Saturday, September 09, 2006

How and Why Did Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Help Liberian Dictator Charles Taylor Brutally Kill over 300,000 People in Africa in the 1990's

How and Why Did Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Help Liberian Dictator, Charles Taylor Brutally Kill over 300,000 Individuals in Africa during the 1990's? Did the fees they paid also allow Taylor to assist terrorist groups like al Qaeda? 1.5 million individuals were made homeless or became refugees.
Charles Taylor has been described, as the third most wanted war crimes suspect in the world -- after Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic
In recent years the region, particularly Liberia, has harbored al Qaeda operatives, senior Hezbollah financiers and a plethora of transnational criminal organizations. Hezbollah might not be as strong as it is today if not for Charles Taylor and fees paid by Cruise Lines.
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Would you do business with or be a customer of a corporation who provided money for a regime who supported terrorist groups like al Qaeda and Hezbollah whose history of horror may be second only to Hitler's. And
Why it is important to pressure Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) to allow "Sea Marshals." independent law enforcement officers, on each of their cruise ships:
60 people have now gone overboard and died on cruise ship vacations since the year 2000. This does not even include the number that have died from accidents, disease, fires, assaults, and other crimes on board or during shore excursions. America's worst serial killer, the Green River Killer Gary Ridgeway, had 48 victims. This last week, Robert Charles Browne's claimed 49 killings. July 28, 2006See a list of some of the deaths and for list of person's overboard, outbreaks of disease, and other events. I would encourage all victims and their families contact for guidance, support, and to prevent future tragedies. And refer to for a possible solution that could be implemented quickly.The American Public should demand that Cruise ship deaths be given as much attention as a serial killer case. There are about 200,000 beds on the cruise ships. If there were 60 disappearances in six years, or about 9 per year in the same neighborhood and no changes were made in security, we would quickly fire the police chief and people would no longer go to that neighborhood. In fact, there is a serial killer on cruise ships; it is the total lack of independent law enforcement and regulation. Currently, cruise lines rely on private security guards whose first loyalty is to the cruise company. Law enforcement should treat 60 disappearances like they would a serial killer case. They should cross-check all available data to see if there are any common elements such methods, circumstances, or the same passengers or crew members being present. Any thread of commonality could help solve some of the disappearances and prevent others.Cruise lines have little or no legal obligation to settle because they are not regulated. RCCL is incorporated in Liberia and for many years they flagged their ships in Liberia. A country with a dysfunctional legal court system and no regulations or laws to protect cruise line employees, customers, or stockholders. The Cruise lines have poured millions of dollars into lobbying efforts, at times using lobbyist closely connected to Jack Abramoff and we know what kind of tactics he used. [ ] That along with many thousands of dollars of campaign contributions has kept congress from passing any meaningful regulations. Cruise ships are giant gambling operations. Kind of like a floating crap game. And I have never known anyone who ran a crap game to be concerned with those gambling. Its used to be the only thing you could lose is your money, but with over 60 individuals missing or gone overboard, fires, and viruses since the year 2000, you could lose your life or your health. Imagine if Disney World had 61 disappearances and/or deaths in the last 6 years. Would anyone want to go there? The only significant actions taken by the cruise lines in the last year was to spend more money on public relations efforts and issue new sets of talking points to their employees answering the phone when the subject of safety and security come up. They do like to suck as much money from their customers as they can. They also suck as much blood, sweat, and tears from their employees as possible by offering low wages and few benefits.
