Charles Taylor had about US$ 5 billion in private US bank accounts during his presidency! At least, that is what his chief prosecutor, Stephen Rapp, announced today. I was flabbergasted when I heard the news. I could not believe my ears listening to the radio report hearing the shocking details. Five billion dollars! The first thought that came to my mind was: ‘This cannot be true’. But the authority of the chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone is supposed to be beyond any doubt. Subsequently I thought: ‘This equals the total Liberian debt’ – see my posting of March 19, below. Then I thought: ‘Where did all this money come from?’ I sat back, puzzled. How on earth could someone gather five billion dollars? More important maybe, why should someone amass such a fortune? It reminded me of well-known kleptocratic rulers like Indonesian President Suharto, Philippine President Marcos, President Mobutu of then Zaire, and the Nigerian President Abacha. They enriched themselves at the expense of the population. If it were true, then former President Charles Taylor would be among the Top Five kleptocratic rulers of the last hundred years! But whereas Indonesia, the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire) and Nigeria are big countries with a large population, Liberia is small country.
For the time being I refuse to accept the implication that former Liberian President Charles Taylor stole US$ 5 billion from the Liberian people. He always denied he had secret bank accounts and boasted that if any secret funds were found he would turn them over to the Liberian people. It is also shocking to realise that the international community had difficulties in pledging the necessary amount for the functioning of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, some US$ 100 million, an amount which is only a fraction of Taylor’s assumed US$ 5 billion (about 2%).
Chief prosecutor Stephen Rapp said that if Taylor’s monies would be found they would be subject to the existing UN freeze on his assets. He further said that he hoped any money recovered would be shared between the victims of the Sierra Leone civil war and the Liberian state, if Charles Taylor was found guilty.
I fully agree with Rapp.