Finance, Development Planning Minister, Samuel D Tweah has sharply reacted to the United States Government’s sanction imposed on him and three other Liberian Government officials recently.
Reacting to the recent sanction against him and others, Minister Tweah said the verdict against them and their respective families is unbelievably unjust, unfair and a fundamental violation of their rights. “As a Minister of Finance and Development Planning, I have never abused of my position through soliciting, accepting and offering bribes to manipulate legislative processes and public funding, including legislative reporting and mining sector activities. I have never done so whether in dealings with the National Legislature or in dealings with any other branches or institutions of the Government of Liberia or with private sector actors,” Tweah noted.
The Liberian Finance Minister noted, “As a Minister, my job is to provide approved resources to the National Legislature upon request subject to the availability of cash. I have never influenced legislative processes whatever that implies. Specific reference to the mining sector confuses me but I believe this reference pertains to my involvement to developing a multi-user gateway through the third amendment of AccelorMittal’s current concession and through granting rail access to HPX, an American company looking to transport rail from Guinea through Liberia.”
“I say so because about a year ago in Washington D.C. I received hint that persons connected with the American company, High Power Explorations Inc. (HPX) were trying to get me on Treasury sanctions because I was allegedly or supposedly favoring AcelorMittal Limited (AML) over HPX and preventing HPX from accessing the rail to conduct its investment in Guinea through Liberia,” Minister Tweah averred.
He noted, “My informant knew this was unjust and unfair, knowing the role I was playing on the Inter-ministerial Concessions Committee and understanding the difficulties and complexities of the negotiation. I was also informed that persons closed to HPX were considering sanctions against me because the company had paid US$37 million to the Government of Liberia through the national budget since 2019 and was yet to have an agreement with the Government.”
According to Minister Tweah, legitimate monies received by the Government of Liberia for the development of Liberia through the national budget are never a bribe. He added that an agreement has been difficult to reach because of complexity surrounding a pre-existing agreement is no reason to threaten government officials with sanction.
“I am providing these explanations and contexts because these are chatters that have underpinned threats of sanction against me and my family from powerful individuals. It is important for the public to understand and know these things. We have not discussed them publicly as a government but now have an obligation to do so under the current circumstances,” he added.
Further reacting to the allegations, Minister Tweah noted, “I was advised that to avoid sanction, I should withdraw my support for ArcelorMittal’s third amendment until after the election. It was on this basis that I advised President Weah to turn over negotiations on the rail to the U.S. Government since too much propaganda and misinformation were threatening to destroy members of his government. The President obliged and the Americans for a brief moment tried to bring both HPX and A together to reach some understanding on the multi-user rail system. Meetings were held in London and Washington. Unfortunately, these meetings did not achieve anything, and the Americans withdrew and turned negotiations back to the Government of Liberia.”
Tweah noted, “The truth of the matter is that AccelorMittal has an agreement with the Government of Liberia signed by the Unity Party Government that gives Mittal the right to use the Nimba rail and to be an operator of this rail. In the Government’s vision to develop a multiuser rail system, we have tried to have Mittal relinquish operatorship of the rail to an Independent third-party rail operator for purposes of fairness and equity.”
According to Minister Samuel Tweah, Mittal has not been open to this position, and we have been at a deadlock for more than three years. Realizing the impossibility of having Mittal give up rail operatorship, and knowing the Government was not willing to proceed to international arbitration, the Government moved to a position of having Mittal become the User-Operator in exchange for other critical rights Mittal would have to give up under its current concession that would enable fair and equitable access to third parties such as HPX that would have enabled us reach a compromise.
He added, “Unfortunately, HPX does not seem open to such compromises and has insisted that Mittal abandons the rail operatorship. Mittal itself does not want to give up the rail operatorship. As a consequence, Samuel Tweah became the biggest victim in this power play between two billionaires, each of whom aims to undo and outmaneuver the other. This is fundamentally unfair to me and requires correction by the U.S. authorities.”
“As we leave Government, we have left copious transition notes to guide the new administration on these issues. The latest thinking is to find a way for HPX to share the port of Buchanan with AccelorMittal since it may take a long time for HPX or other third parties to develop separate berths at Buchanan. We wish the new administration luck in these negotiations and look forward to Liberia having a fair and equitable multi-user rail system,” Tweah among other things, concluded.
Pursuant to Section 7031(c) [of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2023] the United States designated Tweah, Chie, and Nuquay, for their involvement in significant corruption by abusing their public positions through soliciting, accepting, and offering bribes to manipulate legislative processes and public funding, including legislative reporting and mining sector activity. As part of this action, their immediate family members are also designated, including their spouses Delecia Berry Tweah, Abigail Chie, and Ruthtoria Brown Nuquay, and Tweah and Nuquay’s minor children.