Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Nation-Does The 700 Club Have "Blood Diamonds" On Its Hands?

Televangelist Par Robertson and former Liberian President Charles Taylor: and
(Story reported by Aram Roston for The Nation magazine)

Now that celebrity supermodel Naomi Campbell has become improbably entangled as a witness in the war crimes trial of deposed Liberian President Charles Taylor, it is bringing fresh light to Taylor's international connections. A warlord who ruled Liberia brutally for six years, Taylor allegedly fueled the atrocities in neighboring Sierra Leone and profited from "blood diamonds" there. Campbell was an unwilling witness called into court in The Hague, where she described receiving uncut diamonds she described as "dirty looking pebbles," evidently sent by Taylor.

But while Campbell may be famous and glamorous, the most prominent international figure to come into contact with President Taylor has been American M.G. "Pat" Robertson, the televangelist, entrepreneur, former Republican heavyweight and one time US presidential candidate.

Robertson used to mix his missionary work in Africa with efforts at developing mineral wealth. First he financed a diamond-mining venture in Zaire, and then he pushed for a gold mine in Liberia through a Cayman Islands company he owned called "Freedom Gold." That's when President Charles Taylor gave Robertson's company a gold-mining concession.

The televangelist's ties to Taylor have always been puzzling. Here, for the first time, is the actual " Mineral Development Agreement" both Robertson and Taylor signed on April 22, 1999. It is dull reading but  on page 45 one can find their signatures: the American televangelist signed his name "MG Robertson" on a line under "President" of Freedom Gold and the alleged warlord scrawled his name under "President of the Republic of Liberia." Few people have ever seen this document. (I got it during a trip I took to Liberia back in 2001, when I co-wrote a story for GQ called "Pat Robertson's Gold Fever." That was when Taylor was still in power.)

(click here to read the full story on The Nation magazine website)

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