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Entries in Liberia (11)

Thursday
Feb112016

In high-graft countries, the roads are a bloodbath

Over the years, we've looked at the correlation between corruption and personal security, air safety, environmental degradation, risks of war, national debt problems, and general personal misery. Now let's look at corruption and road safety.

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Monday
Dec082014

‘Merchant of Death’ co-conspirator jailed five years

Richard Ammer Chichakli, an associate of convicted international arms dealer Viktor Bout, was sentenced Thursday in Manhattan federal court to five years in prison.

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Wednesday
Oct152014

Liberia: Bribery for ‘clean’ death certificates is spreading Ebola

Families in Liberia are reportedly bribing retrieval teams to let them keep their loved ones' bodies and give them traditional burials.

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Tuesday
Aug192014

Ebola tragedy is also a story of graft

The current Ebola outbreak has now infected at least 1,975 people and claimed more than 1,000 lives, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare an International Public Health Emergency.

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Friday
Feb072014

Liberia whistleblowers in U.S. deny $1 million theft

Two Liberian-Americans accused of “economic sabotage” by the African country have denied the charges and claim they have proof of large-scale graft by top officials there.

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Thursday
Oct102013

‘Huge, unexplained wealth’ held by Liberian officials

Some top officials in Liberia are refusing to cooperate with the country's Anti-Corruption Commission to verify their assets.

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Wednesday
Sep122012

Kleptocracy On Camera: The Ambassador

The new film, 'The Ambassador,' recommended on the FCPA Blog and praised by 80% of the top film critics, is a gripping documentary about a kleptocracy and con artists.

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Wednesday
Jun272012

Air Disasters And Corruption

Is there a link between air safety and corruption? We take a look.

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Tuesday
Jun092009

Liberia's Graft-Busting Leader

We've never heard of an African head of state asking the U.S. to deny visas to individuals suspected of corruption. Until now, that is. It happened on Friday when Liberia's president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (left), "pleaded with the Government of the United States of America not to give U.S. visas or provide safe havens for Liberians who commit fraud and other acts of corruption in Liberia." Her request came during the groundbreaking for the new U.S. embassy in Monrovia.

There's a report from AllAfrica.com here and another on the president's own snazzy website here. For the record, the U.S. State Department is authorized to deny visas to foreign kleptocrats and their families through Presidential Proclamation 7750. See our post Proclamation 7750 Unwrapped.

President Johnson Sirleaf -- or "Ellen," as the African headline writers like to call her -- probably angered a lot of corrupt officials in Liberia and across the African continent with her remarks. She does that a lot. Which is why she went to jail once and was forced into exile several times. But as a champion of the rule of law and an anti-corruption crusader, she's never wavered.

Now 71, the one-time Citibanker became Liberia's minister of finance in 1979. After a military coup in 1980, she served as president of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment and was an initial member of the World Bank's Council of African Advisors.

In 1985, her bio says, she ran for the Liberian senate. But speaking out against the Samuel Doe regime resulted first in house arrest and eventually in a ten-year jail sentence. After a few months in prison she managed to flee to the U.S. She was then appointed to the U.N. as an Assistant Secretary General. In 1997, she returned to Liberia to run for president, finishing second in a field of thirteen.

In 2003, after Charles Taylor was sent into exile, the transitional government appointed Johnson Sirleaf to chair the country's anti-corruption agency. Then in 2005, she won the presidency. Since her inaguration in January 2006, she's been working to restore the rule of law and rebuild confidence at home and abroad. America's decision to build a new embassy there is one sign she's succeeding.

Johnson Sirleaf holds a masters in public administration from Harvard's Kennedy School. Two years ago in Washington, after she spoke to a joint session of Congress, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom "in recognition for her tireless efforts to make Liberia a post-conflict success story."

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From Frederic Bourke's Trial. The Litigation Daily's Andrew Longstreth dropped by the federal courthouse in Manhattan this week. His report is here. He heard some cross-examination on Monday of the government's key witness, Thomas Farrell, who worked for Viktor Kozeny in Azerbaijan. Farrell had testified on direct that he and Bourke talked about Kozeny's plan to bribe Azeri officials. Longstreth said:

Farrell, who sports a handlebar mustache and goatee, has some major credibility issues. For one, in 2003 he pled guilty to one count of violating the FCPA and to another count of conspiring to violate the FCPA. . . . But Farrell stood up to the pressure [of cross examination] pretty well. He seemed to connect with the jury, often looking directly at jurors. "Sir, I went into the discussions with the government knowing that I had to tell the truth about what happened," Farrell said at one point. "I didn't think I had to point fingers."
Farrell is facing a maximum of ten years in prison but said he's hoping for probation. "I have absolutely no control of that nor does the government," he testified.

Read all our posts about U.S. v. Kozeny and the prosecution of Frederic Bourke here.
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Tuesday
Feb102009

I'd Want My Conscience

It may seem to Liberians as though everyone in their civil service is corrupt, but it's not true. There's at least one honest man. He's Richard Karyea, a former customs officer at the Roberts International Airport. Two years ago he refused a bribe from a drug smuggler worth more than 1,300 times his $15 monthly salary.

He was offered a $20,000 bribe by the owner of a DVD after finding cocaine hidden inside. Instead of looking the other way, he turned the man over to the police. For his trouble, Karyea was fired by the customs department; the drug smuggler was allowed to board another plane that day for Nigeria.

But there's a happy ending. In January, Liberia's president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has vowed to fight public corruption, pinned a medal on Karyea. At a ceremony in Monrovia (pictured above), she named him the Civil Servant of the Year. He won a $1,000 cash award and landed a new job -- Deputy Chief Examiner at the Ministry of Finance. And he's become a national hero. Comments to the Liberia Post said some people might consider him stupid for turning down the huge bribe, but he actually deserves to be a minister in the government. "You are a mentor for all [civil servants] to learn from. Bravo."

Liberians needed some good news. Last year, their country ranked 138th on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, tied with Paraguay and Tonga. That sounds awful, but its better than 2007, when the country ranked 150th on the CPI, tied with Azerbaijan, Belarus, the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan and Zimbabwe. That's a tough neighborhood no one would be sorry to leave behind.

At Karyea's award ceremony, President Sirleaf said he demonstrated "honesty and integrity in support of the Government’s determination to fight corruption in all sectors." For his part, the new hero told the BBC, "It wasn't difficult to turn down the money. If it took me 50 years to earn that money, I'd want my conscience. I will always want my conscience."

Listen to the podcast here.
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