- June 3 - Liberian President Charles Taylor is known for many things: accused
embezzler, jail escapee, human rights abuser and rebel leader responsible for
starting a bloody civil war. Taylor can now add a new title to his resume: Pat
Robertson business partner.
a report published yesterday in The Virginian
Pilot, the TV preacher reached a deal with Taylor that allows a Robertson-owned
company, Freedom Gold Ltd., to mine for gold in the Bukon Jedeh region of Liberia.
The company, which lists Robertson as its president and sole director, was reportedly
formed offshore in the Cayman Islands last December.
Robertson's greed knows no bounds," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director
of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Religious Right watchdog
group. "This gold-mining deal with a vicious tyrant is shocking even by his
profit to be made, it seems Robertson doesn't care who he has to deal with,"
Lynn added. "Despite all the rhetoric and grandstanding, this deal shows
Robertson is more interested in money than morality."
Pilot story reports that Taylor fled to the United States in 1983 after
allegedly stealing $1 million from the Liberian government. After being arrested
by U.S. officials, he escaped from a Massachusetts jail in 1985. Four years later,
backed by armed rebels, Taylor began a civil war in which half of Liberia's 3
million people were killed or displaced.
observers have reported extensively on the appalling atrocities that took place
during the seven years of fighting, including the killing, torture and forced
labor of Liberian civilians. The Virginian Pilot reported one incident
in which Taylor critic Samuel Dokie, his wife and two others were killed after
being taken into custody by members of Taylor's special security bodyguards.
Two weeks ago,
Taylor temporarily removed virtually his entire Cabinet and several heads of public
corporations after these employees failed to attend a prayer service ordered by
Taylor. "Any government official who does not know God will not serve in
my government," the Virginian Pilot quoted Taylor as saying.
the Norfolk newspaper, the new financial deal will need ratification from the
Liberian legislature. If it passes, the country's government will receive a 10
percent equity interest in Robertson's gold-mining company. After an exploration
period, 15 percent of shares in the company will be available to Liberian investors.
interest in African mining is not new. In the early 1990s, another African dictator,
Mobutu Sese Seko, gave Robertson diamond-mining rights in Congo (a country then
known as Zaire). That enterprise ultimately led to a Virginia state investigation
when two pilots reported that Robertson relief planes intended for humanitarian
purposes were actually used to transport equipment for the diamond-mining operation.
The results of that investigation are still pending.
who heads the Christian Coalition and serves as president of the Christian Broadcasting
Network, is claiming the gold-mining deal is intended to benefit the Liberian
is a church-state watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. that monitors the Religious
Right. Founded in 1947, the organization represents 60,000 members and allied
houses of worship in all 50 states.