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Crime & PunishmentGeneralLiberia news

Sanctioned officials resign

Two of the three sanctioned Liberian officials, Mr. Nathaniel F. McGill and Mr. Bill Twehway have resigned their respective positions from President George Manneh Weah’s government, nearly a month after the U.S. Government sanctioned them.

The Executive Mansion in Monrovia says President Weah has accepted the resignations of McGill and Twehway, but local radio stations are also reporting that the third sanction official, Cllr. Saymah Syrenius Cephus has also resigned.

Last month President Weah indefinitely suspended the three officials after the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated them for their involvement in ongoing public corruption.

McGill was working as President Weah’s Chief of Office Staff or Minister of State for Presidential Affairs; Twehway as Managing Director of the National Port Authority; and Cephus as Liberia’s Solicitor General when the trio were sanctioned by the U.S. Government.

They have claimed innocence of any acts of corruption and vowed to exonerate themselves.

In their letters of resignation dated September 12, 2022, the Executive Mansion says McGill and Twehway thanked President Weah for the opportunity to serve in the Government and Country.

Announcing the sanctions last month, the U.S. Government explained that McGill during his tenure in government bribed business owners.

It said McGill received bribes from potential investors and accepted kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest. 

The U.S. detailed that McGill has manipulated public procurement processes in order to award multi-million-dollar contracts to companies in which he has ownership, including by abusing emergency procurement processes to rig contract bids. 

It noted that McGill is credibly accused of involvement in a wide range of other corrupt schemes including soliciting bribes from government office seekers and misappropriating government assets for his personal gain. 

The U.S. indicated that McGill has used government funds allocated to other Liberian government institutions to run his own projects, made off-the-books payments in cash to senior government leaders, and organized warlords to threaten political rivals. 

McGill has received an unjustified stipend from various Liberian government institutions and used his position to prevent his misappropriation from being discovered, the U.S. said. 

It noted that he regularly distributes thousands of dollars in undocumented cash to other government officials for government and non-government activities.

“McGill is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery,” the U.S. said.

As for Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, the U.S. detailed that he has developed close relationships with suspects of criminal investigations and has received bribes from individuals in exchange for having their cases dropped. 

Cephus has worked behind the scenes to establish arrangements with subjects of money laundering investigations to cease investigations to personally benefit financially. 

According to the U.S., Cephus shields money launderers and helps clear them through the court system and has intimidated other prosecutors to quash investigations. 

It said Cephus has also utilized his position to hinder investigations and block the prosecution of corruption cases involving members of the government. 

Additionally, the U.S. said Cephus has been accused of tampering with and purposefully withholding evidence in cases involving members of opposition political parties to ensure conviction.

Cephus is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

Bill Twehway on the other hand, is designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in or has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

The U.S. noted that Twehway orchestrated the diversion of $1.5 million in vessel storage fee funds from the National Port Authority (NPA) into a private account.

Twehway secretly formed a private company to which, through his position at the NPA, he later unilaterally awarded a contract for loading and unloading cargo at the Port of Buchanan, the U.S. stated.

The contract was awarded to the company less than a month after its founding. Twehway and others used family members to obfuscate their own involvement in the company while still benefiting financially from the company.

All property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC, the U.S. said. 

In addition, it said, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.

OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the individuals and entities designated may themselves be exposed to sanctions or subject to enforcement action.

NewDawn

The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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