Page last updated at 10:00 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 11:00 UK

Taylor 'had billions' in US bank

Charles Taylor (file pic)
Mr Taylor denies trading arms for diamonds

Liberia's ex-President Charles Taylor had transactions of about $5bn in two US bank accounts during his presidency, his prosecutor has told the BBC.

Mr Taylor is being tried by a UN-backed war crimes court for backing rebels in Sierra Leone while in office.

He denies trading arms for diamonds and challenged the international community when he stood down in 2003 to trace and seize any monies they alleged he had.

If any was found he would "turn them over to the Liberian people".

During Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war, which officially ended in 2002, tens of thousands of people died and thousands more were mutilated, raped and had limbs amputated.

Mr Taylor's case has been transferred from Sierra Leone to The Hague for security reasons, although it is still being conducted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

He denies 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

UN freeze

"We've certainly found evidence of hundreds of millions of dollars taken by Charles Taylor illegally in various banks at different times," prosecutor Stephen Rapp told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"We have evidence of two accounts that were maintained in his name in the United States during his presidency," he said.

The sum of transactions of the two accounts over time totalled $5bn, he said.

About $375m had been debited from one account and Mr Rapp said he was in the process of tracing the funds and a number of countries were co-operating.

If recovered, Mr Rapp said that the money would be subject to a UN freeze on Mr Taylor's assets.

He said that he hoped any money recovered would be shared between the victims of the Sierra Leone civil war and the Liberian state, if Mr Taylor was found guilty.

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