Big Trio Resignations -McGill, Cephus, Twehway Quit Amid Controversial Sanctions

MONROVIA – What seemed to a shocking tornado piercing through the George Manneh Weah administration, the United States Treasury Department dashed a barrage corruption and public abuse allegations against three prominent officials – the President’s Chief of Office Staff, Nathaniel F. McGill; the Solicitor General of the Republic, Sayma Syrenius Cephus, and National Port Authority Managing Director Bill Twehway. Despite the uproarious controversy engendered by the US Treasury report, which was accompanied with instant sanctions against the three officials, President Weah instantaneously suspended them, describing the allegations against them as grave and threatening investigation. The former top public servants vehemently detested and rubbished the allegations against them and demanded evidence. However, as all eyes and ears were standing up to see and hear what the Americans would say or do following the top officials’ demand for evidence, all three characteristically tendered their resignations with immediate effective. The Analyst reports.

The Executive Mansion has announced that three officials of the George Weah administration, who were suspended by the President for having been accused by the United States Department of Treasury of corruption and abuse of public office have resigned.

The resignation letters of former Minister of State for President Affairs Nathaniel F. McGill, Solicitor General Sayma Syrenius Cephus and National Port Authority Managing Director Bill Twehway, followed in rapid succession Monday, September 12, 2022.

In their letters of resignations, the three former officials of Government thanked Dr. Weah for the opportunity to serve their Government and Country.

Sources close to Mr. McGill have it that he tendered in his resignation to afford him the time and opportunity to exonerate himself through legal process or any other legitimate means necessary.

The Allegations

On August 15, 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) shocked Liberia when it designated Liberian government officials–Nathaniel McGill, Sayma Syrenius Cephus, and Bill Twehway for what it considered their involvement in ongoing public corruption in Liberia, “pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world”.

Mr. Nathaniel McGill, former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Chief of Staff to President George Weah, is accused by the US Treasury Department   bribing “business owners, received bribes from potential investors, and accepted kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest.

“McGill has manipulated public procurement processes in order to award multi-million dollar contracts to companies in which he has ownership, including by abusing emergency procurement processes to rig contract bids. McGill is credibly accused of involvement in a wide range of other corrupt schemes including soliciting bribes from government office seekers and misappropriating government assets for his personal gain. 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. McGill has received an unjustified stipend from various Liberian government institutions and used his position to prevent his misappropriation from being discovered. McGill regularly distributes thousands of dollars in undocumented cash to other government officials for government and non-government activities.”

Mr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus (Cephus), former Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutor of Liberia, according to the Treasury Department “has developed close relationships with suspects of criminal investigations and has received bribes from individuals in exchange for having their cases dropped. Cephus has worked behind the scenes to establish arrangements with subjects of money laundering investigations to cease investigations in order to personally benefit financially. He shields money launderers and helps clear them through the court system and has intimidated other prosecutors in an attempt to quash investigations.

“Cephus has also utilized his position to hinder investigations and block the prosecution of corruption cases involving members of the government. Cephus has been accused of tampering with and purposefully withholding evidence in cases involving members of opposition political parties to ensure conviction. Cephus is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.”

Mr. Bill Twehway (Twehway), former Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA). Twehway orchestrated the diversion of $1.5 million in vessel storage fee funds from the NPA into a private account. Twehway secretly formed a private company to which, through his position at the NPA, he later unilaterally awarded a contract for loading and unloading cargo at the Port of Buchanan. The contract was awarded to the company less than a month after its founding. Twehway and others used family members to obfuscate their own involvement in the company while still benefitting financially from the company.

Twehway is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

According to the Treasury Department all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the individuals and entities designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions or subject to an enforcement action. Furthermore, unless an exception applies, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for any of the individuals or entities designated today could be subject to U.S. sanctions.

Forceful Reaction and Denials

The accused have not been taking the allegations and sanctions against them lying down. In a ferocious way, they have each barked at the Treasury Department, expressing shock and dismay, and demanding evidence.

In a letter to the President Weah August 18, 2022, Mr. McGill categorically rejected and refuted all the allegations against them and asked the President to request evidence for the US Treasury Department.

He said the claims by the Treasury Department were baseless, and stressed that the said allegations run contrary against his strong stand against corruption as epitomized under the government of President George Manneh Weah.

“To what end, and for what purpose, and in whose interest? One who bribes business owners must have an objective to achieve something in his own interest, but in this case, no interest is defined, and no reason is provided”, he said while debunking the allegation that he bribed business owners”.

On receiving bribes from potential investors he rejected the claims, asserting, “What are the names of the investors? And who are the investors? I have at no time ever received bribes from any investors.”

He vehemently denied ever receiving kickbacks from steering contracts, saying, “I do not preside over contract negotiations, nor do I sign contracts, and so where will the kickbacks come from?”

He maintained that those who may have provided wrong information to the members of the Treasury Department investigators who were seeking to gather accurate and genuine allegationsof corruption, abuse, waste and mismanagement of public funds in the fight against corruption unfortunately provided the wrong and false information. He told the President that for full disclosure his only involvement with contract discussions is the current ongoing impasse between and amongst AML, HPX and the SOLWAY issue.

