Global Policy Forum

UN Council Freezes Ex-Liberian Leader's Wealth


By Evelyn Leopold

March 12, 2004

The U.N. Security Council voted on Friday to freeze the money and property of exiled Liberian leader Charles Taylor in a resolution drafted by the United States. Taylor went into exile in Nigeria last August as rebels entered the Liberian capital, Monrovia. He faces war crimes charges by a U.N.-backed tribunal for his backing of insurgents in neighboring Sierra Leone. The resolution, adopted by a 15-0 vote, asked all 191 U.N. members to search for and freeze financial assets "and economic resources owned or controlled directly or indirectly" by Taylor, his wife, Jewell Howard Taylor and his son, Charles Taylor, Jr. as well as other associates. U.S. envoy Stuart Holliday told reporters after the vote, that Taylor's assets were scattered "through many states." But U.S. officials were unable to give an estimate of his wealth. "I think we will be working vigorously to follow up within the council and bilaterally on identifying where those assets are and making sure that they are ultimately returned to the people of Liberia," Holliday said.

Aside from taking cash from government coffers, Taylor is believed to have used funds to invest in private businesses, including Liberia's timber industry, and to have bought property in various nations. He and his associates had also made money from looting diamonds in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, U.N. reports say. A recent U.N. report, commissioned by the council, said Taylor had continued to divert government revenues from exile. A previous report had said funds taken illegally from the Liberian International Shipping and Corporate Registry, with a key office in Vienna, Virginia, were invested by Taylor in real estate in South Africa. Secretary of State Colin Powell last month, during a U.N. donor's conference for Liberia, first appealed to delegates for additional sanctions against Taylor. The Security Council has already imposed a number of restrictions, including a ban on Liberia's diamond exports, an arms embargo and a travel ban on Taylor and his top associates, accused of fueling civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone through an illicit guns-for-diamonds trade. Taylor's departure from Liberia cleared the way for a power-sharing deal between his government and the rebels after a civil war that claimed more than 150,000 lives. A U.N. peacekeeping mission, expected to reach 15,000 soldiers, helps enforce the peace accord in Liberia, an impoverished nation of some 3.2 million people founded by freed American slaves Earlier this month investigators from Sierra Leone's special war crimes court searched Taylor's Monrovia residence and offices searching for further information to pursue their case against him.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on Charles Taylor
More Information on the Special Court for Sierra Leone
More Information on Liberia


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