Key facts about the US government's loans in Liberia

AP News
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Posted: Jan 27, 2015 3:27 AM
Key facts about the US government's loans in Liberia

Key facts about the $217 million in loans approved by the U.S. government's Overseas Private Investment Corporation for its proposed project in Liberia:

—The agency approved three loans from 2008 to 2011 to help Buchanan Renewables build a business converting rubber trees into biomass chips to help power the country. It actually handed out $77 million of the money.

—Buchanan's chief executive was James Steele, a decorated U.S. military veteran and former Texas business partner of Robert Mosbacher Jr., OPIC's president when the first two loans were approved. Earlier, Mosbacher had hired Steele as an OPIC consultant, at a cost of $390,000, plus travel. Mosbacher abstained from the vote on Buchanan's loan but supported the plan.

—OPIC approved the final loan under the current agency president, Elizabeth Littlefield, without conducting an on-site environmental and social due diligence visit to a country devastated by a civil war and longstanding reports of abuses against women. OPIC said it spoke with a World Bank Group agency that visited Liberia.

—In Liberia, laborers complained of workplace injuries. Some female charcoal producers said they had to exchange sex for sticks from Liberian employees for Buchanan.

—In early 2013, the company shuttered its operations, repaid its OPIC debt and dismissed 600 workers. The project's legacy today: fields empty of trees and environmental damage.