WASHINGTON — The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today named Liberian government officials Nathaniel McGill, Sayma Syrenius Cephus and Bill Twehway for their involvement in ongoing public corruption in Liberia. These officers are designated under the Executive Order (EO) 13818, which builds on and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuses and corruption around the world.
“Through their corruption, these officials have undermined democracy in Liberia for their own personal gain,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “Treasury’s appointments today demonstrate that the United States remains committed to holding corrupt actors accountable and to the continued support of the Liberian people.”
Corruption has long undermined Liberia’s democracy and economy, depriving the Liberian people of funding for public services, empowering illicit actors, degrading the business environment, and damaging the rule of law and effective governance in the country. Corruption also contributes to diminished trust in government and the public perception of impunity for those in power. These designations reaffirm the United States’ commitment to holding corrupt actors accountable. The United States is a proud and dedicated partner and friend of Liberia and stands with the people of Liberia in support of democracy and the rule of law and will continue to promote the accountability of corrupt actors, regardless of their position or political affiliation. The United States is also committed to working with the people and government of Liberia to make fighting corruption a priority, including by strengthening public sector anti-corruption capacity and reviewing and re-evaluating criteria for bilateral and multilateral assistance, including transparency and responsibility. Holding corrupt actors accountable and strengthening anti-corruption efforts are consistent with and reflect our commitment to implementing the United States Anti-Corruption Strategy.
Liberian officials sanctioned for corruption
Nathaniel Mcgill (McGill) is Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Chief of Staff to President George Weah. During his tenure in government, McGill bribed business owners, received kickbacks from potential investors, and accepted kickbacks for directing contracts to companies in which he had interests. McGill has manipulated public procurement processes to award multi-million-dollar contracts to companies he owns, including abusing emergency contracting processes to rig contract bids. McGill is credibly accused of participating in a wide range of other corrupt schemes, including soliciting bribes from people seeking government office and misappropriation of government assets for his personal gain. He has used government funds allocated to other Liberian government institutions to run his own projects, made unofficial cash payments to top government leaders, and organized warlords to threaten political rivals. McGill has received an unwarranted stipend from various government institutions in Liberia 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.
McGill is being designated as being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly participated in, corruption, including misappropriation of state property, expropriation of private property for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.
Sayma Syrenius Cefo (Cephus) is the current Attorney General and Liberia’s Chief Prosecutor. Cephus has developed close relationships with suspects in criminal investigations and has received bribes from people in exchange for having his cases dismissed. Cephus has worked behind the scenes to establish agreements with subjects of money laundering investigations to cease investigations in order to personally benefit financially. He protects money launderers and helps clear them through the court system and has intimidated other prosecutors in an attempt to quash investigations. Cephus has also used his position to hamper investigations and block the prosecution of corruption cases involving members of the government.
Cephus is being designated as being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly participated in, corruption, including misappropriation of state property, expropriation of private property for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.
Bill Twehway (Twehway) is the current Managing Director of the National Ports Authority (NPA). Twehway orchestrated the diversion of $1.5 million in vessel storage fee funds from the NPA to a private account. Twehway secretly formed a private company which, through his position with the NPA, he later unilaterally awarded a contract to load and unload cargo at the Port of Buchanan. The contract was awarded to the company less than a month after it was founded. Twehway and others used family members to hide their own involvement in the company while profiting financially from the company.
Twehway is being designated as being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly participated in, corruption, including misappropriation of state property, expropriation of private property for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.
Implications of sanctions
As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of Americans must be blocked and reported to OFAC. In addition, any entity that is owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons is also blocked. OFAC regulations generally prohibit all transactions by persons from the US or within the United States (including transactions in transit through the United States) involving any property or interest in property of blocked or designated persons.
In addition, persons who engage in certain transactions with the persons and entities designated today may be subject to sanctions or enforcement action. In addition, unless an exception applies, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a material transaction for any of the persons or entities designated today could be subject to US sanctions.
The power and integrity of OFAC sanctions stem not only from OFAC’s ability to designate and add individuals to the SDN List, but also from its willingness to remove individuals from the SDN List in accordance with law. The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior.
More information: https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/recent-actions/20220815