Charles Taylor today told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges that he received money from both Taiwan and Libya as contributions to his campaign to become president of Liberia in 1997.
“In 1996-1997, i received money from Taiwan and Libya,” Mr. Taylor told the court today.
Mr. Taylor explained that during his campaign in the Liberian presidential elections in 1997, the Taiwanese government gave him 1,000,000 United States Dollars to support his candidacy. The money, Mr. Taylor said was delivered through the Taiwanese embassy in Ivory Coast and was received by his Chief of Protocol Musa Sesay. Although the check was addressed in his name, Mr. Taylor said that it was cashed by Mr. Sesay in Abidjan, based on his (Taylor) authorization. Asked by lead prosecutor Ms. Brenda Hollis why the Tawainese government had given him such amount of money, Mr. Taylor explained that the Taiwanese government probably did so for Public Relations (PR) reasons.
“They developed an interest in me,” Mr. Taylor said. “At that particular time, it was clear that elections were coming up. There was this concern that after the elections, they were concerned that China will block their interest in Liberia. It was like a form of PR for them because they were concerned that diplomatic support will continue after i became president. It was part of a policy to try to court foreign countries or prospective leaders.”
Mr. Taylor further explained that the Taiwanese government provided him with two ambulances which he donated to the Liberian government. Part of the money received from the Taiwanese government was also used to establish the Charles Ghankay Taylor Educational and Humanitarian Foundation, the former president said.
Also in his cross-examination, Mr. Taylor explained that during the 1996-1997 presidential elections campaign, he received about 500,000 United States Dollars from the Libyan government of Muamarr Ghadaffi. The money, Mr. Taylor said was delivered in cash. He said that he cannot tell whether the Libyan government provided similar support for the other presidential candidates.
Mr. Taylor was responding to questions about the sources of his alleged wealth and assets while as leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and then president of Liberia. Mr. Taylor has long been accused of enriching himself through receipt of diamonds from Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels. Prosecutors argue that Mr. Taylor benefitted financially from proceeds of diamonds supplied by RUF rebels and that in return, the former president provided the rebels with arms and ammunitions which were used to commit attrocities such as rape, murder, amputations, recruitment of child soldiers, and terrorizing the civilian population in Sierra Leone. The accused former president has denied receiving any diamonds from Sierra Leonean rebels. During his cross-examination today, prosecutors sought to elicit information from Mr. Taylor about monies he allegedly received from timber production in NPFL controlled areas in Liberia, monies used to purchase his White Flower residence, his fleet of cars and how he maintained himself and his family while in exile in Nigeria.
Mr. Taylor explained that some of his cars were given to him as bithday gifts by different individuals. He said that when he made international travels, he was most times provided with aircraft by the Libyan government. According to Mr. Taylor, on one of his trips to South Africa, the Libyan government provided him with 500,000 United States Dollars.
When asked about the source of a private presidential boat that he had while as president of Liberia, Mr. Taylor explained that “It was my property. It was a birthday gift given to me by a Greek shipping magnate.”
Mr. Taylor was also asked about percels of land that he bought in Liberia and he explained that some portion of land was given to him by his grand mother while he bought another 1000 acres of land from various tribal leaders just outside Monrovia.
Ms. Hollis also asked Mr. Taylor how he now gets money to maintain his White Flower residence in Monrovia while in jail in Holland. In his response, Mr. Taylor said that “I have individuals, i still have friends who help me to put food on the table.”
Mr. Taylor denied prosecution suggestions that he had been involved in various forms of business or that he has bank accounts opened in different places under different names.
Asked by Ms. Hollis about how he supported himself financially while in exile in Nigeria, the former president explained that “when i left Liberia, i was fully supported by the Nigerian government. Every month, the Nigerian government gave me subsistence.”
To dispute Mr. Taylor’s claim that he was supported by the Nigerian government, Ms. Hollis read portions of a letter by the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affiars, dated August 11 2003, which outlined the conditions of Mr. Taylor’s asylum in Nigeria. The letter indicated that Mr. Taylor will be responsible for his own communication and living costs as well as taking care of his family members who travelled with him to Nigeria. Ms. Hollis stated that there is nothing in the letter indicating that the Nigerian government would provide support for Mr. Taylor while in Nigeria.
“It is very simple. The government of Nigeria provides millions of dollars to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. It is very easy for you to find out. The government of Nigeria provided me with assistance. You can find out,” Mr. Taylor responded.
Mr. Taylor agreed that when he was arrested along the Nigerian border with Chad in March 2006, he had over 50,000 United States Dollars in his possession. The money, he said was given to him by fromer Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo. In March 2006, when the Liberian government of Ellen Johnson Sirleef requested Nigeria to hand Mr. Taylor over to the custody of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, it happened that Mr. Taylor reportedly disappeared from his Calabar residence in Nigeria. Hours later, he was arrested in a convoy of vehicles while allegedly trying to enter into Chad. Many have alleged that Mr. Taylor was trying to escape arrest but the former president has insisted that he was on his way to visit his friend, the Chadian president Idriss Deby.
Mr. Taylor is responding to charges that he provided support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. Prosecutors allege that Mr. Taylor received Sierra Leone’s diamonds from RUF rebels and in return supplied them with arms and ammunition, which were used to commit attrocities in Sierra Leone. It is further alleged that Mr. Taylor occupied a position of superior authority to RUF rebels and that he knew or had reason to know that the rebels were committing attrocities in Sierra Leone but failed to prevent the commission of those crimes or that he did not punish perpetrators when he knew that such attrocities had been committed. He is now charged of bearing the greatest responsibility for the crimes committed by rebel forces in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied all the allegations against him. He has testified in direct-examination as a witness in his own defense and he is presently being cross-examined by the prosecution.
Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.