US sanctions 3 Liberian government officials for corruption

Undersecretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen on Monday sanctioned three Liberian government officials for using their positions for personal financial gain. File photo by Graeme Jennings/UPI | License picture

August 16 (UPI) — The Biden administration has sanctioned three Liberian government officials accused of committing acts of corruption for personal gain.

The US Treasury said on Monday the sanctions targeted Nathaniel McGill, chief of staff to President George Weah; Sayma Syrenius Cephus, Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutor of Liberia, and Bill Twehway, Chief Executive Officer of the National Port Authority.

“Through their corruption, these officials have undermined democracy in Liberia for their own benefit,” Brian Nelson, Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement. “Today’s Treasury designations demonstrate that the United States remains committed to holding corrupt actors accountable and to continuing to stand with the people of Liberia.”

All three have been hit with an asset freeze on corruption charges in a country where such acts have long undermined its democracy and economy. The sanctions, the Treasury said, were a reaffirmation by the United States to hold corrupt actors accountable, regardless of their position or political stance.

McGill has been named on a slew of charges that he used his position to enrich himself, including directing multimillion-dollar government contracts with companies in which he has a stake.

US officials said he bribed business owners and accepted bribes from potential investors as well as accepted bribes from government job seekers and misappropriated government assets.

“He used public funds allocated to other Liberian government institutions to run his own projects, made off-the-books cash payments to senior government officials, and organized warlords to threaten political rivals. “, said the Treasury.

“McGill received an unwarranted allowance from various Liberian government institutions and used his position to prevent his embezzlement from being discovered.”

As the current Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutor of Liberia, Cephus has been accused of developing close relationships with criminal investigation suspects from whom he received bribes in return for dropping their business.

The Treasury said it worked with money launderers for personal financial gain to drop investigations into their work and protect them from prosecution.

According to US officials, Cephus has also tried to intimidate other prosecutors in an attempt to get them to drop their investigations and has also blocked corruption cases involving government officials.

Twehway has been accused of diverting some $1.5 million in ship storage fee funds from the National Ports Authority, which it oversees, to a private account it controls.

The plan involved Twehway forming a private company which secured a contract from the National Ports Authority to load and unload goods.

“These three individuals have contributed to aggravating corruption in Liberia,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “These designations reflect our commitment to implementing the U.S. anti-corruption strategy and partnering with the government and people of Liberia to help the country chart a better course.”

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