Madam Antonetta Hamandishe, EISA Country Representative (middle, joined by (l/r) Ms. EunA Lee, Engineer Hyoung Tae Lee, Prof. Jarteh, Amb. Beverly Goll-Yekeson, pose with CSO participants and students after the Peace Dialogue

BFF, CSO Partners Petition Boakai’s Government To Trace, Retrieve US $4.6 billion Stolen From Liberia … ‘Secretly Deposited’ In African, Western And Other Leading Global Banks

Monrovia, March 6, 2024: The Better Future Foundation, BFF, in collaboration with Partners for Democracy and Good Governance, PdG, has formally Petitioned the Government of Liberia, through President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, to pursue Accountability and Recovery of Liberia’s Stolen Wealth, amounting to US$4.6 Billion. 

BFF, in its Petition, also called for Dispensation of Social Justice, fight against unbridled and systemic corruption, Commitment to, and Indiscriminate Application of the Rule of Law nationwide.

Cross Session of CSO Representatives at the Petition Ceremony.

The Petition Statement, which was read on behalf of the collaborating CSOs by BFF President Augustine S. Arkoi, took place recently at a daylong Post-Election Peace and Reconciliation Dialogue organized by BFF and the Swedish Institute Alumni Network- Liberia, in collaborating with Partners for Democracy and Good Governance (PdG),  and other civil society and pro-democracy groups in the edifice of the New Hope Academy in Jacobs Town, Paynesville, outside Monrovia.

BFF, proponent of Liberia Democracy Sustainability Platform, PdG, and civil society partners of the Mano River Union, MRU, and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, while congratulating Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai for his successful election as President of the Republic of Liberia in the 14, November, 2023 Presidential Runoff elections and his subsequent inauguration on 22, January 2024, humbly referred the Government of Liberia, under the Presidency of President Boakai to some of the previous national initiatives aimed at the Recovery of Liberia’s Stolen Wealth and Assets.

BFF and PdG, in the Petition, named the constitution of what was previously named as ‘Assets Investigation, Restitution, and Recovery Team, AIRRET’, in 2019.

“Indeed, in 2019, the former administration rightly attempted to make good on that promise. To this effect, an Assets Investigation, Restitution and Recovery Team (AIRRET Team) was officially instituted with so-much publicity at the Ministry of Justice and in October 2019, the Team formally announced that Liberia’s stolen money and other resources, amounted to Four Point Six Billion U.S. Dollars (US$4.6 billion)”, the Petition pointed out.

Prominent CSOs and human rights organizations that endorsed the Social Justice and Assets Recovery Petition include, the Montserrado Civil Society Council-Liberia; Rural Human Rights Activists Program; National Teachers Association of Liberia, Christian Association of the Blind; Voices Of The Elders- Republic of Liberia; The Liberia Crisis Center for Abused Women and Children; Human Rights Protection Forum; Youth Beyond Barriers; Center for Peace and Community Development; Women Beyond Borders; Liberia Returning Association in West Africa; Foundation for International Dignity; Foundation for Research Education and Empowerment; Smile for The Disabled- Liberia; and The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, among others.

“Mr. President, you may recall that the now former Solicitor General of Liberia and ex-Chief Prosecutor, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, told the Liberian Nation, then, that the AIRRET Team needed at least Two Point One Million (US$2.1 million) to recover the US$4.6 Billion of Liberia’s stolen funds. The AIRRET Team subsequently visited the United States in this direction,” the CSO petitioners asserted.

However, BFF and its CSO partners told President Boakai that they are fully aware of a letter of resignation by the then Head of the AIRRET Team, Cllr. Arthur Johnson, which he officially submitted to the Government of Liberia, through the office of the former Solicitor General of Liberia and ex-Chief Prosecutor, citing Lack of Political Will to fight corruption in Liberia and therefore opted to avoid what he, at the time, called “risking my career and hard-earned good reputation.”

“Nevertheless, this recovery effort”, according to the AIRRET, was led by three global institutions including Grant Thornton LLP, United Kingdom, Adesteh Limited UK, and Duane Morris LLP, New York”, the Petition further indicated.

BFF and PdG also quoted the immediate past government of Liberia as disclosing at the time that with the support of these international institutions, i.e. Grant Thornton LLP, UK, and Adesteh Limited, UK, Liberia filed a civil action with the Civil Law Court, Temple of Justice, Monrovia, Liberia, against “The Albatross Limited” (TAL) on September 15, 2020, and that during the hearing, the Court subsequently did adjudge liable, “The Albatross Limited” for the sum of 6.4m British Pounds (US$8m), ‘representing proceeds of financial crimes, ranging from non-payments of statutory annual registration fees, including but not limited to corporate taxes and other royalties due the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) vis-à-vis the Government of Liberia, which was frozen by the National Crimes Agency (NCA) in Great Britain.

