear them through the court system, the Treasury Department said.
He intimidated prosecutors in an attempt to quash probes and has been accused of tampering with evidence in cases that involved members of opposition political parties, according to the Treasury’s statement.
Twehway orchestrated the diversion of $1.5m in vessel storage fee funds from the NPA into a private account and formed a private company to which he later unilaterally awarded a contract for loading and unloading cargo at the Port of Buchanan, the Treasury Department said.
Twehway and others used family members to obfuscate their own involvement in the company while still benefitting financially from the company, it added.
Howbeit, President Weah has suspended the three top officials until they are investigated, although it is not stated which state entity would probe these officials.
Moreover, Minister McGill has been spearheading President Weah’s free education program in rural Liberia where thousands of Liberian students are said to be benefiting from the program in Bong, Nimba, Margibi and parts of Western Liberia.
International analysts are of the view that with McGill being booted of mainstream government operations, President Weah 2023’s re-election is facing serious trouble as time fast running with additional names of high profiled officials for another sanctions list.