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The Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led Government appears to be leaving no stone unturned in its remaining months in office. The government has begun a vigorous campaign in its attempts to respond to reports that seem to dent its image or where necessary provide more clarity.

The latest of such is an article which describes Liberia as “Africa’s Panama”, with particular reference to the country’s Maritime’s program. It is written by a freelancer associated with a London-based NGO.The article has come amidst reports from Panama which has linked several world leaders and business tycoons to illicit financial transactions in that part of the world.

The said article appears to paint Liberia as the tilted describes-Africa’s Panama, where illicit financing also takes place through the country’s Maritime Program. “His publication is trying its best to publish an issue which is a non-story because the steps and processes required to being fully complaint are far advanced and concluding,” the Liberian Government said in a response to the article.

The Liberia Maritime Flagship Program was established in 1948 as an entity registered in the United States of America with activities that involve the registration of ships and the registration of corporations that run the Shipping Registry.

“In fact, Liberia is noted to have one of the best records under the shipping Registry. Over the past years, the Government of Liberia has been evaluating this program and has taken measures to improve upon the transparency and management of the program to meet all of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) requirements,” the release continued.

Excerpts of the government’s response Liberia currently meets the requirements of the OECD and is in fact a “white-listed” jurisdiction. The final step required for concluding all of the requirements is the passage of a legislation which is currently before the National Legislature and expected to be passed by next week. This will enable the Country to continue meeting the requirements of the OECD with respect to corporate transparency requirements. The government notes and is aware that OECD deadline for the ratification of such legislation is the end of next week, a deadline the government is committed to meeting. The government is also aware that that falling short of meeting such deadline in time does not suggest an act of criminality by Liberia except for obtaining a “non-compliant” status by OECD for at least 1 year.

It is therefore disingenuous for a person to attempt maligning the reputation of the Liberian Presidency and the image of the Country as a substantive complaint regarding the ROL simply on account of delays in the passage of a piece of legislation. The Country remains committed to cooperating with the OECD, which has given Liberia reasonable extensions on this legislation during and after the Ebola crisis.

The claims made for secrecy regarding the registry are just attempts to sensationalize the Story. In short, Liberia is not a “financial center” and therefore cannot be a “tax haven.” The below reflect progress made to date: Liberia signed nearly 30 “tax information exchange agreements” (TIEAs), exceeding a key transparency requirement of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

1. The Registry also fully cooperates with USA OFAC regulations, particularly with its HQ being near Washington DC. 2. Ironically, the “Financial Secrecy Index” that is cited in the article ranks Liberia as a far less

“secret jurisdiction” than many major OECD countries (including USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany, etc.). Passing the legislation for OECD should further improve this perception.

3. The corporate registry is modeled off Delaware laws. Also, unlike many jurisdictions, the Liberian Corporate Registry only incorporates through direct solicitation by Professional intermediaries. (eg. law firms, accountancy firms, major shipping companies). Individuals cannot directly come to the Registry to incorporate, therefore Liberian corporations must satisfy the “know your client” due diligence of these respected institutions to be qualified to incorporate.

4. The affairs of the Corporate and Maritime Registries are public. The President traditionally reports on the activities of the Registries in her annual state of the Union. Moreover, the LISCR Agency agreements have been passed after extensive hearings by the legislators and were always made public.

5. LISCR maintains highest standard of scrutiny and universally praised by international bodies for its management and cooperation. It is also annually financially audited by well-regarded global accounting firm. For example: It is also among the very few elite ship registries that has top-marks for quality/safety across every major port authority/Coast Guard world-wide (e.g. USA Coast Guard, Japan, France, etc.). It is regularly nominated for awards for its safety and innovation by major shipping publications and trade associations. LiberiaL/LISCR have a major full-time role at UN agency for Maritime (IMO) in constructing/enforcing global regulations for maritime safety/security and labour protections for seafarers.

-Written by Othello B. Garblah

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