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War, corruption, murder in Liberia fueled by revenues from companies wishing to register their vessels in Liberia & save $ & avoid regulations
The civil war and corruption in Liberia was fueled by US business, with revenues from shipping companies wishing to register their vessels in Liberia, responsible for keeping the Taylor Government in power, according to US press reports in 2003. [ ]
The Washington Post reported that the country's only source of money at the time was the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR) in Vienna, Va., which sends at least $18 million a year - or about one-third of its own revenue - directly to the Liberian government. LISCR sells cheap registration fees and low taxes to ship owners -- 30 percent to 40 percent of the Liberian government's income in 2002. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines operate cruise ships that were registered or flagged in Liberia. As recently as April 8, 2002 when ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD (RCL) filed Form 20-F with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the period ending December 31, 2001, a majority of their ships were registered in Liberia. Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD and most of its many subsidiaries are still incorporated in Liberia per Form 10-K filed with the SEC on February 24, 2006 for the year ending December 31, 2005.
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The fighting also left at least 850,000 displaced from their homes and another 700,000 had become refugees in neighboring countries. That's out of a prewar population of 2.5 million to three million. Child soldiers roamed the countryside, numb from years of violence.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines operate cruise ships that were registered or flagged in Liberia. As recently as April 8, 2002 when ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD (RCL) filed Form 20-F with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the period ending December 31, 2001, a majority of their ships were registered in Liberia. Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD and most of its many subsidiaries are still incorporated in Liberia per Form 10-K filed with the SEC on February 24, 2006 for the year ending December 31, 2005.This practice is known as flying a "Flag of Convenience" * and, although legal, it is generally associated with unethical practices and murky financial practices. The perennially war-torn West African nation of Liberia, for example, has operated a flag registration since 1948 and now boasts a merchant fleet that is more than three times the size than that of the United States. Liberia's shipping registry was tied conclusively to UN sanctions busting in October of 2001, when a US panel of experts revealed that registry funds had gone directly to pay for arms purchases and transport. The Liberian Corporate and Maritime Registries provide an important source of revenue to a poor country. The maritime registry is of international repute but it is vulnerable because of the use of the funds it generates for opaque off-budget expenditure including for sanctions-busting. Critics have also claimed that companies used Liberian registry to conceal diamond smuggling and tax evasion. That same report described Liberia's Bureau of Maritime Affairs as "little more than a cash extraction operation and a cover for sanctions-busting". The panel was set up by the UN Security Council to investigate the effectiveness of a ban on arms sales, an embargo on Liberian diamond exports, and a travel ban on Liberian President Charles Taylor and top associates. Liberia has been accused of fueling the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone by supporting that country's rebels in a gems-for-arms trade, partly to enrich some officials.Liberia wants ex-president Charles Taylor for war crimes Last Liberia has formally asked Nigeria, where Taylor has lived since 2003, to extradite him, news services reported on Friday. A tribunal in Sierra Leone wants to try him for selling diamonds and buying weapons for a rebel group that was notorious for hacking off civilians' arms and legs, the BBC reported. During his reign, thousands of people were reportedly mutilated at the hands of Taylor's soldiers as part of their extortion rackets.
Taylor's commanders would force boys to kill their parents or other family members, breaking the ultimate taboo, then ply them with methamphetamines, marijuana and other drugs to keep their killing instincts keen. Often their pay came in the form of a license to rape and plunder. Yet even as he undermined traditional respect for elders, he subtly substituted himself in those elders' place, simultaneously enthralling and enslaving a generation of young boys who slaughtered on his behalf. This explains his supporters' chilling election campaign cry in 1997: "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, I'll vote for him." Mr. Taylor also co-opted the secret societies that dominate life in many West African countries, like the Poro hunting society in Liberia. This gave him access to a world of unseen power and allowed him to project an aura of mystery and invincibility. Rumors that he practiced cannibalism, human sacrifice and blood atonement rituals merely added to his mystique. Mr. Taylor also had plenty of money. In his hands, the Liberian State essentially became an adjunct to organized crime and terrorist networks that included Al Qaeda. Douglas Farah, an analyst and author who has written extensively about Mr. Taylor's links of criminal and terrorist networks said, "He ran this amazingly complex criminal enterprise where the state could provide critical things like diplomatic passports and airplane registration to a range of criminal networks." NYT A Master Plan Drawn in Blood By LYDIA POLGREEN Published: April 2, 2006
