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U.S. sanctions 3 Liberian government officials over corruption

The Treasury under Secretary Janet Yellen sanctioned three Liberian government officials on Monday for using their positions for personal financial gain. File Photo by Graeme Jennings/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/1aeb844dd0f8571ee3e8b28e7d0fa8a3/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
The Treasury under Secretary Janet Yellen sanctioned three Liberian government officials on Monday for using their positions for personal financial gain. File Photo by Graeme Jennings/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has sanctioned three Liberian government officials on accusations of committing corruption for personal gain.

The U.S. Treasury on Monday said the sanctions target Nathaniel McGill, chief of staff to President George Weah; Sayma Syrenius Cephus, the solicitor general and chief prosecutor of Liberia, and Bill Twehway, the managing director of the National Port Authority.

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"Through their corruption these officials have undermined democracy in Liberia for their own personal benefit," Brian Nelson, under secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial intelligence, said 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."

All three were hit with asset freezes on accusations of committing corruption in a country where such acts have long undermined its democracy and economy. The sanctions, the Treasury said, was a reaffirmation of the United States to hold corrupt actors accountable, regardless of their position or political position.

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McGill was designated on a slew accusations that he has used his position to enrich himself, including through steering multimillion dollar government contracts to companies he has an ownership stake in.

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U.S. officials said he has bribed business owners and accepted bribes from potential investors as well as accepted bribes from government office seekers and misappropriated government assets.

"He has used government funds allocated to other Liberian government institutions to run his own projects, made off-the-books payments in cash to senior government leaders and organized warlords to threaten political rivals," the Treasury said.

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"McGill has received an unjustified stipend from various Liberian government institutions and used his position to prevent his misappropriation from being discovered."

As the current solicitor general and chief prosecutor of Liberia, Cephus has been accused of developing close relationships with suspects of criminal investigations from whom he has received bribes in exchange for having their cases dropped.

The Treasury said he has worked with money launders for personal financial gain to drop investigations into their work and to shield them from prosecution.

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According to the U.S. officials, Cephus has also tried to intimidate other prosecutors in an attempt to have them drop their investigations and has also blocked corruptions cases involving members of government.

Twehway has been accused of diverting some $1.5 million in vessel storage fee funds from the National Port Authority, which he oversees, to a private account he controls.

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The plan involved Twehway forming a private company that was awarded a National Port Authority contract for loading and unloading cargo.

"All three of these individuals have contributed to Liberia's worsening corruption," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. "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."

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