When televangelist M. G. "Pat" Robertson tried to buy into a Scottish bank in 1999, a public outcry forced the bank to cancel the deal. Now Robertson is taking flak for another business deal. In 1998, Robertson formed a $15 million company, Freedom Gold Limited, to look for gold in Liberia. In 1999, the company signed an agreement with the government of Liberia to begin gold-mining operations.
Freedom Gold has not yet mined much of the precious metal, but it is already producing critical media attention for its founder and principal investor.
The first and loudest denunciations have come from The Washington Post. Colbert King, the Post's deputy editorial page editor, has published a series of articles excoriating Robertson for the deal, and especially for the involvement of Liberian President Charles Taylor. King noted that the agreement gives a 10 percent equity to the Liberian government.
In a letter to the editor, Robertson denied that the Liberian government owned part of the company. Robertson wrote that Freedom Gold has hired 130 Liberians "and is assisting Liberians in gaining a better life." In "Christian Liberia," he added, "Freedom Gold has found freedom of religion, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, and what appears to be a judiciary dedicated to the rule of law."
James Mathews, Freedom Gold's manager, says the company has built a free medical clinic serving 1,000 families.
King derided as "bunkum" Robertson's upbeat description of conditions in Liberia, and noted that the United Nations has placed an arms embargo on Liberia. King quoted a State Department official who said the U.S. government "has not encouraged either trade or investment in Liberia due to the absence of the rule of law and President Taylor's ...1
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