Last week the U.S. government through its treasury department publicly sanctioned Liberia’s former warlord and current senator Prince Yormie Johnson for alleged corruption.
The sanctions against Mr. Johnson, announced in Liberia on Friday to commemorate International Human Rights Day, come under the Global Magnitsky Act, which authorises the U.S. government to sanction those it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets and ban them from entering the U.S.
Mr. Johnson was responsible for the slaying in 1990 of President Samuel Doe, who had been captured by his forces during the country’s 14-year civil war.
Mr. Johnson sipped beer as he watched his men torture and mutilate Doe who begged in vain for mercy in a widely circulated video.
Now a trusted political ally of former international soccer stars President George Weah, Mr. Johnson is accused in a U.S. embassy statement of large-scale corruption.
“As a senator, Mr. Johnson has been involved in pay-for-play funding with government Ministries and organisations for personal enrichment,” the statement said.
“As part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the government of Liberia, the involved government Ministries and organisations launder a portion of the funding for return to the involved participants.” The scheme involves millions of dollars, according to the embassy statement.
Mr. Johnson also receives an undeserved salary from the Liberian government as a salaried intelligence source yet he does not provide any form of intelligence reporting, alleged the U.S. statement.
He is being paid in order to maintain domestic stability, according to the statement.
“Johnson has also offered the sale of votes in multiple Liberian elections in exchange for money,” it said.
Mr. Johnson denounced the sanctions, telling The Associated Press that the U.S. statement of allegations against him “is vague” because it does not present “facts” that he had been involved in corruption.
He said he is waiting for a more detailed explanation and challenged the U.S. government to give details about which specific administrations in Liberia had paid him corrupt fees.
“What we want is the facts,” said Mr. Johnson.
“You can accuse people, but the evidence is what is important. Coming from Uncle Sam’s website – obviously the most powerful nation on earth whose footprint we follow democratically – so you don’t just destroy people’s name by accusing them without facts.”
Over the weekend at his regular Sunday worship service, the Nimba County Senator condemned the allegation, noting that the information released is ‘Incorrect’.