"The Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry, is a contrivance that has masked thousands of questionable shipping and intelligence operations, banks, and corporations, including corporations involving arms smuggler Viktor Bout and Pat Robertson, through the International Trust Company in Monrovia." In 1976, when George H. W. Bush was CIA Director, IRI/Liberian Services moved its headquarters to Reston, Virginia. IRI also maintains offices in New York; London; Pireaus, Greece; Hong Kong; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Singapore; Shanghai; and Tokyo. The entity has long been rumored to be a CIA front, having registered ships owned by Greek shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos and brokering deals involving George H. W. Bush's Zapata Off-Shore. All of Zapata Off-Shore's Securities and Exchange Commission filings between 1960 and 1966 have been destroyed. The Carlyle Group, the corporate entity that replaced the Bush-influenced entities such as BCCI and savings and loan banks of the 1980s and the Enron slush fund of the 1990s, is rumored to have a major stake in Dubai Ports World outsourcing of port operations in the United States. Halliburton is also rumored to be a top contender to take over port operations from Dubai Ports World. George H. W. Bush has old business ties to Dresser Industries, which is now owned by Halliburton/Kellogg, Brown & Root. 3/12/2006 Intelligence report by Wayne Madsen Charles Ghankay McCarthy Boye Dakphanna Taylor, the small man with many names, was last year described as the third most wanted war crimes suspect in the world -- after Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, whose recent death has left a cell vacant for Taylor in The Hague. He made an unholy alliance with the U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson using the preacher's Operation Blessing planes -- which were supposed to be sending relief supplies to the victims of the genocide in Rwanda -- to haul diamond-mining equipment. recent years the region, particularly Liberia, has harbored al Qaeda operatives, senior Hezbollah financiers and a plethora of transnational criminal organizations. [ ]Statement Of Congressman Frank Wolf Before House Armed Services Committee Special Oversight Panel On The Merchant Marine Vessel Operations Under "Flags Of Convenience" And National Security Implications Which brings me to the issue at hand for this committee -- the relationship between Charles Taylor’s criminal state and the Liberian flag registry and its implications on our national security. The United Nations and several news reports have revealed that the revenue obtained from the Liberian flag registry and the company that runs the registry, the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry, known as LISCR, made payments that violated the UN sanctions on Liberia. Also, the United Nations has reported that LISCR was set up precisely so that Charles Taylor would have immediate access to the flag registry funding. While estimates vary, according to the October 2001 UN report, the flag registry accounts for approximately 50 percent to 75 percent of Liberia’s annual revenue. Liberia’s people, the UN reports also indicate that the lack of transparency surrounding Liberian finances may have troubling national security implications for the U.S. government as well. For instance, the UN reports document how certain portions of the flag registry revenue were channeled to the notorious arms dealer, Victor Bout, who has connections to the Taliban, al Qaeda and Abu Sayyeef, the radical Muslim group in the Philippines.Flags of Convenience* As long ago as 1958, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)defined Flags of Convenience as: "the flags of such countries as Panama, Liberia, Honduras and Costa Rica whose laws allow —and indeed, make it easy for —ships owned by foreign nationals or companies to fly these flags. This is in contrast to the practice in the maritime countries (and in many others)where the right to fly the national flag is subject to stringent conditions and involves far reaching obligations ". Under international law every ship must sail under a flag which gives its nationality to the ship. The flag State accepts responsibility for both the conditions on board and the activities of the ship. About 30 countries effectively rent their flag to shipowners of any nationality, guaranteeing the minimum of rules, regulations, taxes and interference. These flags are called ‘Flags of Convenience ’(FOCs). They make money out of their shipping register because they accept the fees, but do not