London, Feb 12 (IANS) Former Liberian president Charles Taylor, facing trial for his involvement in war crimes in Sierra Leone, may have amassed $400 million but only a fraction of his wealth could be recovered, the leaked US embassy cables have revealed.
US officials were told that if Taylor is found guilty of war crimes, the international court in The Hague might only be able to recover a fraction of his wealth, the Telegraph reported citing the diplomatic cables leaked by whistle-blower WikiLeaks.
The international court Friday adjourned indefinitely the three-year-old trial of Taylor charged with arming rebels who killed and maimed innocent people in Sierra Leone.
The former African despot has been accused of supporting rebels in exchange of illegally mined diamonds (“blood diamonds”) in the neighbouring country.
It was alleged earlier in the trial that British supermodel Naomi Campbell accepted a “blood diamond” from Taylor.
Taylor, 62, has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
A cable sent from US officials in the UN in October 2007 reported the concerns of Stephen Rapp, the then Special Court for Sierra Leone prosecutor, about Taylor’s alleged hidden funds. Rapp is now US President Barack Obama’s Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues.
The cable said: “On the issue of Taylor’s hidden funds, Rapp reported that victims often raise the subject of reparations from Taylor’s sizeable resources.
“He noted that the Court could recover about $3 million, if Taylor’s funds could be located. Some reports place his hidden funds at $400 million.”
The US officials said: “The UN Office of Crime and Drugs as well as the World Bank are exploring ways to track the funds and both President (Ellen Johnson) Sirleaf of Liberia and Sierra Leone President (Ernest Bai) Koroma are watching with interest.”
Nigeria was also trying to help to trace the assets, the officials added.
In another cable sent in 2009, US diplomats in Liberia’s capital Monrovia suggested Taylor should be tried in the US if he was “acquitted in The Hague or given a light sentence”.
The Sierra Leone civil war claimed some 120,000 lives in the 10 years to 2001, with Revolutionary United Front rebels, dubbed Taylor’s “surrogate army”, mutilating thousands of civilians.