President George Manneh Weah has been advised by former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf’s associate Mr. Samuel Wonwi Thompson to end the culture of impunity, corruption and retrieve and repatriate illicit wealth stolen by people in positions of authority, as part of suggestions to help the regime revive the economy.
“Fellow Liberians, to improve the climate for foreign investment as well as the country’s economic situation, there is an urgent need to end the culture of impunity for economic crimes committed against the poor citizens of Liberia by people in positions of authority,” Mr. Thompson says in a statement released Wednesday, 18 July.
He calls on President Weah to set up an economic crimes process to speedily investigate and prosecute those Liberians who have betrayed their country and set the citizenry up for continued poverty, suffering and social unrest through “bearer shares” with concession companies.
He tells the president that Avesoro (formerly Aureus Mining) and the MNG gold mining companies are producing and flying significant quantities of gold out of Liberia every week by helicopter while the local currency continues to depreciate.
According to Mr. Thompson, he learned from the Panama Papers about the alleged use of “bearer shares” by certain government officials and their cronies, to hide their ownership of gold mining company shares plus other illicit payments in offshore tax havens.
He explains that bearer shares are illegal in the USA and several other countries because they hide who actually owns company shares, contribute to tax evasion, money laundering, plus other criminal and terrorist activities.
As such, he fears that the highly secretive way this was done in Liberia with those mining concessions suggests that Liberians are being shortchanged of significant foreign exchange benefits from their God-given heritage, by a few greedy and corrupt persons.
From a combined investment of at least US$ 500 Million, Mr. Thompson notes that the IMF estimates that gold exports will average between US$ 200 to 300 Million every year from the gold mines.
This he says excludes the Hummingbird gold concession that was recently rejected by President Weah for Dugbe in Southeast Liberia. Citing Hummingbird’s 2017 financial statements, he says Dugbe can produce at least 125,000 ounces of gold each year and has at least 4.2 Million ounces.
Mr. Thompson says Liberia’s gold will generate export revenues of US$ 163 Million every year and the deposits are worth at least US$ 5.5 Billion. He therefore commend President Weah for his astute and timely decision.
“We also need to be wiser and more transparent in the way we utilize valuable resources like gold, to significantly -improve our foreign reserves and strengthen our currency,” he adds.
While expressing his full commitment to President Weah and his government, Mr. Thompson also urges all well-meaning Liberians to support the President and Government of Liberia to find solutions to the economic situation here.
To end the vicious cycle of growth without development and to strengthen Liberia’s foreign exchange rate, Mr. Thompson says the proposed infusion of US$ 25 Million into the monetary system must be guided by a series of measures including the provision of proper documentation to the Central Bank of Liberia by all importers such as letters of credit, invoices and shipping documents.
He suggests that assuming that the counterfeit notes can be isolated, government should prioritize and restrict how the foreign exchange is used, to import fuel, rice, essential medical and educational items at a subsidized exchange rate.
Mr. Thompson has also extended his appeals to the Government of United States of America and other international partners to help Liberia to stamp out the culture of corruption and impunity by prosecuting Liberian economic criminals.
“Please help us to improve our fragile economic conditions by recovering and repatriating the assets stolen from us by those criminals and held offshore,” he says.
He says the United States, Europe and other traditional partners cannot afford to lose Liberia to growing terrorist and criminal networks due to the damaging effects of corruption, selfish and bad economic governance that have made Liberia a more fragile, vulnerable and poor country despite major international efforts and resources.
By Winston W. Parley