‘US$20M Lost to Illicit Money’

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A research report released yesterday on the Liberian economy shows that an estimated US$20 million is lost annually due to illicit financial flow (IFF).

According to the report author, Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), illicit flow of money particularly in the extractive industry, has crippled the economy as “evidence by the government fight against the Ebola virus.”

Presenting the report on Wednesday in Monrovia, IREDD executive director Harold M. Aidoo said corruption and bribery have been pinpointed as two of the main vices that cushion illicit financial flows (IFF) within the extractive sector. The research findings point to unsettling IFF-related cases of corruption and bribery affecting all sectors of the extractive industry.

IREDD: “It has been observed that the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), the main regulator of the industry, is grossly entrenched in bribery and corruption scandals involving members of the National Legislature. NOCAL, instead of regulating the sector, is now seen as a prime lobbyist for oil companies striving to pass their concession bills. In the forestry sector, the United Nations Panel Report on Liberia revealed startling official corruption and briberies in the awarding of 63 illegal permits under the Private Use Permit (PUP) scheme introduced by government to economically empower forested communities.

“For example, the Kimberling systems introduced in 2007 to combat illicit diamond trade continue to be undermined by infrastructural and technological challenges. The sub office in Lofa Bridge operates from a dilapidated container and without adequate safeguards to prevent illicit practices.”

He noted that the country lacks the capacity to monitor these industries in areas like, knowing the quality of iron ore, the value on the world market, how many tons are exported, etc; adding: “these are serious issues that government must address.”

According to him, government must be the one reporting these and not the companies themselves.

In reaction to the report, National Bureau of Concession Chairperson Madam Ciatta Bishop disagreed with the report, noting that some of the literatures are “general assertions” that are being used to present a negative image of the state.

According to her, there have been measures instituted by government to remedy many of the issues IREDD raised.

Meanwhile, IREDD recommended that government invests in software that will monitor the accuracy of trade transaction prices in real time.

“Strengthen statutory institutions with prosecuting power and empower them to go after IFF violators without fear or favor. Provide training and necessary logistics, equipment to all institutions in the forefront fighting IFF.

Outsource monitoring and regulatory of concessions in mining concessions to reputable international organization.”

The report was also corroborated by Global Witness, Save My Future and other internationally acclaimed organizations.

 

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