The AIRRET, at the time, also told the Liberian Nation that the legal action was filed against The Albatross Limited (TAL) because its Articles of Incorporation having been duly “revoked and dissolved in 2009, all powers conferred upon it by law became inoperative, save only those powers specifically provided for by law to effect an orderly winding up of the business affairs, among others.

The AIRRET further disclosed, then, that it argued that the proper winding up should have included a Declaration of All Assets and Liabilities in the name of the Company to the authorities of the Republic of Liberia, but that was never done, hence, the Republic of Liberia became The legitimate power and authority to take seize of, and was accordingly awarded the £6.4m British Pounds (US$8m) detained and subsequently confiscated by the National Crimes Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom which is owned by The Albatross Limited.

Moreover, Liberia, through its then Solicitor General, had argued that the only legally competent authority clothed with the statutory and constitutional responsibility to waive maritime liabilities and other royalties due the government of Liberia by any institution, as in the case of The Albatross Limited (TAL) is the Minister of Finance and being that there was no records to prove that the Minister had waived such liabilities during succeeding administrations, spanning over a period of 38 years, the money in question (US$8m) is a ‘proceeds of crimes committed against the Republic of Liberia’.

Liberia’s Prosecution Team, then, therefore, demanded the return of the said money to the Republic of Liberia as in keeping with the ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORIST FINANCING ACT, 2012, 4LCLR, Title 26, section 2.2(b); and the peace and dignity of the Republic of Liberia, and that the court should declare and did declare as “bona vacantia” money, the £6.4 million confiscated by the NCA as property of The Albatross Limited (TAL). 

AIRRET further told the Nation, then, that the 6.4 British Pounds (US$8m) confiscated by the NCA and which was awarded to the Government of Liberia by the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia as Proceeds of Crimes committed by The Albatross Limited(TAL) in an ex parte proceeding executed due to The Albatross Limited’s failure to interpose any objection despite the countless precepts of court served and returned served throughout publications, is now ready and is now on verge of being repatriated through the kind instrumentality of Grant Thornton LLP, UK, to the coffers of the government and people of Liberia for development purposes.

AIRRET, also informed the Nation, that the Liberian government should contact two individuals who were identified as Mr. Amaechi Nsofor of Grant Thornton LLP, UK, and Mr. Fidelis Omozuapo of Adeste Limited, UK, ‘on how to go about securing and repatriating these stolen funds.

AIRRET also indicated that it had their ‘contract details and was ready to provide them at any time,’ the Petition further indicated.

According to AIRRET, after a rough calculation of the US$4.6 billion believed to have been total amount of money stolen from the Republic of Liberia between 1950 and 2012, its 3-man delegation, on a mission visited the United States, and held ‘fruitful consultations with a New York based firm, identified as Duane Morris LLP and other financial litigators, who, after a careful review of the sources and locations of these stolen funds, had offered to be given the franchise to go after these stolen funds, and in return, could have offered the Republic of Liberia the sum of United States One Billion upfront for the entire US$4.6 billion dollars.

Pursuant to ‘these fruitful discussions’, according to AIRRET, Duane Morris LLP of New York, then, sent a special delegation to Monrovia, headed by ‘one of its astute and venerated counsels’, Mr. Mauro M. Wolfe, who would have acted under the agreement as Global Lead Counsel (GLC), with a contract ready to be signed between the Government of Liberia. However, AIRRET reported that said agreement was thwarted allegedly by former Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, who was also Attorney General of Liberia.

 

According to AIRRET, Duane Morris LLP is still eager to work with the Government of Liberia, ‘provided the requisite discussions are held for the mutual beneficial objectives of both parties.’

Furthermore, in his official resignation letter to former President George Manneh Weah, the former Solicitor General of Liberia said, he worked closely with the country’s international partners ‘to seek the unconditional repatriation of 4.6m British Pounds ‘stolen’ from the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) by The Albatross Limited (TAL), the petitioners recalled.

“Second, I am glad that during the days of AIRRET, I was privileged to have found a Liberian citizen in person of Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson, who was willing and ready to render selfless services to his country and to serve as Special Global Independent Counsel (SGIC), hired on the strength of his professional competence and legal perspicacity” Cllr. Cephus stated, then.

