A retired Italian agent of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) joined then NPFL rebel leader Charles Taylor and others to organize an enterprise to smuggle weapons into the West African sub region.
Roger D'ONOFRIO Ruggiero collaborated with Mr. Taylor, a representative of Libyan leader Muammar Ghadafi, eastern European arms smugglers and RUF's Ibrahim Bah to organize the International Business Consultant Ltd. (IBC) to serve as a support for large weapons deal.
According to the transcribed testimony of Mr. D'ONOFRIO Ruggiero in 1995 before an Italian prosecutor presented Thursday to Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) by Mr. Immants Liepins, an investigative journalist of the Latvian Public Investigation Bureau, D'ONOFRIO, Taylor and others had shares in the company and the entity was also used to smuggle Liberian and Sierra Leonean diamonds in exchange for weapons.
The document revealed that the company entered into deals with a Bulgarian Company, Kintex, which supplied weapons and bullets to IBC and sold diamonds in return, camouflaged as oranges and olives with the aid of some Bulgarian companies in Zurich, Switzerland represented by a Swiss lawyer, Rudolf Meroni.
According to Mr. D'ONOFRIO's transcript, in 1993 alone the company earned more the US$3 million dollars.
"The company IBC is a Liberian Company de iure that was founded by me, Mr. Charles Taylor and Michele Papa, who was my representative in all deals with Libya, as he and Massimo PUGLIESE had trade relations with President Ghadafi," the transcript said.
Mr. D'ONOFRIO told the prosecutor that he was introduced to Mr. Ibrahim John Bah, who posed as Liberia's minister for mineral resources, saying, "these resources were diamonds, which Liberia sold widely and about which Libya has always shown a great interest."
He said Bah collaborated with Libyan leader Ghadafi and Taylor to form a rebel group which was then operating in the Sierra Leonean jungle after fighting in Liberia.
Mr. D'ONOFRIO said Bah and an Italian national only identified as PORCARI also operating in Liberia had big business ventures in Liberia's tropical timber and operated another bigger enterprise to conceal the criminal profits.
He said during a visit to Liberia he was taken to the town of Foya, Lofa County where he met Mr. Taylor and a representative of the US Government, Nill Taylor, not a relative of Taylor. "Nill Taylor, in fact was an ambassador, but in truth he was Nicolas OMAN's friend."
D'ONOFRIO said OMAN was a Slovenian weapons smuggler who was named Liberia's honorary consul in Slovenia, while his son occupied similar portfolio in Australia.
He disclosed that he and Mr. Taylor offered equal amounts of diamonds to serve as guarantees for the arms deals.
Mr. Liepins made the presentation while testifying Thursday at the ongoing Economic Crimes Hearing of the TRC at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia. Liepins is an investigative journalist who previously worked for the largest media institutions in Latvia: Daily Business, Evening News, Independent Morning News amongst others before he founded the Public Investigation Bureau.
Imants is the author of two books, one on financial crime and corruption (2008). In 2006, he was voted for Best New Latvian Writer and this year was nominated to UNESCO as one of the candidates for the World Press Freedom Prize.
Under the theme: "Economic Crimes, Corruption and the Conflict in Liberia: Policy Options for an Emerging Democracy and sustainable peace," the hearing is addressing the contribution of economic crimes to the conflict including corruption and the illicit exploitation of natural resources.
The hearing is also discussing the correlation between the extractive industry and the fueling of the conflict and appropriate policies aimed at reversing the unauthorized exploitation of the natural resources by individuals, groups and the government for purposes external to the national good.
Pursuant to the TRC Act of 2005, the commission is mandated to investigate gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law as well as abuses that occurred, including massacres, sexual violations, murder, extra-judicial killings and economic crimes, such as the exploitation of natural or public resources to perpetuate armed conflicts during the period January 1979 to October 14, 2003.
The commission is mandated to determine whether these were isolated incidents or part of a systematic pattern; establishing the antecedents, circumstances, factors and context of such violations and abuses; and determining those responsible for the commission of the violations and abuses and their motives as well as their impact on victims.