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U.S. sanctions PYJ for corruption

The Government of the United States has slammed “Economic Sanction” on Liberian Senator Prince Yormie Johnson (PYJ), for corruption in what appears to be ongoing efforts to enclose the notorious warlord for eventual war crimes charges. 

The U.S. Treasury under its Global Magnitsky Act, took the decision here Thursday, December 9, 2021, in observance of International Anti-Corruption Day, officially celebrated globally. The day was also celebrated in Monrovia by the Government of Liberia.

A release issued Thursday by the United States Embassy near Monrovia details that as a Senator, PYJ has been involved in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment.

It says as part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the Government of Liberia (GOL), the involved government ministries and organizations launder a portion of the funding for the return to the involved participants.

“The pay-for-play funding scheme involves millions of U.S. dollars. Johnson has also offered the sale of votes in multiple Liberian elections in exchange for money. Johnson is designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being a foreign person who is a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an 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”, says the release.

Senator Johnson is a notorious warlord and leader of the defunct rebels Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) that captured and killed former President Samuel Kanyon Doe at the Freeport of Monrovia on September 10, 1990 during the Liberian Civil War.

 He is current Senator for Nimba County and former Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security, Defense, Intelligence, and Veteran Affairs, a post the United States Government asked him to vacate earlier this year.

Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Report documents Johnson as having committed atrocities during the country’s first civil war.

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Meanwhile, the release says on International Anti-Corruption Day, the U.S. Mission in Liberia stands in solidarity with all those committed to confronting and ending widespread corruption, including those within the Government of Liberia who stands up against corruption, committed Liberian citizens, and organizations seeking to challenge the impunity of corrupt officials, and international organizations supporting anti-corruption efforts, adding that Thursday’s sanctioning of Senator Prince Yormie Johnson is one small part of that effort.

 Same time the United States Treasury Department also notes that International Anti-Corruption Day has been observed annually on December 9 since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) on October 31, 2003, to raise public awareness for anti-corruption initiatives.  It says there are currently 187 States party to the UNCAC.

The release says besides sending a message against corrupt behavior, the Treasury uses its tools to increase transparency, accountability, and the rule of law, and that with these designations, encourages all governments to implement anti-corruption reforms to address vulnerabilities.

Yesterday, December 9, 2021, also marked the official start of the Summit for Democracy, which highlights corruption as one of the three areas most critical for democracies to address. The U.S. Embassy here quotes President Joseph R. Biden, as saying in his June 2021 action establishing the fight against corruption as a core national security interest, that ‘Corruption corrodes public trust; hobbles effective governance; distorts markets and equitable access to services; undercuts development efforts; contributes to national fragility, extremism, and migration; and provides authoritarian leaders a means to undermine democracies worldwide. When leaders steal from their nations’ citizens or oligarchs flout the rule of law, economic growth slows, inequality widens, and trust in government plummets.’

The release continues that the U.S. Mission in Liberia has long reported on the pervasiveness of corruption within the Government of Liberia, including in the annual Human Rights Report, noting that organizations such as Transparency International also score Liberia very poorly in terms of corruption and that more than that, Liberian Government officials and citizens themselves regularly report on corrupt government activities that reach across all sectors of governance and society.

“No government is free from corruption, but no government can improve its democracy without simultaneously attacking corruption, and that effort must start at the very top, both in word and indeed. On this International Anti-Corruption Day, we call on all three branches of the Government of Liberia to acknowledge that public officials should not receive financial benefit from their positions other than their salary and should take all necessary measures to stand up to the corruption that continues to erode the trust between the government and its people”, the U.S. Treasury emphasizes. 

The Treasury Department also froze the assets of Grand Cape Mount Senator Cllr. Varney Sherman, for corruption and placed a travel ban on him. Senator Sherman was also indicted for bribing judges in court for favorable justice. 

On May 19, the United States government through its embassy in Monrovia strongly condemned the election of Senator Johnson as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defense and Intelligence.

“Senator Johnson’s gross human rights violations during Liberia’s civil wars are well-documented; his continued efforts to protect himself from accountability, enrich his own coffers and sow division are also well known,” a statement issued in Monrovia on May 19, 2021, by the U.S. Embassy here read.

The United States noted that the Liberian Senate would see fit to elevate the former rebel leader to a leadership role – particularly in the area in which he has done Liberia the most harm — creates doubts as to the seriousness of the Senate as a steward of Liberia’s defense and security.

Johnson subsequently resigned from the defense committed but noted in a communication addressed to Senate President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie and Plenary dated June 05, that his resignation followed a series of consultations with chiefs, elders, youth groups, and permanent individuals.

According to him, high-profile individuals convinced him to step aside and focus on his own reelection bid and that of President George Manneh Weah, ahead of 2023.

“I wish to profoundly thank you, distinguished colleagues; from the bottom of my heart for your tremendous support over the years; I have had the opportunity to serve the great people of Nimba County. You have elected me on many occasions to represent this august body at the ECOWAS parliament where I was privileged to serve the post of deputy speaker at the regional parliament and in this Senate as chairman on National Security, Intelligence, Security, and Veteran Affairs on white ballots,” the Senator’s communication noted.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/nimba-politics-pyj-a-broken-stick/

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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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