(fin) Charles Taylor: « Yes I knew a gentlemen called Mohamed Salame… »




Q. We’ll be coming back to Mohamed Salame.  Of course you knew Mr Minin, a businessman, you say, correct? 

A. Yes, I met Minin.


The panel also interviewed General Robert Guei who after the elections in Cote d’Ivoire fled the capital to his home village in the west of the country.  The general acknowledged that he had signed the End User certificate.  He had signed only one document.  He explained that when he took office, after a coup d’etat in 1999″ – Mr Taylor, do you remember that that was Christmas Eve in 1999 that General Guei took power? 

A. Yes.  That came before the Court before, yes.

Q. « … he wanted to replenish depleted Ivorian army stocks. 
As a first step he asked the Heads of State of other African Countries, including Burkina Faso, Libya, Morocco and Liberia, to supply small quanties of ammunition and light weapons.  The Liberian President, General Guei said, supplied some arms and even sent an emissary to help the general out.  This emissary was the Liberian ambassador-at-large Mohamed Salame, a resident of Abidjan and owner of a timber business in Liberia.  Salame offered his services and asked General Guei to sign the End User certificate.  A split up would then be made between Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia for those weapons.  The general acknowledged that some of the ammunition had remained in Cote d’Ivoire but most of it had been for Liberia. » Let’s make sure you have a chance to deal with some of this information, Mr Taylor.  First:  When General Guei told the panel that shortly after the coup d’etat, Christmas Eve 1999, he asked several countries, including yours, for ammunition and weapons, was he telling the truth?  Do you recall that. 

A. General Guei, yes.  General Guei did ask for assistance, yes.

Q. And when it says that you sent – that he told the panel that you sent small quantities of ammunition and light weapons, 1 did you send small quantities of ammunition and light weapons to General Guei?

A. Well, yes, but I don’t think the panel is fooled about this.  There were personnel, and those personnel carry small ammunition and weapons.  We sent the – some of the Ivorians that were in Liberia that even served as his personal bodyguards, and they carried the small weapons and ammunition, yes.

Q. When you say the Ivorians in Liberia, explain who you mean?

A. Oh, there were trained Libe – Ivorians that were living in Liberia during the time of my presidency.  We packed some of them up and went, and General Guei wanted protection, so we let them go back.  When they were going, they did carry their physical arms with them.

Q. Immediately before you sent them to General Robert Guei, were they in any military or paramilitary force in Liberia?

A. They were Secret Service personnel for his protection.

Q. SSS personnel in your country?

A. That is correct.

Q. Now, General Guei says that at the request of Mohamed Salame, your ambassador at large, he was asked to sign an End User certificate.  Did you instruct Mohamed Salame to get General Guei to sign an End User certificate?

A. No, I did not.  General Guei says he wanted to replenish his stock.  No, that’s their decision.

Q. And General Guei says that when the ammunition came, the majority of it was sent to Liberia, according to the agreement?

A. That’s what this report says, but that is not – I don’t know if General Guei said this, but General Guei did not send ammunition to Liberia.

Q. Did you receive any ammunition from General Guei?

A. No, I did not.  If there’s anybody that received, he received from me.

Q. Besides what you’ve just mentioned about the Ivorians you sent armed to help General Guei, what other arms or ammunition did you send to General Guei?

A. No, that’s it. 

Q. Paragraph 217

« The practical arrangements were made by Ambassador Salame, according to the General.  When the panel contacted Ambassador Salame, he flatly denied any knowledge of ammunition transactions.  His business was exclusively timber, he said.  However, when the panel interviewed Leonid Minin in prison in Italy, he credited Mohamed Salame for assisting the Cote d’Ivoire part of the Aviatrend arms deal.  Minin said the deal had been organised by Mohamed Salame on behalf of the Liberian President … » That would be you, Mr Taylor, correct? 

A. I would suppose, yes.

Q. « … in return for a beneficial deal for Minin’s timber company, Exotic Tropical and Timber Enterprises in Liberia. »  Now, Mr Taylor, you don’t dispute that Leonid Minin had this company in Liberia called Exotic Tropical and Timber Enterprises; you don’t dispute that, do you?

