Liberian body says officials fail to verify assets

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) Liberia's anti-corruption commission has accused the country's defense minister and police director of failing to cooperate with efforts to verify their assets.

Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and Police Director Chris Massaquoi on Monday both denied the allegations.

A new report from the commission released over the weekend identified 22 senior officials who had "deliberately refused" to cooperate with its asset verification team, including some who allegedly flouted notices to appear.

The commission also accused three officials of "unexplained wealth accumulation," including a former minister who allegedly could not account for $100,000.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared war on corruption when she took office in 2006. Last year, she suspended 46 officials for failing to declare assets, including a son who works at the Central Bank.

Although Liberia's position on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index climbed 16 spots to No. 75 last year, many Liberians believe official corruption is increasing as state institutions like the police force expand their presence.

In a report released in August, Human Rights Watch said "rampant" police corruption denied many Liberians access to justice because kickbacks were prohibitively expensive.

The cases of "unexplained wealth accumulation" involved one official who declared more than $300,000 in the bank despite earning a monthly salary of just $2,500. A police official earning $704 per month could not explain a one-time deposit of $33,850, according to the commission's report.

And former Internal Affairs Minister Blamoh Nelson allegedly could not account for $100,000 an accusation Nelson denied on Monday in an interview with a local radio station, saying he had provided "sufficient and accurate information."

"So I don't understand their doubts. They did not uncover anything. I gave them what they wanted, and there is a use of wrong words here," Nelson said.

In announcing the commission's findings, chairwoman Frances Johnson-Allison said those who refused to verify their assets were "the most dangerous" group because "they have something to hide."

But the two most high-profile members of this group, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and Police Director Chris Massaquoi, on Monday both denied having failed to cooperate with the commission.

Massaquoi said he had never been invited before the commission. "I challenge them to show me a copy of one citation they have sent me," he said.

Samukai, for his part, said he had been delayed in cooperating because he was "overwhelmed with other issues before me."

Liberia currently does not have a law explicitly banning illicit enrichment, Johnson-Allison said. The anti-corruption commission has urged Sirleaf's administration to put one in place.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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