Family sources have confirmed to the international and Liberian media of the arrest of Mr. Jucontee Tom Woewiyou, one of the founding figures of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia was escorted off his connecting SN Brussels flight out of Monrovia by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, shortly after it landed at the Newark International Airport in New Jersey.
He has been charged with perjury, fraudulently attempting to obtain US citizenship, fraud in immigration documents and false statements. He faces as long as 110 years in prison plus a $4 million fine if he’s convicted, according to the Associated Press.
Woewiyou, 68, who later broke away from Taylor over dissenting ideologies about the direction of the war, established his own movement, the NPFL-CRC (National Patriotic Front of Liberia, Central Revolutionary Council) along with Samuel Dokie, has reportedly been in the custody of the FBI since he was picked up.
Mr. Woewiyu later made multiple accusations of war crimes against Taylor, claiming that Taylor not only murdered his rival Jackson Doe, but also drank the blood of Samuel Doe. A family source told FPA that Mr. Woewiyu was escorted off his flight by members of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation as soon as the flight touched down on Monday afternoon. His family is yet to be informed on what charges he was arrested, or why he was even arrested at all.
Said the family source: “His wife, Betty had reportedly gone to the airport to pick him up, but grew concerned when he did not come out of the terminal along with the other returning passengers. Up to now, the family has not been informed. He was arrested without a warrant”
Woewiyu has reportedly had permanent legal resident status in the U.S. since 1972 and applied for citizenship in 2006. Prosecutors said he lied under oath to immigration officers about his history in Liberia but did not give details.
Woewiyu at a hearing today was assigned a federal public defender to represent him on the criminal charge. He is scheduled to be arraigned May 16. Raymond Basso, a Philadelphia attorney who represented him in the citizenship proceedings, appeared with him today. Basso said in an interview later that U.S. officials were aware of Woewiyu’s role in Taylor’s government when he applied for naturalization, the Associated Press is reporting.
Mr. Woewiyu who served as Defense Minister in Charles Taylor NPRAG (National Patriotic & Reconstruction Assembly Government), has recently been garnering support for his bid to contest for a Senatorial Seat for Grand Bassa county in this year's midterm elections. He was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of the Forestry Development Authority by President Sirleaf.
Woewiyu is one of very few former officials of the Taylor government who escaped the U.N travel ban and assets freeze and has spent most of his time in the United States of America, but recently returned home and has been a vocal voice against the manner in which Oil Block 13, located close to Grand Bassa County, is being handled by the Sirleaf-led government.
Mr. Woewiyu has intimated his desire to contest for a senatorial seat as a means of making sure that the people of Grand Bassa county are "not cheated of their oil wealth." Family sources tell FrontPageAfrica that Woewiyou was scheduled to hold meetings with Liberians in America for support in his senatorial bid, and had only just flew out of Liberia for the first time in over six months.
Mr. Woewiyu was reportedly separated from other passengers and escorted out of the flight by officers of the FBI as soon as the plane landed in Newark. According to the family, they are "deeply worried and disturbed that their father, brother, uncle and grandfather has been arrested without the slightest clue as to what his charges are."
Our source indicated that the family is presently "in close consultation as they wait to hear from the FBI and the government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Woewiyu has had a stormy relationship with President Sirleaf for sometime, but the pair appeared to have mended fences with his recent appointment to the FDA board.
In 2006, Sirleaf filed a lawsuit against Woewiyou in which the President stated that she felt injured by a statement allegedly published by Woewiyou regarding Sirleaf purported role I the Liberian civil war.
A source told FrontPageAfrica Monday that Woewiyou’s arrest could be tied to reports that he may have told some of his campaign aides that he is contemplating getting financial assistance from Burkina Faso for his Senatorial bid.
During the trial of former President Taylor, for war crimes in Sierra Leone, Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian told the judges that leaders such as Muammar Gaddafi and Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso had also supported the RUF, but it remained “a proxy army under one person, Charles Taylor.”
“But, Gaddafi, Compaoré: “helped build that web [of the crimes in Sierra Leone] and they helped maintain that web through Charles Taylor. The international community did not go to Gaddafi, did not go to Blaise Compaoré; they went to Charles Taylor, because he’s the one who had control over the leaders of these groups that were perpetuating such horrific crimes,” the Prosecutor said.
According to Koumjian, “the involvement of Muammar Gaddafi and Blaise Compaoré has been proven… certainly there is evidence that these individuals or the governments that they headed aided the RUF.”
However, he added that: “The RUF didn’t fight for Blaise Compaoré. It didn’t fight, as far as we know, hopefully not now, for Muammar Gaddafi” even though, as Koumjian said, “the arms and ammunition came from either Burkina Faso or Libya.”
Also, he mentioned the fact that the defense cited the UN panel report, in relation to General Diendéré from Burkina Faso, “who signed the end user certificate for the shipment of arms to Burkina Faso in February 1999.”
The FBI, according to the source may have been tracking Woewiyou’s movement and may have some concerns about his recent movements. Information Minster Lewis Brown, when contacted Tuesday said the government was not yet aware that Mr. Woewiyu was picked up, but would inquire and get back later.