Liberia’s football legend and leader of the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party George Weah said he is not involved in illegal drug and money laundering.
The online Liberian publication FrontPage Africa earlier this week wrote that Weah was at the house of a childhood friend and close aide – James Bestman – in the U.S. state of Maryland when federal agents raided the home and arrested Bestman for alleged drug and money laundering.
The report said Weah was handcuffed, questioned and later released.
But, Weah, who nearly defeated President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the 2005 election, told VOA he was never arrested and that the FrontPage Africa story is unsubstantiated.
“I assure you, you know me well. I will never get involved in any drugs and money laundering. I don’t understand why any journalist would want to write stories and would not substantiate or corroborate his claims against me. As much as I believe in the freedom of press, I think, at the end of the day, when they are bringing the news, I think it should be news for the people to have peace,” he said.
Weah said he has known and had a good relationship with Bestman for more than 20 years. But, he said he never witnessed a drug raid or money laundering involving U.S. federal officials.
“What happened there was I was on my way to Minnesota to the (CDC U.S. members’) convention, and I decided to pass to James (because) he should have been one of those who were trying to watch (attend) the convention. When I pulled into the driveway, Mr. James came down the stairs and I saw two officers that served him a warrant that he needed to come with them,” Weah said.
He said the officers then questioned him (Weah) and asked him for his identification, and after checking his ID they thanked him.
“And then, I asked the guy (officer). I said what happened? He said he didn’t know. All he knows is that it is a federal case and he has a warrant for James. And then, we laughed about it, and I told him that I must have come at the wrong time. There will be no way in this America, this law abiding country, that it will arrest somebody for drug business and let them go. Is there any dispensation for me to be caught in a drug raid and they will let me go like that?”
Weah denied allegations by FrontPage Africa that it had been threatened supposedly by Weah supporters.
“We’re talking about a journalist that is writing stories that he cannot substantiate. So, how can he write a story that they threatened him because everything he wrote out there is just a bunch of fallacy. So, to come up to say that CDC officials threatened him is very unfortunate because he just lied,” Weah said.
Weah described himself as a law abiding citizen and called on his supporters to desist from threatening any journalist, especially if the allegations of threats against FrontPage Africa were true.
“Anybody that knows me, family or friends or supporters, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do to threaten Rodney Sieh (publisher of FrontPage Africa) because he’s just another petty journalist who is writing stories that he cannot substantiate,” Weah said.
Weah said that, as Liberia recovers from years of civil war, journalists should disseminate information that would benefit the country and bring about stability.
He asked his supporters to continue to trust him because, as a former U.N. goodwill ambassador, his record is clean.
FrontPage Africa publisher Rodney Sieh told VOA from Monrovia that he made every attempt to get Weah’s side of the story. But, he said CDC Secretary-General Eugene Nagbe initially denied to FrontPage that Weah was present at Bestman’s house at the time of the drug raid.
Writing in its June 9th edition, FrontPage Africa also said Bestman was still being held in FBI custody in the state of Maryland as prosecutors considered what charges to bring against him.