The McAuliffe campaign was given $120,000 in campaign contributions from a company connected to shady arms deals in West Africa, Talking Points Memo is reporting. According to TPM, The Liberian International Ship And Corporate Registry (LISCR) donated to McAuliffe twice in the last 12 months. Those campaign contributions were the only donations made by LISCR in Virginia in the last ten years:
Though it is based in Virginia, LISCR serves as a regulator of the shipping industry in the African nation of Liberia through a contract given to the company by former Liberian president and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor. In 2001, LISCR was associated with efforts of Taylor’s regime to arm rebels who committed atrocities in neighboring Sierra Leone in defiance of international sanctions.
In an interview on Monday, an executive of the company told TPM the contributions were given “on the basis of the friendship” between McAuliffe and LISCR’s chairman, Yoram Cohen. He also denied that the company had been involved in any wrongdoing in West Africa.
LISCR works with ship owners to help them obtain registration in the country, which is a relatively lightly regulated and cheap place for a ship to call home. Because of this, Liberia is, after Panama, the second most popular “flag of convenience” for ships around the world. According to the LISCR website, the company provides Liberia with “day-to-day management” for its “ship and corporate registry,” which “represents 11 percent of the world’s ocean going fleet.” This booming ship registration business is an important part of the Liberian economy and has been key source of cash for the country.
Taylor’s government transferred the contract for managing Liberia’s shipping registry to LISCR in 2000, three years into his six-year regime. At the time, a civil war was raging in neighboring Sierra Leone that lasted 11 years and left as many as 50,000 people dead. In 2012, Taylor was convicted of war crimes by an international court in The Hague for backing rebels in Sierra Leone. The rebels were accused of using child soldiers and murdering, raping, and enslaving civilians.
Taylor was the first national leader convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremberg trials in the wake of World War II. Last Thursday, Taylor lost his appeal of the conviction and judges confirmed a 50-year jail sentence against him for his role in the alleged atrocities in Sierra Leone. Taylor has been held in a UN detention facility at The Hague since 2006 and is set to be sent to a British jail, though he had wanted to serve out his sentence in Sweden, Finland, or Rwanda.
The McAuliffe campaign refused to respond to the issue directly, and only pointed TPM to Republican donations Cohen made in the past. “This is a Virginia company that has donated to Virginia Republicans like George Allen and Tom Davis, who in turn gave to Ken Cuccinelli,” said McAuliffe campaign press secretary Josh Schwerin. That donation from Davis’ campaign fund, says the McAuliffe campaign, was for $1,000 when Cuccinelli ran for State Senate in 2002.