Senior Liberian officials hit back at US financial sanctions

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on three senior Liberian government officials for their involvement in alleged public corruption.

President George Weah’s chief of staff, the nation’s chief prosecutor and the current managing director of the national ports authority have been targeted by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for sanctions.

Liberia suffered back-to-back civil wars that left 200,000 dead and displaced half of the country’s population. Public corruption has been a persistent problem, impeding economic development in an otherwise resourceful country of more than 5 million people.

A Treasury Department statement said the US is “committed to working with the people and government of Liberia to elevate the fight against corruption as a priority, including by strengthening the anti-corruption capacity of the public sector.”

The people sanctioned are Nathaniel McGill, Chief of Staff to President Weah; Sayma Syrenius Cephus, Chief Prosecutor of Liberia; and Bill Twehway, current managing director of the National Ports Authority.

Sanctions are authorized under a executive order signed during the presidency of Donald Trump, which implements the Magnitsky Global Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of human rights abuses and corruption worldwide.

“Through their corruption, these officials have undermined democracy in Liberia for their own benefit,” Brian E. Nelson, Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said 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 people of Liberia,” he said.

At the State Department, spokesman Ned Price said: “All three of these individuals have contributed to the worsening of corruption in Liberia. These designations reflect our commitment to implement the United States’ Strategy to Combat corruption and to partner with the government and people of Liberia to help the country chart a better path forward.”

The sanctions come after the US government sanctioned former warlord and current Liberian senator Prince Yormie Johnson for alleged corruption in December also under the global Magnitsky Act.


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