Responding to the allegation that he “Manipulated public procurement processes in order to award multi-million dollar contracts to companies in which he has ownership, including by abusing emergency procurement processes to rig contract bids.”

He said under this count that while he has not seen any evidence against this count, the multi-million dollar contract that he was aware of, since the ascendancy of this government is the US$116million dollars RIA Road Contract to East International.

To further clear his name, Mr. McGill granted an interview to Aljazeera journalists at which time he re-accentuated his innocence relative to the allegations against him.

He noted that he has every reason to believe that the American Government does not hate him but that they must have been misinformed by some people who hate the George Weah administration.

In an exclusive interview with Qatar-based Aljazeera over the weekend, Mr. McGill seized the moment to give his side particularly to international audience regarding allegations of corruption and subsequent sanction against him by United States Department of Treasury based on the 2022 report of the Magnitsky Acts.

“The Americans may be investigating something genuine about corruption in Liberia but somebody must have told them something wrong about me or misinformed them into believing whatever that must have led to the sanctions,” the suspended presidential chief of office staff told Aljazeera September 3, 2022.

“I just believe someone must have told them the information which is not true but I don’t think the Americans hate me. I am just sure that they must have genuinely intended to find the source of corruption in the country but somebody must have given them the wrong information.”

Further accentuating his innocence in the matters brought against him by the US Department of Treasury, McGill said that he was a victim of “identity theft”, meaning he, for far too long, was subjected to serious embarrassment in the hands of some faceless people who have been using his name and faking identities to present themselves as him.

He continued: “One thing you have to also know is that a lot criminally-minded people have used my name and position before to engage in corrupt practices, including extortion of money from people, while some people make calls around purporting to be me and swindling money from unsuspecting characters who are not only stealing from the people but are bent on tarnishing my reputation.

“Just go on Facebook, the evidence is all over the place. People are using fake identities, fake names as Hon. McGill to deceive people. Some of them were arrested before and being turned over to the security agencies for prosecution.”

When asked how he saw the sanction placed on him and two of his other compatriots, McGill noted he was not taking the situation lightly and that it has an enormous weight, but that he would not say much for now as he has written to President George Manneh Weah to make his response known.

McGill also said he would pursue the matter through the legal process so as to seize the opportunity to be heard, adding that, to his belief, the United States, which is the greatest democracy in the world and a firm believer in human rights and justice, will give him the opportunity to defend himself.

Cephus Refutes Allegations

Claiming innocence, Cllr. Cephus, in a communication of President Weah dated August 19, 2022 asked that the entire truth of the matter bordering the allegations of corruption come out.

“Excellency, I believe that the truth must be spoken,” the former Government’s Chief Prosecution Lawyer said. “The Liberian people deserve nothing but the truth, and as one of the accused persons on the US Treasury Department sanctions list, I too, must be told the truth; must be confronted with the material evidence for the alleged egregious economic crimes that I have committed against   my dear country.”

He continued: “I humbly solicit Your Excellency’s kind indulgence to request   a panel of professional investigators from the Economic Community   of West African States(ECOWAS) to probe these grave allegations against me and other public officials.”

Cllr Cephus wants his “family, friends and professional colleagues around the world to  hear  is   for your Excellency  to kindly  prevail on the US Government, our traditional friend, to  grant  me the  opportunity  to be accorded due process, which is the law that hears before it condemns,  so that I  can  have ‘my day in court’ to see face to face   Minister Dean and the rest of  my  accusers and to be confronted with the evidence that they have procured against me”.

According to the learned lawyer the right of the accused to a fair and open trial, and to face his/her accusers, is not an option, rather, it is   a constitutional requirement that the law of this country imposes   upon anyone who alleges a fact.

He stated further: “Therefore,  I shall be grateful for this opportunity to be accorded me so that my life  and service to my country since the inception of this government can be    judged by history for my family, friends,  and generations unborn  to know that once upon a time there existed a Solicitor-General in this sweet land of liberty by God’s command, that was tried and convicted  for corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery or for working behind the scenes to free money-launders,  by an investigative panel in order  to  serve as a form of deterrence to other   would-be alleged  corrupt officials.”

1 Comment
  1. Jake Doe says

    A good government (the government of His Excellency President George Manneh Weah), like an experienced political practitioner, has at its command strtegies and tactics to effectively deal with whichever problem without disregarding the international diplomatic phenomenon of COMITY ESPECIALLY WITH A HISTORIC ALLY, even when

    (1) the very ally‘s ambassador resident in the given country has stooped so low to the extent that THE PRESS AND THE PUBLIC have begun to

    (2) QUESTION THE INTEGRITY OF THE VERY AMBASSADOR (Michael McCarthy) with such headlines as ” Who’s Telling the Truth?” IN AN ONGOING MATTER IN WHICH

    (3) THE ACTING FOREIGN MINISTER HAS ACCUSED THE AMBASSADOR OF COMMUNICATING TO HER (Thelma Duncan Sawyer) an apparent diabolical written communication which the very ambassador is denying, but with no “straight face”.

    https://www.liberianobserver.com/liberia-whos-telling-truth

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