A. No, I do not.

Q. And tell me, Mr Taylor, you knew Leonid Minin was an arms dealer, correct?

A. No, I did not know his background.  Mr Minin did work as a timber man in Liberia.  He may have had many other backgrounds.  I was not aware of them.

Q. Well, did you think he had any knowledge or competency in obtaining weapons?

A. Did I think?

Q. Yes.  Did you have any information that he was —

A. Well, okay, okay.  You said did I think.  Okay.  Well, Mr Minin appeared to have a global outreach that he could get a lot of things accomplished in the business world.  That’s the position I was looking at.  He appeared to be someone with a lot of money, and Liberia needed investors, so we had serious interest in his being in Liberia.

Q. Okay.  Sir, my question is:  Did you think he had the ability to get weapons?

A. In all earnesty, I would say that that was a possibility.  I would think so.  We didn’t ask of him, but he – he appeared to have a global outreach, so I would be very fair to this Court to say that included the possibility of getting weapons.

Q. What do you mean when you say, « We didn’t ask of him »?

A. That was not my interest.  My interest was in business investment, but I did not ask of him the purchase of weapons.  Your question was did I think he had that – that – what did you call it?  I said yes, because of his appearance of having a lot of money.  That’s as far as I can go.

Q. Mr Taylor, you did ask Leonid Minin to get you weapons, didn’t you?

A. I did not ask Leonid Minin to get me any weapons, and I think Minin has also discredited this report.

Q. Let’s go on for a moment:  « Leonid Minin also acknowledged that his arrest in Augustcaused the cancellation of further deliveries of the weapons on the End User certificate. » I want to skip to paragraph 219, the last sentence:  « The final delivery to Liberia was arranged between the militarily at Abidjan Airport, Sanjivan Ruprah, Mohamed Salame and Charles Taylor Junior.  Minin said a special plane was organised from Monrovia to pick up the ammunition.  This is where the Ilyushin 18 of West Africa Air Services played an important role again.  An Ilyushin 18 is a relatively small aircraft as compared to 113 tons that needed to be transported.  This is why the plane had to fly eight times to bring the cargo over to Liberia, Mr Ruprah told the panel.  The operation started on the very day the Ilyushin came back with the helicopter spare parts from Kyrgyzstan. » Then let’s go to paragraph 223, the last five lines:  « In September the plane made one last flight, to fly members of President Taylor’s Anti-Terrorist Unit to Abidjan to assist General Robert Guei when his residence came under attack by a rioting army unit. »

Do you remember this incident, Mr Taylor? 

A. That’s what I explained.  I have already told the Court.  We sent Secret Service to help protect General Guei that he requested.

Q. Sir, this is in September, while the coup d’etat where he took power was Christmas Eve of 1999.  So we’re talking about nine months later. 

15:39:40 MR KOUMJIAN:  Thank you. 

Q. Mr Taylor, before I leave the Aviatrend case, let me just summarize it and then get your comments.  What the panel reports in this case is a delivery of a large amount of arms and ammunition, I believe it was 113 tons, using an End User certificate signed by the President of Cote d’Ivoire Robert Guei from Ukraine, through the Ivory Coast with the majority of it going to Liberia, Monrovia.  And they have that information from Mr Ruprah, from Mr Minin and from Mr Guei.  Mr Taylor, that is the truth.  You did obtain a large amount of arms and ammunition as reported by this panel from Ukraine through the Ivory Coast, correct? 

A. That is incorrect.

Q. Did you ever obtain any arms and ammunition from Ukraine? 

A. Not to my recollection.  I received arms and ammunition from a different place.  No, not to my recollection.  I have no knowledge of approving any purchase from Ukraine.

Q. Mr Taylor, before I move on, out of fairness to you, is there anything else you want to – comment you want to make about what I’ve read?

A. No.  You promised to go back to another paragraph.

Q. I’m happy to go back to that if you want, but that summarized what I’ve read in more detail. 

A. Well, then we can move on.

Q. Do you want me to go back? 

A. No, no, no. 

Q. Let’s move on then to another subject.

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