However, according to AIRRET, it was only able to recover the amount of US$485,000.00 (Four Hundred Eighty-Five Thousand United States Dollars) which was placed in Liberian Government’s Coffers at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).

‘Mr. President, Better Future Foundation (BFF), in collaboration with Partners for Democracy and Good Governance and (PdG) strongly believe that the importance of Tracing, Recovering and Repatriating Liberia’s stolen money and other assets over the years by some privileged Liberian ruling elites which were secretly placed and/or secured in some Western, African and other leading banks globally cannot be overemphasized. This is why we maintain that a holistic probe into the widespread acts of corruption and abuses that had characterized Liberia’s public governance, which resulted into decades of back-to- back civil war, during which an estimated 250,000 persons were killed, and more than a million others internally and externally were displaced should not be swept under the carpet.

BFF and Partners also believe that as many of the causative antecedents of the bloody civil war remain unaddressed and those who are detected to be responsible for such acts of lawlessness and violence are yet to be held accountable, the Nation’s peace, security, democracy and progress would remain threatened.

‘Your Excellency, there is no denying that the decade-long civil war which began in December, 1989, and ended in August, 2003, caused unspeakable destruction to precious human lives and disintegrated the country’s socio-economic foundation,’ as documented and reflected in the Final Report of the erstwhile Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

‘This is why BFF and Partners for Democracy and Good Governance, PdG, have chosen to officially petition the Government of Liberia, under your Excellency’s leadership to adopt a bi-partisan approach and policy that clearly subscribe to understanding and embracing the immense benefits of social justice, accountability and probity in national governance and to reject unfair insinuations in some quarters of our country that attempt to fight corruption, and ensure justice and accountability for victims of the civil war would amount to political witch-hunt which may be inimical to sustainable peace, national reconciliation and stability.

‘The TRC final Report reveals among others, how some Liberians and institutions have acquired illicit wealth and benefited from unbridled acts of corruption over the years at the detriment of the country and the vast majority of its population.

‘We, as CSOs, are also equally concerned that many persons who are suspected to have also acquired illicit wealth and allegedly committed diverse abuses now find themselves in positions of public trust, and are yet to come under the ambit of accountability and due process of law,’ the Petition stressed.

Moreover, BFF and Partners strongly believe that Human rights abuses, egregious crimes and other acts of violence and lawlessness undermine the values that form an essential foundation of any stable, secure, and functioning society or country, with the Republic of Liberia being of no exception.

BFF and its CSO partners also told president Boakai that such acts have the potential to cause devastating impacts on nations; weaken democratic institutions; desecrate the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons through cash violence, and political money laundering; and undermine both national and global economic markets, particularly through terrorist financing.

‘Mr. President, this is the primary reason why this Petition by BFF and PdG is in full support of, and serves as a Compliment towards Liberia’s Assets Recovery effort as was rightly initiated in 2019 by the Government of Liberia, then headed by former President George M. Weah.

‘In other words, this assets and wealth recovery endeavor is a cardinal part of BFF’s Liberia Democracy Sustainability Platform (DSP), which is dedicated to inspiring national consensus-building aimed at promoting human security; respect for, and adherence to the rule of law, advocacy for infrastructural development, as well as inclusive and accountable democratic governance in Liberia and the West African sub-region and beyond.’

In this connection, Better Future Foundation (BFF), in collaboration with its CSO network, Partners for Democracy and Good Governance (PdG), in said Petition, recommend the following for the Government of Liberia, under Your Excellency’s kind consideration and subsequent administrative actions.

