EDITORIAL – Viewing the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards (KARR) Act Holistically

Viewing the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards (KARR) Act Holistically

CRUDE AND DIRECT actions by the United States of America in its fight against corruption in Liberia, ramped up in recent months, are commendable but wanting of clarity and transparency in order to generate a groundswell of support amongst ordinary Liberians in whose seeming interest all is being done. Two actions eloquently explain this unprecedented move by the US: the Treasury Department’s sanctioning of three top officials of the George Weah administration leading to their suspension by the president and subsequent resignation, and the invocation of the so-called Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards. The question begging for answer is this: where is the evidence in the allegations of corruption and abuse of public office as levied by the United States? What are the special signs of illogical wealth amassed by the accused that whistleblowers should look for?

WHEREVER THE EVIDENCE is, Liberians are kept in the dark, yet, they are called upon to identify the wealth of the accused and report it for a handsome reward.

ALREADY, THE US Treasury Department has designated Weah’s Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill, his Solicitor General Syrenius Cephas, and his Managing Director for the National Port Authority Bill Twehway, stating that these men were allegedly involved in various acts of corruption, to include the misappropriation of state assets, taking private assets for personal gains, or bribery.

ACCORDING TO THE Treasury Department, the three officials, through their corrupt acts, have undermined democracy in Liberia for their own personal benefit and that the actions against them is to “demonstrate that the United States remains committed to holding corrupt actors accountable and to the continued support of the Liberian people.”

UNDER THE SANCTIONS, all property and interests in property of the three officials that are in the United States must be blocked and reported to the Treasury Department, while people who engaged in transactions with the officials may be subject to sanctions also.

IN ADDITION TO these measures by the US Treasury Department, President Weah suspended these close allies of his and called for immediate investigation into the allegations that precipitated the sanctions. Of course, the three officials who have since resigned their posts, have been beseeching the Liberian government to conduct an investigation into the aforementioned allegations so as to establish the facts, because according to them, they are actually innocent until proven guilty.

IT IS IN WAKE of these developments, which have been flooding the traditional and social media, that the United States Treasury Department yet again invoked its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Act (KARRA) aimed at paying whistleblowers up to $5 million for sharing information that would lead to the restraining, seizure, forfeiture, or repatriation of stolen funds “linked to foreign government corruption and the proceeds of that corruption” held at a financial institution in the United States (including the US branch of a foreign financial institution) or that come within the possession or control of any U.S. person.

ALTHOUGH THE KARRA program originally targets Russian oligarchs and others, the Magnitsky Act designation against those Liberian government officials has raised the debate to the level at which the Liberian public is thinking that US$5 million whistleblower reward is mainly targeted against McGill, Cephas and Twehway.

VERY QUICKLY, LET The Analyst make it equivocally clear: we wholeheartedly welcome any and all actions, be it from the government of Liberia or from international development partners, especially our traditional ally, the United States of America, that take the fight against corruption forcefully to the doorsteps of scoundrels and kleptocrats. Corruption, as former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf rhetorically labelled it, is a vampire and public enemy number one. Liberia has wrestled with this monster for a long time, fatally unsuccessfully, leading to the chronic underdevelopment of the country and its people.

THUS, WE ALSO fully acknowledge the Magnitsky sanctions and whomsoever it may prey upon. In additional to domestic procedures and actions, the US-sanctioned steps will make public thieves think twice, and this will set deterrence and generally help to reduce the ferocity of the pandemic. It will keep impunity in check and set a trajectory that leads to progressive development drives as ever before in this country

HOWEVER, WHAT BAFFLES us is also the recent announcement of some US$5 million for whistleblowers who would report on suspicious wealth of the accused and sanctioned officials or who else this KARRA may apply to. The bafflement raises question about the veracity of the credibility of findings used as basis for the allegation against the three former government officials. Are the allegations and sanctions truly politically motivated and premeditated as some critical minds deduce? In other words, were the allegations and sanctions a preemptive strategy coined in the absence of evidence, which is why the Americans are now scouting out, digging here and there, for evidence from third parties?

OVER A MONTH since the allegations were made, and the sanctions imposed, the Liberian public had thought by now the US Department of Treasury would spread on the record in the public sphere prima facie or something that looks like it, indicting, for which the people of Liberia celebrate and say “All Hail US Treasury”. But as per what it is right now, Liberians’ newfound joy that Uncle Sam has burst an age-old, devastating ring named corruption is now dissipating as their no reason to celebrate.

LET THE AMERICANS step up to the plate, and be the Super Power and paragon of human rights and transparency it is widely credited to be. Let them convince Liberians that their version of anti-corruption crusade Liberia is not cosmetic, political, witch-hunt and mere undue posturing by a bigger power.

UNCLE SAM CANNOT afford to fail in this war which has eluded many a Liberian political administration, for the unverified allegations, random sanctions without evidence and direct prosecutorial formalities will only lead to tainting people until all public officials now in the future and perhaps all 4 million Liberians become the prey of the Treasury Department’s loose targeting.

THIS IS WHAT Liberians don’t want, and they look out to the US to do better. 

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