Prosecution ‘Looms’

-As ExxonMobil Investigation Intensifies With Weah Getting Tough

By Reuben Sei Waylaun

Liberia’s celebrated President, George Manneh Weah has sent ‘worry signal’ to those implicated in the latest Global Witness report on Liberia concerning ‘Oil Block-13’ in the country.

The Liberian leader who recently received the findings from the special presidential committee to authenticate the claims from the international watchdog said the laws of the land will be used to deal with those held accountable.

President Weah has meanwhile underscored that the findings from the five-member Special Presidential Review Committee set-up to probe into allegations contained in the Global Witness’ Report will be implemented to the latter.

“Anyone held accountable, such person will be dealt with according to the law,” the Liberian leader stressed.

Although the findings have not been disclosed, but the Global Witness investigation linked some present and former Liberian government officials to alleged acts of corruption in awarding the oil Block 13 US$120 million contract.

The Liberian chief executive has earlier warned his officials that he will not tolerate corruption and mismanagement in his government.

It can be recalled Block-13 was initially awarded by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) in 2005 to the Liberian-Anglo company Broadway Consolidated/Peppercoast (BCP). In 2007, the block was ratified by the Liberian legislature through alleged bribery. The international campaign group observed in its press statement recently.

Global Witness said it has seen evidence that shortly following the authorization of the 2013 Exxon deal senior Liberian officials were paid “bonuses”.

They include former NOCAL CEO Randolph McClain, former chairman of the National Investment Commission, Natty Davis, former Finance Minister Amara Konneh, former Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Patrick Sendolo and then chairman of NOCAL Board Robert Sirleaf among others.

Those officials named in the report have all denied that these payments were bribes, stating that they were authorized by NOCAL’s Board of Directors as bonuses for negotiating a good deal with Exxon.

“It’s appalling that an oil giant like Exxon would buy up an oil block they knew was tainted by corruption. This kind of morally dubious corporate behavior is particularly shocking in a country like Liberia where endemic corruption continues to rob people of opportunities,” Jonathan Gant, Senior Campaigner at Global Witness.

There is also alleged that Adolph Lawrence, who became a Representative in 2012, held a BCP ownership interest in 2011. It is alleged that Lawrence held this interest when Exxon bought 2013, he also would have broken the law and may have received part of the money Exxon paid BCP.

Exxon has not responded to Global Witness’ request for comment. COPL has, saying its due diligence showed that there were no legal problems with the deal, The company stated that Lawrence resigned from a job he held with BCP in 2011 and that any money he received was reported to the Liberian Government.

“Liberia’s attempts to stop corruption have failed – most notably the Sable Mining bribery debacle.  It is time for President George Weah to show that he is a reformer and task the Ministry of Justice and Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate immediately,” Gant said.

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