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Three government officials charged with siphoning off $3.5 million

The head of Liberia's Maritime Bureau was charged on Wednesday with siphoning off US $3.5 million - the first time a government official has appeared in court to face corruption allegations since the civil war ended two years ago.

J.D. Slanger, a former senior member of the rebel group Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), was head of maritime affairs until he was suspended last month.

Police arrested him and two of his deputies on Tuesday night and they were remanded in custody on Wednesday pending a full trial.

"Those officials misappropriated $3.5 million for the maritime programme for which they have been charged under the penal code for economic sabotage and fraud of the internal revenue of Liberia," the government's chief prosecutor, Theophilus Gould, told the court in the capital, Monrovia.

Liberia's Maritime Bureau manages all the ships and vessels that have registered under the Liberian flag.

In mid-July, the million-dollar corruption scandal erupted and Slanger was suspended by the head of Liberia's interim government, Gyude Bryant.

Bryant was brought in after 14 years of civil war ended in August 2003 to shepherd Liberia to elections in October 2005. But his government has come under increasing fire for rampant corruption from both ordinary residents and international donors trying to rebuild the ravaged country.

Western governments have warned that funding for reconstruction will be withheld if politicians continue to squander the cash or pocket resources designed to help the country's estimated three million population.

To try to clamp down on corruption, they have drafted a hard-hitting plan that would limit the government's authority to grant contracts, ring-fence key sources of revenue, place international supervisors in key ministries and institutions with veto powers, and bring in judges from abroad.

But the plan has met with hostility from the Liberian government, which has rejected the idea of introducing expatriate financial experts and has presented counter-proposals.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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