-Brownie Samukai, Others Hooked,Ordered To Restitute Over US$1m
By R. Joyclyn Wea
Former Minister of National Defense, J. Brownie Samukai along with his two deputies has been found guilty by Criminal Court “C” for stealing AFL personal welfare and pension fund.
J. Brownie Samukai, Joseph Johnson, and J. Nyumah Dorkor were indicted by the Assets Investigation, Restitution and Recovery Team (AIRRET) through the special Grand Jury for crimes ranging from theft of property, criminal conspiracy, economic sabotage, misuse of public money and money-laundering.
The team was instituted early 2019 by President George Weah to recover stolen fund by past and current public officials. This was also part of the commitment made by President Weah to fight corruption in the Country.
Handling down the guilty verdict into the matter on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, two out of the five crimes (Economic sabotage and criminal conspiracy) were down against the defendants due to lack of sufficient evidence by government thus nailing them for the remaining three offenses indicted for.
At the same time, Criminal Court “C” Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay adjudged J. Brownie Samukai Jr. Joseph Johnson and James Nyumah Dorkor guilty of the crimes of Theft of Property, Misused of Public money and Criminal conspiracy.
Judge Gbeisay mandates the defendants to restitute the amount of US$687,656.35 to the AFL pension saving account and US$460,000.00 to the Government of Liberia account amounting to US$1, 147,656.35.
There were five cardinal issues the court deems necessary in the determination of the case; key amongst them is the expenditure made by the defendants of the AFL pension funds on AFL operation including purchasing of uniform, international peace mission, token to General Abdurrahman Family, salary etc. were legally supported.
The Judge in his ruling mentioned that the intent of the AFL pension saving account was to take care of soldier’s illness, death and those who served the army to their retirement and that any used of the funds order than those listed without reference to the AFL was wrongful and illegal.
Judge Gbeisay further that while it is true that Samukai has a duty to obey the than Commander-In-Chief, but fails to realize that there is a distinction between a public and private funds noting that Samukai is unquestionably required to perform and implement the commander -in -chief orders with public funds as budgeted by the government in accordance with the government budget process.
He bewailed “Once the money departs the public domain and hit the account of the AFL personnel, that money automatically becomes a personal and private income of the AFL soldiers individually and collectively. As such, the Minister statutory duty lay down by law and his special duty as ordered by the President has no bearing on such money. Consequently, the used of the money of the AFL pension funds as done by the defendants for the purpose other than the intended purpose is illegal and wrongful and criminal in nature.”
The AFL compulsory contributory funds Judge Gbeisay stress was logically a form of retirement-income insurance, in which the government agrees to pay an annuity if the insure, (AFL) dies in service or reach the retirement age or is sick. Premium paid to insurance company by employers on behalf of employees are by law always for the employees.
The court asserted that to argue that the funds was used for training, logistics, AFL operations and buying of uniform, suggest that the men and women of the AFL were buying their own uniform, logistics funding their own training which is not possible.
Judge Gbeisay wondered whether security apparatus in Liberia to include the police, the immigration, the fire service etc. were supposed to buy their own uniform.
The court says, the former Minister of Defense like any other ministers in the democratic form of Government has two responsibilities as lay down by Marbury vs Madison, a land mark case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States of America on February 11, 1803.
The Minister of Defense according to the Court has an option to communicate with the Minister of Justice to advise the ex-President Sirleaf or resign if he realized that the alleged order given to him by former President Ellen Sirleaf to misuse the AFL pension funds was an illegal order.
“This is what men of conscious and patriots do. Because to do otherwise as he did in the instance case was an abuse of his oath of office in which he pledged to protect and defend.”
Meanwhile, Judge Gbeisay suspends the pronouncement of sentence of the defendants pending a pre- sentence investigation in obedience to chapter 31, section 31.5 of the criminal procedure law.
The clerk of court has also been ordered to communicate with the probation service of Montserrado County to proceed to conduct pre-sentence investigation of the defendants herein and report to this court in 15 days as of today’s date.