  1. ‘That such said action and probe must take into consideration Liberia’s post-conflict era wherein scores of Liberian state officials, through acts of corruption including the siphoning of public funds from state treasury to personal accounts, awarding of natural resource contracts to criminal-minded investors via questionable concession agreements, and bribery, money laundering, among others.
  1. ‘The sudden (overnight) wealth acquired by a number of past and current public officials that characterized the immediate post-conflict Liberian regimes, are well documented in various Audit Reports of the General Auditing Commission of Liberia (GAC), findings of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), reports by the authoritative London based Moore Stephen Auditing Firm, Global Witness, and chains of other credible international government agencies like the United States Department of State, among others.
  1. ‘We present this Petition in line with Chapter IV of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC); Goal 16.4 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; and the Commitment Under the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for Financing for Development, a historic pledge endorsed by Heads of State and Government at the 28th African Union Summit, held on 15 July 2015, aiming to increase Political Will to achieve global and regional goals geared toward accelerating human development.
  1. ‘BFF, in collaboration with its CSO partners’ fundamental basis of presenting this petition also derived from the desire to further Liberia’s obligations enshrined in especially Articles 5, C), and Article 7) of the 1986 constitution of Liberia, underpinned by supportive statutes including: i) Section 36.07 of the Model Penal Code of Liberia, ii) Section 9.1 of the National Code of Conduct For All Public Officials And Employees Of The Government Of The Republic Of Liberia, all of which frown on corruption in the public service and mandate specific sanctions such as seizure and forfeiture to the State of any property acquired from abuse of office, amongst others.
  1. ‘That consistent with actualizing Liberia’s State’s obligation under Article 5, C), and Article 7) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, and supportive statutes, including Chapter IV of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC); Goal 16.4 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; your Administration should forge a bipartisan policy adoption to curb endemic and systemic corruption which over the years have been described as ‘Public Enemy # One’, and ‘Vampire’, and to fully ensure the dispensation of socio-economic justice for all. 
  1. ‘That a 100-Day ultimatum, with clemency be given all former and current public officials who are in possession of stolen state assets and funds and voluntarily turned them over to the Republic of Liberia; 
  1. ‘That the government should officially solicit the help of Liberians at home and abroad, and particularly the country’s bilateral partners to aid the assets recovery process by reporting cogent pieces of documentary evidence.

‘Mr. President, BFF and its civic society partners also want to use this occasion to humbly request your administration to further strengthen Liberia’s relationship with the International Community particularly the United States, South Korea, United Nations, and other global partners as our country strives for sustainable peace, development and progress in the best interest of all.

The petition program coincided with the honor and appreciation of BFF’s 116 elections observers for Liberia’s 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections which many local and global elections observers and stakeholders, including the European Union, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, and the United States Government described as free, fair, transparent and credible.

Presenting certificates of appreciation to the BFF elections Observers at the occasion, Madam Antonetta Lovejoy Hamandishe, the newly appointed Liberia Country Representative and Chief of Party of EISA, applauded the BFF elections observers who were deployed in 13 of Liberia’s 15 counties for their good work.

The EISA Country Representative who described the BFF/PdG elections observers as pushers of Democracy and Peace, encouraged the CSO Network to promote social reconciliation with focus on rebuilding a healthy and progressive Liberia.

The petition Ceremony was attended by an array of distinguished International Guests, and prodemocracy and human rights activists, including Mr. Adama Dempster, Secretary General of the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia; Amb. Beverly Goll Yekeson, Founder of The Liberia Crisis Center for Abused Women and Children; Atty. Alvin Yelloway, Distinguished Lawyer and Member of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), Executive Members of the Swedish Institute Alumni Network- Liberia; all of whom characterized the peace and reconciliation dialogue as rewarding, and responsive to the post-elections reconciliation and development of Liberia.

Ms. EunA Lee of Joong Bu University, and Engineer Hyoung Tae Lee both of South Korea who also presented certificates of appreciation on behalf of BFF/PdG to elections observers, hailed Liberians for the recently held peaceful Legislative and Presidential Elections; and challenged the youth in the country to serve as catalyst for sustainable peace and development in Liberia. 

BFF, through its PdG CSO Network, during the elections, mobilized, trained and deployed 177 elections observers in 13 of the 15 counties of Liberia, to observe the October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.

Again, we say congratulations Mr. President as we sincerely pray that your administration will leave no stone unturned in the promotion of genuine national reconciliation and healing, peace and development, just as you rightly assured to lead Liberia by positive leadership examples.

‘BFF will continue to encourage the Liberian Government to remain constructively engaged with the United Nations, European Union and its member countries, ECOWAS, African Union, and particularly the U.S. Government to not only aid Liberia weed out from its public service persons with proven records of corruption to particularly sustain the crucial campaign to recover and repatriate Liberia’s stolen resources over the century by some members of the country’s succeeding ruling elites and kleptocrats, thus severely subjecting the country to prolonged, biting, abject, unbridled poverty, inequality and other acts of bad governance since its independence in 1847.

The PdG network, represent a Consortium of more than 20 civil society human rights and pro-democracy organizations, and CBOs, inspired by their shared desire for strategic collaboration to promote peace, democracy and good governance in Liberia and the West African Subregion.

It can be recalled that on September 15, 2022, Better Future Foundation, in collaboration with Partners for Democracy and Good Governance (PdG), embarked on advocacy, and subsequently petitioned the United Nation; European Union; The Embassy of Sweden; and the Embassy of the United States of America, Monrovia to aid the recovery and repatriation of Liberia’s stolen Money and Assets; and dispensation of indiscriminate social justice for all.

Signed: _________________________

BFF Secretariat

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