RAPAPORT… A panel of financial and diamond experts will renew investigations over whether UN sanctions against Liberia are being broken, given findings that the country’s former President Charles Taylor has access to “considerable wealth.”
A previous council decision in 2004 ordered all governments to freeze Taylor’s assets and those of his immediate family. Taylor, who is currently standing trial in a special court for Sierra Leone set-up at The Hague on 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, has requested that the court cover his legal costs due to his being indigent.
Taylor was arrested in March 2006 in Nigeria, three years after being indicted for his involvement in the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone, which included funding arms purchases through the illicit diamond trade.
In a unanimous resolution passed June 20, 2007, the United Nations Security Council called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to set up the three-person panel within a month, expressing concern over “credible allegations” that Taylor may still have substantial investments in Liberia and Nigeria.
The resolution follows the findings of another panel of experts monitoring Liberia, which conducted assessments in West Africa and elsewhere between February and June. That panel discovered that Taylor may have substantial hidden assets in Liberia and Nigeria, and that he retained ties to a large Liberian cell phone company.
The UN reported that the Nigeria did not permit the panel to investigate those allegations. In addition, Liberia has not yet adopted legislation authorizing a freeze, and Nigeria apparently has not seized any Taylor assets, the panel stated.
The June 20 resolution requires the new panel to further investigate Taylor’s assets, in order to prevent his associates from “using misappropriated funds and property to interfere in the restoration of peace in Liberia and the sub-region.”
The panel is also expected to assess the implementation of forestry legislation passed by the Liberia’s Congress and signed into law in October 2006 by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and to gauge the government’s compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.
Earlier this year, the UN cleared Liberia to restart exports of timber, and in May it ruled to allow diamonds.