effectively exercise any control over the ships in their fleet or the companies owning these ships, which would normally incur themin expense. Under the FOC system, the registered owner of most ships is a ‘shell ’company set up for the sole purpose of owning that one ship. That registered owner is often, in turn, owned by another company, which may itself be registered in a country with very liberal company laws. This setup, which works for companies, criminals and terrorists as well as shipowners, allows a shipowner the ability to disappear completely from any accountability that may be attached to him through owning the ship. If anything goes wrong, the company ceases to exist and no information is forthcoming on ownership. The secrecy and lack of transparency of the FOC system allows shipowners to ignore their responsibilities and cut their operating costs. As well as lax company laws and a lack of any meaningful regulation of the shipping or company operation, FOCs offer cheap registration fees, low or no taxes, and the freedom to employ cheap labor from any country. Industrialized and developing countries have both suffered as a result of the regime of tax havens and Flags of Convenience. The so far apparently fruitless search for Al Qaeda ’s ships illustrates the problems that this system has spawned.In the 2001 Annual Report, the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB)chief Rear Admiral John Lang attacked the majority of flag States who have been unable or unwilling to conduct independent, in-depth accident investigations and make their reports publicly available. Admiral Lang blamed States'reluctance on the "lack of transparency in the international shipping community"and also highlights the climate of fear that is "prevalent throughout the industry". Mariners are genuinely frightened that if they were known to be reporting safety deficiencies, they would almost certainly lose their jobs, he commented. " not conducive to the establishment of a safety culture at sea". He stressed that the issues of sub-standard shipping, under-manning and mariner fatigue were continuing. While he does not name any particular flag States, FOCs provide owners with secrecy concerning their commercial operations, and this is extended to casualty investigations which are not made public, and indeed in many cases casualties are not investigated at all.Miami-based Royal Caribbean has agreed to pay record fines in recent years for illegal discharges and falsification of the oil record book. In 1999 the company pleaded guilty to 21 felony charges for dumping bilge water and chemicals, falsifying records and lying about it, and agreed to pay an $18m fine. More recently, prosecutors took Carnival Corp, the world ’s largest cruise operation, to court in Miami and in April 2002 secured $18m in penalties and a pledge that the company would overhaul procedures. This followed allegations that engineers on six cruise ships were dumping waste by fraudulently operating equipment and falsifying records.We have, in practice, a non-functioning self-regulatory system. The use of FOCs and the ability to change flag at whim enables shipowners and ship operators to determine the degree to which they will comply with internationally agreed minimum standards. The International Transport Workers ’Federation (ITF) believes that the maritime industry is suffering from regulatory failure due to the fact that many international standards lack an enforcement mechanism and therefore what is required is an agreed framework, which ensures compliance. It is time for governments to confront the inherent problems of the shipping industry and for them to put in place an effective regulatory regime, which will be enforced, and which will restore rationality to the industry. It should ensure that the industry is run in a manner that is consistent with the concepts of sustainable development, both in terms of the ships and the seafarers that are needed to serve on them. A global industry needs the uniform application of all the provisions of international law, rather than selective application and the disregarding of those which it is politically or economically expedient to disregard.["troubled waters fishing, pollution and FOCs," International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, International Transport Workers ’Federation, Greenpeace InternationalAugust 2002]The US company administering the register collects these fees. By the year 2000 the Liberian registry was netting an average of some $15 – 20 million per year for Charles Taylor’s government. Such a regular and automatic flow of income takes a lot of pressure from the government even though Liberia’s domestic economy is near total collapse. Analyzing government budget figures is never easy, and with a pariah State like Liberia it is even harder, but it has been estimated that between 50 – 75% (and at times 30%) of the entire national revenue of Liberia, from legitimate sources, comes from its ship registry. Even the government has admitted to the ITF that at least 30% comes from the register.On 21 May 2001, because of the Taylor government’s active destabilization of its neighbor Sierra Leone, Liberia became one of the few countries subject to international United Nations sanctions. The