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Angola recovers $5bn of stolen funds; Liberia, Sierra Leone, others mute on their stolen assets.

WASHINGTON, DC – Corruption is the single largest setback for Africa’s progress and economic growth.  But few countries and new African administrations are determined to fight corruption and curb its disasters and pains.

According to reliable sources, Angola has been pushing to recover stolen assets taken from the country during the past decades.

Today, Angola’s justice minister stated that the country has so far this year recovered more than $5bn (£3.8bn) stolen from the state.

Justice Minister Francisco Queiroz said this amount included $3bn siphoned off from the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

Angolan Justice Minister Francisco Queiroz – a man of transparency

The justice minister added, some countries were obstructing Angola’s efforts to track down the looted funds, but with persistence and political will, the government overcame all obstacles and made a breakthrough.

At the center of the corruption, is Jose Filomeno dos Santos, the son of Angola’s former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who headed the sovereign wealth fund.

Even though Jose Filomeno dos Santos denies the charges, he is on trial for corruption.

Angolan current President Joao Lourenco, who was lieutenant of the former president, has vowed to crack down on the country’s massive corruption problem.

Senior officials in Washington, DC are recognizing Angola for the bold steps in pursuing stolen assets and simultaneously besetting other African countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea, the Gambia and others where former and present officials have stacked away billions of dollars overseas while their people suffer hunger, disease, poverty and high unemployment, to do more to recover stolen assets.

Nigeria’s efforts to recover stolen assets have been stymied by current and previous government officials.

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria

Upon coming to power in Sierra Leone, President Julius Maada Bio made tackling corruption a major part of his commitment. Yet, there has been no tangible effort internationally to recover billions of dollars stolen by past Sierra Leonean government officials from Siaka Stevens’s period to that of Ernest Bai Koroma.

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio

In Liberia, the situation is even dire.  It is believed that over the past 15 years, over $5 billion has been stolen from Liberia.   Public theft became more structured and out of steps during the administration of ex-warlord president Charles Taylor. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration took public theft and corruption to all-new levels, with friends and family members plundering the state coffers – thus, becoming millionaires.

Under President George M. Weah, all efforts to recover Liberian stolen assets are failing because the current Justice Minister and attorney general Frank Musa Dean purportedly declined to support any effort that would lead to recovering stolen assets. Funds that the current administration could apply to its development efforts.

President Weah far left and his core governing team

In the past few months, Liberia’s asset recovery team headed by Counselor Arthur Johnson reached out to several global firms in Europe and the United States to assist Liberia in finding and repatriating stolen assets.  Despite the willingness of well-established law firms in the U.S. and Europe, which include former U.S. federal prosecutors and white-collar crime litigators, the Government of Liberia hasn’t been able to finalize its efforts. It appears the Liberian Minister of Justice is the sole hold-out in the country’s effort to gain traction in this arena.

Controversial Liberia’s Justice Minister/Attorney-General, Frank Musa Dean. The powerful man who refuses Liberia’s stolen assets recovery plan for a country that relies on the U.S. aid and U.S. tax-payers’ money to survive while millions of dollars are pocketed by ex-officials of government in Liberia

In Guinea, incumbent President Alpha Conde has not made any attempt to pursue stolen assets taken from the country.

President Alpha Conde of Guinea. He hired foreign agents to protect him

Apart from a former Guinea mines minister who is imprisoned in the U.S. for corruption in Guinea after siphoning the funds in the United States, no other looter has been pursued by the Guinean authorities.

A former U.S. financial official says the United States needs to halt all international support and development assistance to countries that facilitate corruption and deliberately refusing to pursue stolen assets taken by former officials of government.

 It remains to be seen if President Trump’s administration will make that concern about African nations protecting stolen assets a standing position and condition for future aid.  So far, Angola and its citizens stand to benefit from the $5 billion of stolen assets recovered.

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Ben Mabande

Ben Mabande is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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