The Liberian government is denying allegations that some
current and former officials in President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's government
have been receiving bribes from an American who heads the Liberian
International Ship Corporate Registry (LISCR) in order to get a renewal of the
contract without competitive bidding.
A slew of emails have sufficed on the
Internet alleging that former minister of public works, Willis Knuckles and
current minister of state for presidential affairs Estrada Bernard, who is
reportedly married to President Sirleaf's sister received bribes from Yoram
Cohen to have the ship registry contract renewed.
If true, the individuals
involved would have violated both U.S. and Liberian laws.
Liberia's Minister of Information Lawrence Bropleh told VOA the government of President Sirleaf is a law-abiding government.
government's intention is to follow the rules and to follow the law. This
government said emphatically that it has no knowledge of what has been
purported to have been exchanges in emails between several persons alleging
that certain government officials of Liberia had been paid money in connection
with the current LISCR negotiations. The government said emphatically that it
is not a part of this and in fact is ordering some serious investigations
surrounding this," he said.
the allegations are true, they would have violated the US Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act, which makes it unlawful for a U.S. person and certain foreign
issuers of securities to make a payment to a foreign official for the purpose
of obtaining or retaining business.
said the Liberian government would seek the cooperation of the US government in
addition to the Liberian government's own investigation, to fully probe the
the government has done and intends to do is to request the provider of the
email service and all the required information surrounding the emails,
especially what we called the criminal nature of the allegations that are
contained therein and also, in concert with the government of the United States
seek help in trying to ascertain the originality of these emails because the
individual involved also is a United States citizen.
said the Liberian government intends to also name an independent special
Prosecutor to maintain the integrity and independence of the
on the recommendation of our minister of justice for maintaining the integrity
and independence of the investigation, the government has determined that
further any probe being carried out by the ministry of justice, it would
request the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia to designate an honorable,
and a highly respectable counselor of the Liberian National Bar Association to
act as an Independent Special Prosecutor to investigate the legal component of
the allegations," he said.
a two-paged press release, the Ministry of Justice said that in addition to
other concerns, the allegation impugns the integrity of the Sirleaf government
and distracts from the governments current committed drives against corruption
Bropleh said there is no evidence that President Sirleaf or those closed to her
have been bribed.
I can say to you, as a government spokesperson but additionally as someone who
understands the modus operandi of this government and the vision and integrity
of this president, is that there is no iota of truth to declare that the
president or those closed to the president have been bribed in the negotiations
of the LISCR contract," Bropleh said.
said the investigation would also look into whether emails could have been
doctored. But Bropleh said the government is not saying the doctoring was done
by the Liberian journalist who published the exchanges on the Internet.
me say very emphatically that the government is not saying that the journalist
who first put this on the Website or announced this is the party responsible
for the emails. What the government is saying is that if it is found that there
are people who have doctored this in violation of the law, then the fullest penalty
must be applied," he said.
allegations of Liberian government officials receiving bribes come at a time
when the ordinary Liberian is barely surviving in the face of rising food and
said President Sirleaf would not rest in contempt until every Liberian has a
is the president who has hastened the pay of the civil servants from 800
Liberian dollars to 70 US dollars in less than two years. This president's
desire is to reduce poverty and improve the wellbeing of the Liberian people,"
a statement, the Liberian justice ministry said the Liberian government was
"suspended any further negotiations on the LISCR Agreement pending the
completion of the investigations so that the agreement is in no way perceived
as being tainted."