“I hope, as a democracy, as one of the world’s most important democracies that respect human rights, they will give me the opportunity to be heard,” says McGill
Nathaniel McGill, the suspended chief of staff of President George Weah, has decried the US government’s sanction against him, saying it was done without due process.
McGill — the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs — was sanctioned along with the Managing Director of the National Port Authority, Bill Twehway, and Solicitor General Saymah Syrenius Cephus, for corruption, bribery, and abuse of power through acts that ‘undermine the country’s fragile democracy.’
However, the minister, while reacting to the US government sanction, complained that his right to due process was violated and that the sanction allegation has no single truth in it.
In his first public address on the matter, McGill also sought to remind the US government of the presumption of his innocence, the legal principle that states that every person accused of any crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. Under the presumption of innocence, the legal burden of proof is thus on the prosecution, which must present compelling evidence to the trier of fact (a judge or a jury).
In this case, it is the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury, on which McGill is now piling pressure to prove the sanction allegation against him so that the public can be the judge.
McGill’s goal, according to pundits, is meant to rally his base, which has become accustomed to his benevolent gestures, to see the sanction as a political plot against him — since he knows challenging those sanctions is a slim order and that the US may not respond.
“Any institution that fights corruption, that institution must be appreciated but, at the same time, even in the great democracy of the United States, the right of innocence until proven guilty is always a paramount issue and is guaranteed under the law,” McGill argued while in Bong County — a county that has benefitted from his huge piles of cash and other charity gestures. “The information they have received regarding me, that information was not correct. I hope, as a democracy, as one of the world’s most important democracies that respect human rights, they will give me the opportunity to be heard.”
While watching his supporters sing and dance anti-sanction songs, McGill noted that: “It has been the tradition of our country to help poor people. If this is what I have done wrong [and] I am confronted with that, I will admit that I have done nothing wrong.”
“Some of the allegations are allegations that I am supporting students; I am giving out thousands of dollars to private projects and I have always defended that. That information is correct but I have not taken any government money to do those things. I don’t keep the money, I don’t touch it, I don’t distribute it.”
McGill was sanctioned along with the Managing Director of the National Port Authority, Bill Twehway, and Solicitor General Saymah Syrenius Cephus, for corrupt acts that ‘undermine the country’s fragile democracy.’
The three are the first presidential appointees to be slapped with sanctions. McGill, whose position is widely regarded as one of great power and influence, owing to daily contact with the President of Liberia, is being sanctioned for bribing business owners, receiving bribes from potential investors, and accepting kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest.
He also manipulated public procurement processes to award multi-million dollar contracts to companies in which he has ownership and used government funds allocated to other Liberian government institutions to run his own projects, the Treasury said.
It added that it made off-the-books payments in cash to senior government leaders, and organized warlords to threaten political rivals.
“The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish but to bring about a positive change in behavior. [Any] persons that engage in certain transactions with the individuals and entities designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions or subject to enforcement action,” the U.S. Treasury said. “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.”
However, McGill insists while he sincerely believes that the US Treasury, out of good intention, tries to identify individuals who are engaged in corruption, he was wrongly targeted.
He added that individuals the US may have spoken to would “have misinformed them about my involvement in corruption,” but the people, “who know, know the truth that I am not engaged in those things.”
McGill noted that while there are other allegations he may not speak about, he wants to assure his base that he has never “engaged in corruption.
“I was trained to be a champion to fight corruption. Police records show that people have been arrested using my name to take the money and things from people. That is one of the allegations against me; that I am using my name to get money from people.”
“Things that you see around here, there are records of how I got them. I am very open to any question that may arise from the appropriate legal authority. This issue has brought me a great blessing. I am quite sure that when they see the truth, I will be exonerated. People provided information and Liberia is a society of deception. It is a society of gossip; it is a society of rumors.”
McGill then informed his jubilating supporters that he has never engaged in corruption; at the same that he will continue to remain the champion of fighting corruption at every level.
He also noted that once evidence is presented, Weah will not hesitate to deal with the individuals.
“You know, some of the allegations you see and I have officially written to the President about my position regarding the allegations. That position will be out soon. Some people thought that he was not going to suspend me but those are grave allegations and those allegations are crimes under the laws of Liberia and there are penalties. I am not above the law.
“I want to thank every one of you. Bong County is our home. We want to thank the President for taking decisive action. The President is a President who has vowed that he will fight corruption,” McGill said.