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‘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.

This weekend, the commission accused 22 senior government officials, including Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and Police Director Chris Massaquoi, were named as “deliberately” refusing to cooperate with its assets verification team.

Anti-Corruption Commission Chairperson Frances Johnson-Morris said the huge amounts of “unexplained wealth and material omission” raise red flags with the commission.

The commission said several officials with monthly salaries and allowances under US$3,000 a month have bank deposits of several hundred thousand dollars, spread among multiple banks. Others have large real estate holdings.

Liberia’s officials are supposed to declare all assets. Those suspected of failing to disclose assets are invited to appear before the Anti-Corruption Commission to explain.

The commission has sent a report to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with the names of the officials who have not cooperated with the verification process.

“Normally, we forward [a] copy of the report to the president because she is the appointing power. We inform her about the refusal of these people, and, if she wants to take any action, then it is within her purview to do that. We are saying that the assets declared, some of it cannot be explained,” the commission chair said.

President Sirleaf has kept up a steady fight against corruption since she took office in 2006.

In 2009, she asked the U.S. government to deny visas or provide safe havens for Liberians suspected of graft.

Liberia was colonized by freed American slaves beginning around 1820. The Republic of Liberia was established 1847 with a government modeled on the United States. English is the official language of the 4 million citizens.

— With reporting from

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