war in Sierra Leone has been marked by particular brutality including the hacking off of limbs of women and children. Shipping companies cannot claim the sovereign protection of the State when it suits them, and then dissociate them from everything the State does in practice. The UN Security Council stated on 7 March 2001, "that the active support provided by the government of Liberia for armed rebel groups in neighboring countries, and in particular its support for the RUF in Sierra Leone, constitutes a threat to international peace and stability in the region…" (S/RES/1343 2001) The Liberian ship registry is a key source of earnings for the government. The United Nations accuses the Taylor government of providing funds to the RUF guerrillas in Sierra Leone. In December 2000 a Report of the UN panel of Experts on Sierra Leone cited the Liberian Maritime Programme as facilitating the flow of arms to guerrillas in Sierra Leone. It is hard to believe that such a major source of income does not have an influence on such funding.This subject came to unexpected public attention in May 2001 when the old register company IRI sued the new company LISCR in New York. While the writ they issued mainly deals with the commercial side of the settlement agreement between them, it also alleges that LISCR ‘is a major source of Liberia’s income for such activities (financial and military aid to rebels) and a handy honeypot for lining the pockets of Liberia’s current dictator, Charles Taylor.’ IRI also alleges that "Up to one third of all the cash from the flag goes straight into the pockets of president Charles Taylor…Much of the money is diverted to financial and military aid to rebels intent on overthrowing the government of Sierra Leone". LISCR strongly denies these allegations, which come from a commercial rival. Yet there will be few people with more inside knowledge of the Liberian register than IRI. According to the respected shipping journal Lloyds List (16 May 2000) western intelligence sources say that "the balance of probabilities is that IRI’s claims do stack up".The leading shipping journal Lloyds List noted in May this year, reporting on the allegations against LISCR, that: "never has the proposition that shipowners bear no moral responsibility for what flag States get up to looked so flimsy". The ITF believes that, when there is so much blood on the flag, it is time to lower the flag. Although operated from the territory of the United States, the Liberian shipping registry has become a major source of revenue for a government that is subject to strong UN sanctions for its violation of international law.The ITF believes that a number of immediate actions can be taken by companies and by governments, in support of the United Nations, to ensure that there is no chance that the threat to regional stability posed by the Taylor regime is being sustained by the Liberian ship registry:
Shipowners should break all links with the Liberian flag as soon as practicable.
The United Nations travel ban should be extended to any Liberian national connected to its maritime affairs, including all their personnel based at the International Maritime Organization(IMO) in London.
The United Nations Security Council should extend sanctions against Liberia to include its shipping register and give notice after which all member States of the UN should deny entry to their ports to all vessels flying the Liberian flag.
While security and stability in Liberia are steadily improving, they are currently only ensured through the presence of UNMIL, the UN peacekeeping operation. The Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) reported in March 2006 that the situation in Liberia was "generally stable but fragile".2 Significant challenges remain, compounded by ongoing regional instability. Despite President Sirleaf’s best efforts, the threats to Liberia’s full reconstruction, rehabilitation and long term stability cannot be underestimated. The majority of Liberians live in extreme poverty and have no access to health care, sanitation, water and electricity;3 the country’s infrastructure is in ruins and 80% of the population is unemployed. Large numbers of ex-combatants (far outnumbering the national army, even when it reaches its full strength of 2,000 in 2008) still operate within their wartime command structures. They either control resource-rich territory such as diamond mines and rubber plantations, or are frustrated by the lack of benefits brought by the Rehabilitation and Reintegration (RR) programme. Individuals responsible for gross human rights abuses under past regimes are not only still at large but some occupy important positions in the legislature; other individuals with a well-documented record of corruption also occupy powerful positions and pose a threat to reforms. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines is still incorporated in Liberia. It seems they owe the people of Liberia and Africa an apology and perhaps reparations. They certainly could use it and RCCL could afford it with their profit$ in the hundreds of millions,
"Taylor Made" September 2001 (PDF Document) The pivotal role of Liberia's forests in regional conflict. And
"Cautiously Optimistic: The


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