Cindor Reeves – Liberian informant denied asylum
For four tumultuous years, Cindor Reeves was at the centre of Sierra Leone’s blood diamond trade, where gems were exchanged for arms amid the slaughter of innocent people and slave-like conditions in the mines. (Photo: Cindor Reeves, the brother-in-law of former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, is fighting his deportation)
Reeves, brother-in-law of Charles Taylor, Liberia’s former warlord, was appalled and started gathering copies of documents for weapon purchases and diamond smuggling. He turned them over to the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, helping build much of the case against Taylor, now being tried in Holland for war crimes.
But in this turmoil, Reeves, who feared for his and his family’s life, fled Liberia and eventually landed in Canada in 2006. He made a refugee claim and, within months, started working at a Canadian Tire, living a life of suburban anonymity.
Now Canada wants to deport him.
“I can’t believe it,” said Reeves, a wan smile on his face. “After everything I have done, I feel totally abandoned and let down.”
In January, the Immigration and Refugee Board accepted the refugee claims of his wife, Precious, and their three children.
But Reeves was turned down because he “aided and abetted” Taylor, the feared dictator who ran Liberia from 1997 to 2003 and allegedly sponsored a proxy army in Sierra Leone in exchange for the country’s diamonds.
The war in Liberia and Sierra Leone claimed up to 250,000 lives.
Reeves has applied for leave to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision. If he is deported to Liberia, he said, he’ll be killed within hours
“I have been getting threatening emails and phone calls even here in Toronto,” he said, adding he has moved four times but his “critics” always find his new digs. “They also tell me that they know where the kids study . . . every time.”
Tall and soft-spoken, Reeves, 39, was sitting in a Tim Hortons tucked in a strip plaza east of Toronto. His wife runs a successful hair salon while his two younger children attend a nearby school.
He is light years away from his previous life but remembers every name, date and minor detail.
He was 9 when his older sister, Agnes, married Taylor in 1981; he went to live with them when he was 17 or 18. Reeves said Taylor, a senior officer in Liberia’s military, was generous with gifts but merciless if crossed.
When Taylor was sacked for embezzlement, he eventually went to Libya, where he was trained as a guerrilla fighter. He returned to Liberia in 1989 and headed a guerrilla army which initiated the first Liberian civil war.
He was elected president in 1997.
Taylor also backed Revolutionary United Front rebels who were fighting in neighbouring Sierra Leone, mostly because the RUF had seized control of some of the richest diamond fields in the world.
It is alleged he gave the rebels arms and they paid him in diamonds.
Taylor then chose Reeves to be his “eyes and ears” in the exchange of arms and diamonds. “He didn’t have faith in most people,” said Reeves, who was in his early 20s.
Reeves said he made several trips to Sierra Leone where he saw men, women and children being forced to work in appalling conditions. They toiled long hours, were regularly beaten and the women and children raped.
“I couldn’t overlook that,” said Reeves. “I had trouble sleeping. I knew I had to do something.”
Stealthily, he started gathering documents from meetings, faxes forgotten on tables in Taylor’s mansion and transactions he had handled. He also kept notes from field trips to Sierra Leone.
In four years, he had documents tying Taylor and his cronies to weapons smuggling and illegal trade of blood diamonds.
“I knew I was taking a big risk,” he said, shrugging.
In 2002, believing that Taylor knew what he was doing, Reeves fled to Ghana; Precious was already there. He was contacted by officials from the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the family was placed in a witness protection program.
In December 2002, he claims he was told a hit squad was looking for him. Overnight, he was flown to Sierra Leone and debriefed for six weeks. From early 2003 to March 2004, the family lived in Amsterdam and was then relocated to Germany.
“I don’t know if I was safe there but I couldn’t work . . . couldn’t do anything,” said Reeves.
He and his family flew to Canada in September 2006 and applied for refugee status.
The family didn’t worry much when the claim took so long to process. Bureaucracy, they were told by friends. They never thought a rejection would be the outcome.
Precious said she is “very afraid” for her husband. “It’s very risky for him,” she said, shaking her head.
Others say the same.
“Absolutely, he’ll be killed, there’s just no question,” said Alan White, chief of investigations for the Special Court for Sierra Leone from 2002 to 2005.
White added he was unaware of “any blood” on Reeves’ hands.
Meanwhile, Reeves is trying hard to keep his spirits up. “I keep telling myself I did the right thing. . . . I never took any money from anyone.
“How can I be let down then?”
By RICK EGLINTON/TORONTO STAR
Raveena Aulakh Staff reporter
Toronto Star, With files from Valerie Hauch
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