Ellen & Son Approve US$5million ‘Bribes’

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The New Democrat has obtained evidence detailing how a single US oil firm may have succeeded in compromising nearly all Liberian officials who matter to it obtaining a lucrative oil deal off the West African country’s coast.

Then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and son Robert Sirleaf approved the distribution of the country’s oil revenue amongst several top officials for their role in sealing US oil firm ExxonMobil petroleum exploration concession. Total amount dash out to officials is far more than what Global Witness reported.

Following Exxon acquisition of offshore oil Block 13 and subsequent payment of US$50million, the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) convened an emergency board meeting on Saturday, April 27, 2013 to discuss how they will collect some of the Oil money for personal benefit, NOCAL board resolution showed.

The resolution revealed the official solicited the payment via a proposal to President Sirleaf, which she endorsed.

Johnson Sirleaf directed that 10 percent of the US$50million be given to Hydrocarbon Technical Committee members, NOCAL officials and staff.

The resolution: “Regarding the proposal that was approved by the president of the Republic of Liberia to use approximately 10% of the income that NOCAL generated from the Block 13 transaction (which amounts to roughly 500,000 United States dollars) for the payment of bonuses to the hydrocarbon technical Committee and support team, the Board of Directors, the management and staff of NOCAL for their hard work and dedication to ensuring the successful completion of the project, and on motion duly made, seconded and unanimously carried, it was resolved that the Board of Directors hereby authorizes the President/CEO to disburse bonus payments in an amount not to exceed $500,000 United States dollars in order to pay bonuses to the Hydrocarbon Technical Committee and Support Team, the Board of Directors, Management and Staff of NOCAL for their hard work in accordance with the payment listing that was approved by the Board and is attached to this resolution.”

A source with knowledge of the deal said on the basis of strict anonymity that the former President authorized close to five million United States dollars to be paid to legislators and select cabinet officials.

There are 103 members of the legislature. Each member is alleged to have received not less thanUS$36,000. This means $3.7million may have been given to legislators. When combined with the NOCAL board’s $500,000 it sums up to $4.2 million United States dollars save other undocumented payments.

The UK based natural resource and governance watchdog said in its March 29, 2018 report that the officials received irregular payments from US oil firm ExxonMobil.

President George Weah’s administration has classified the revelation as allegation of bribery and abuse of office, which will be investigated, and people blameworthy for the act with face the law.

On April 30, the President directed Justice Minister Musa Dean to investigate top former officials including ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s son Robert Sirleaf in connection with Global Witness report alleging corruption.

– Festus Poquie