Thursday, October 22, 2020

Liberian President seeks US help over death of auditors linked to £100m corruption scandal


The suspicious deaths of four finance officials in Liberia have raised fears of a murder plot linked to corruption scandals that include the disappearance of £100 million in new banknotes.

President Weah has appealed for help from the US over the sudden deaths of his administration’s senior auditor and three tax department employees, whose bodies were discovered within days of one another.

Speculation is rising that the deaths of the woman and three men could be connected to inquiries into sleaze, among them two missing shipments of Liberian dollars from the port in Monrovia, the capital, and the alleged misappropriation of a stimulus package worth £20 million.

Mr Weah, 54, the 1995 Fifa world footballer of the year, became president almost three years ago on a promise of resolving rampant corruption but has made little progress. Reports of missing millions, while 4.8 million citizens live in poverty, have provoked outrage and thousands have demonstrated in the streets.

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Ledgerhood Rennie, the information minister, said that the government wanted to be transparent about any US involvement in the investigations. “People will come out with conspiracy theories and speculation about things when they happen,” he said. “We want to be clear and open so that . . . these investigations will be accepted by the public.”

The most recent suspicious death was recorded in the early hours of Saturday when the body of Emmanuel Nyeswua, who was director-general of the internal audit agency, was found in the garden of his home. He is reported to have had injuries consistent with a fall from the top floor.

On October 5 the bodies of two other tax office employees, Albert Peters and Victoria Lama, were found slumped in a car parked on a city-centre street. The victims’ families have said that they had not been allowed to view their bodies, which has left them increasingly suspicious.

The previous day George Fanbutu, a tax official from the Liberian Revenue Authority, was killed when his car crashed into a wall in a suburb of the capital. According to witnesses he had been attacked as he drove by men on motorbikes wielding machetes.

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Mr Weah had set up a commission to look into various allegations. Last year nine ambassadors, including those of Britain, the US and France, raised concerns that his government was funnelling cash from foreign donors and demanded its immediate return. Liberia has close ties with the US owing to its creation in the 19th century as a home for former slaves.

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