Liberians guilty of stealing US food aid


Source: BBC News

The Liberian civil war left the country’s infrastructure and economy in tatters

A US jury has convicted two employees of a Christian relief group of stealing more than $1m (£630,000) of aid donated by the US government to Liberia.

Joe Bondo and Morris Fahnbulleh were found guilty of conspiracy, fraud and making false claims. Morris Fahnbulleh, 40, and Joe Bondo, 39, both from Monrovia, were each convicted on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, four counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud and four false claims counts. And Bondo was also convicted of two counts of witness tampering.

Prosecutors said the two Liberians had sold nearly all of World Vision’s food aid; auditors said a third of it was allocated to towns that did not exist.

Liberia is recovering from a brutal 14-year civil war which ended in 2003.

World Vision administered a program funded by the US Agency for International Development to deliver surplus wheat and oil to Liberia.

“Rather than help their fellow citizens in need, these defendants sold food intended as aid and pocketed the proceeds,” US Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

The federal court jury in Washington also found that Fahnbulleh and Bondo had stolen construction materials and built themselves several homes.

“Fraud involving taxpayer funds, whether in the United States or abroad, will not go unpunished,” Mr Breuer said.

The scam began in 2005, as Liberia emerged from the conflict that claimed some 300,000 lives, displaced more than three million people and left the country’s infrastructure and economy in tatters.

Correspondents say Fahnbulleh and Bondo could face as many as 20 years in jail each. US District Court Judge Reggie Walton scheduled sentencing for February 03.

A third worker of the same charity was arrested in Liberia earlier this year and is fighting extradition to the US.

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