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November 7, 2003

Liberian registry manager seeks UN audit

LISCR, the U.S.-based company which runs the Liberian Registry, has called for the UN to set up a fully transparent scheme to audit the funds received by the Liberian government from Liberia's shipping registry.

A new UN Panel of Experts Report has revisited the issue of diversion of funds from the Registry income. However this Panel, unlike it predecessors, has confused LISCR with the former Bureau of Maritime Affairs in Liberia. The Panel has acknowledged its error and, in an addendum to its Report, has made it clear that its allegations relate to the former Liberian government, not LISCR or the Registry. These corrections have also been included in oral reports by the Panel to the UN Security Council and in the Panel's presentation to the UN Sanctions Committee.

Yoram Cohen, LISCR's CEO, commented, "It is unfortunate that the Panel did not contact us to ask simple questions before producing their report. Their addendum helps to clarify the mistakes, but we would prefer a transparent system which prevents such a situation arising again."

Cohen went on to say "Despite the Panel's confirmation of the Registry's clean bill of health, LISCR is adamant that the UN should put in place a publicly reported auditing scheme to international standards. We made it clear at our meeting with the Panel earlier this week that LISCR would like to see a UN-backed audit, to include the Registry, to give a comprehensive and transparent picture of the income to the government and its ultimate expenditure in Liberia."

C. Gyude Bryant, chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, acknowledged the concerns of shipowners and confirmed, "All revenues from the maritime program will be used by the government to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the Liberian people and enable our government to provide other essential and basic services."

Last week Chairman Bryant noted, "The installation of a new government, which is being fully supported by the international community, provides an opportunity to further improve the image of the Liberian maritime and corporate program. I confirm the Liberian National Transitional Government's total and unqualified support for the Liberian maritime and corporate program being managed by LISCR."

Commissioner-designate of Maritime Affairs, J. D. Slanger, commented, "The government of Liberia has absolute confidence in the Liberian maritime and corporate registry being managed by LISCR. We have had the opportunity to study extensively the agreement signed between LISCR and the Republic of Liberia in 1999 and find it completely satisfactory and fair. The National Transitional Government gives total and unqualified support to LISCR as agent of the maritime and corporate program. LISCR is prepared at any time to open their books for a United Nations financial audit or audit by an internationally recognized accounting firm to dispel any misapprehension."

Slanger said, "The Registry is one of the most resilient assets of our nation. Even through difficult times, the maritime registry has continued to prosper under the management of LISCR. Mr. Cohen has assured me that LISCR will continue to be transparent in their relations with the Republic of Liberia and we look forward to a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with LISCR. I plan to work closely with LISCR to ensure the continuous growth of the Liberian maritime and corporate registry."

Cohen summed up LISCR's position, "I have made clear to the National Transitional Government the concerns of the international shipping community that the Government of Liberia exhibit a high-degree of transparency and responsibility in the use of income which the Government derives from the maritime program. I am pleased by, and confident in, Chairman Bryant's declared commitment to use the revenues of the Liberian Registry for humanitarian purposes. I believe that the best way the Security Council can help Liberia is for an international auditing scheme to be put in place, ensuring full transparency. That would help shipowners, it would help us to continue to give those owners the best and safest significant registry in the world, and it would help the Liberian people to enjoy their heritage in peace."

The Liberian Registry is one of the world's largest and most active open registers. It is in the top group of the Paris MOU White List of high-standard flags. Almost 2,000 vessels of 55 m gt currently fly the Liberian flag.

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