*See update below.
Earlier this year, a Global Witness investigation into a proposed deal between the Liberian government and the British-based Carbon Harvesting Corporation (CHC) uncovered evidence of possible irregular payments from CHC staff to Liberian government officials.
In June, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf constituted a Special Investigative Committee, chaired by Counselor T Negbalee Warner, to investigate the proposed CHC deal. In a 12 October statement, President Johnson Sirleaf broadly endorsed the Committee’s recommendations. Both were moves that Global Witness strongly welcomed.
These developments triggered significant media interest in the proposed CHC deal and the investigation by the Presidential Committee. However, some of the coverage in the Liberian media has seriously misrepresented Global Witness’ role in the case. If this inquiry is to be pursued fully and those involved held to account, it must be conducted in full view of the facts. To this end, Global Witness would like to clarify the nature of its involvement:
1) Global Witness has not published a report on CHC. As CHC is a UK company, we alerted the City of London Police Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit to our concerns, who subsequently launched an investigation which is ongoing. We also provided information to Liberia’s Special Presidential Committee, and have issued three short press releases relating to CHC. One of these press releases related to the City of London Police investigation, while two related to the investigations in Liberia. Any references in newspaper articles to a report by Global Witness are therefore misleading, as there has been no such report.
2) Contrary to claims made in the Liberian media, Global Witness has never alleged that a deal existed between CHC and the government of Liberia. However, a deal was being negotiated; in the documents submitted to the Special Presidential Committee and the City of London Police, Global Witness referred to the deal as “proposed.” To the best of our knowledge, no agreement was concluded between the Liberian government and CHC.
3) Former Forestry Development Authority Managing Director John Woods has alleged in a Liberian newspaper that Global Witness “sponsored several non-governmental organizations to… lobby for the compliance market approach under what is termed ‘REDD’.” This is not true. Global Witness has never promoted the compliance carbon market as an alternative to logging for Liberia's forests, or indeed anywhere else. The compliance market falls under the Kyoto treaty – and as such does not apply to Liberia’s forests. At present, Liberia can receive carbon revenue for its forests only under voluntary market or fund-based mechanisms. One such fund-based mechanism was the initiative recently proposed by the Norwegian government, but the Liberian government effectively chose not to pursue this, by allocating numerous logging concessions.
Global Witness’ mission in Liberia remains to expose natural resource deals that allow unscrupulous politicians, officials and predatory businessmen to profit at the expense of the Liberian people. To this end the independent investigation by Special Presidential Committee, and moves by the Liberian Ministry of Justice to investigate and prosecute Senator Banney are strongly welcomed. Global Witness urges the Ministry of Justice and the Anti-Corruption Commission to pursue the investigation into those named by the Special Committee to its fullest possible extent.
*Update 23 October 2015: On 22 October 2015 the D11 of the City of London Police stated that in relation to their investigation into Carbon Harvesting Corporation the company's then-CEO, evidence has proved unobtainable in a number of key respects. They have been advised that the evidence is insufficient to commence any prosecution for corruption and accordingly the suspects are being advised that no action will be taken against them.
Oliver Courtney +44 (0)207 492 5848, +44(0)7815 73188 [email protected]
Mike Davis +44 (0)207 492 5896 [email protected]