Senior Liberian officials hit with U.S. financial sanctions

August 15, 2022 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. imposed sanctions Monday on three high-ranking Liberian government officials for engaging in alleged public corruption.

President George Weah’s chief of staff, the nation’s chief prosecutor and the current managing director of the national port authority have been designated by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for sanctions.

Liberia was battered by back-to-back civil wars that left 200,000 people dead and displaced half of the country’s population. Public corruption has been a persistent problem, which has prevented economic development in an otherwise resourceful country of more than 5 million people.

A Treasury Department statement reads that the U.S. is “committed to working with the people and Government of Liberia to elevate countering corruption as a priority, including by bolstering public sector anti-corruption capacity.”

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Sanctioned individuals are Nathaniel McGill, chief of staff to President Weah; Sayma Syrenius Cephus, Liberia’s chief prosecutor; and Bill Twehway, the current managing director of the National Port Authority.

The sanctions are authorized under an executive order signed during Donald Trump’s presidency, which implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of human rights abuse and corruption around the world.

“Through their corruption these officials have undermined democracy in Liberia for their own personal benefit,” said Brian E. Nelson, Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in a statement.

“Treasury’s designations today demonstrate that the United States remains committed to holding corrupt actors accountable and to the continued support of the Liberian people,” he said.

At the State Department, spokesman Ned Price said, “All three of these individuals have contributed to Liberia’s worsening corruption. These designations reflect our commitment to implementing the United States Strategy on Countering Corruption and to partnering with the Liberian government and people to help the country chart a better course forward.”

The sanctions come after the U.S. government sanctioned Liberia’s ex-warlord and current senator Prince Yormie Johnson for alleged corruption in December also under the Global Magnitsky Act.