The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

Samukai’s Reported Planned Indictment: Is it Witch Hunt or Assets Recovery?

Yesterday, a local radio reported of plan by the government to indict the former Minister of National Defense, Brownie J. Samukai and the former passport Director for alleged corrupt acts. Particularly, my focus today would be on the former Defense Minister because I have been following the issue for sometimes now. It is alleged that he misapplied money intended for the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), while he was serving in that post during the regime of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

It is common knowledge that in recent times, there have been claims that the former minister misapplied some US$1.7m from the operations funds of the military and it is against this backdrop that he was recently invited by the Assets Investigative Restitution and Recovery Team (AIRRT) headed by Cllr. Arthur Johnson. Even though the former Minister categorically refuted this, it has not yet settled the dust, something for which it said that an indictment is awaiting the former minister for prosecution.

As a result, when Mr. Samukai appeared last week on SKY FM 50-50 Talk Show with T-Max Jlateh, he reiterated refutation for no wrongdoing. The former minister said the funds were used for the welfare and wellbeing of AFL soldiers with the approval or knowledge of former President Sirleaf, who was the Commander-In-Chief of the Army.

Furthermore, Mr. Samukai said there are records available to show how such funds were utilized and recalled that even when the former head of the army, the Nigerian General died, a contribution was made to his family, which was written in his wife’s name and added that there are records at the bank to indicate; “There is nothing in my name,” he clarified further.

In addition, Mr.Samukai said when this government took over, he presented turn-over notes that explained all of what he is countering and how that money was used and that he even met President Weah and explained all of these and that the President accepted and promised to effect the refund.

In the meantime, the former government official is wondering why this is still an issue after a plethora of explanations had already been made regarding the usage of the money, and is now of the view that such claim of misapplying funds is ‘politically-motivated.

Despite these reported denial of any alleged act of corruption, I heard that there are plans, perhaps, by the Assets Recovery Team to have him indicted for ‘misapplying’ AFL funds.

Let me say that I am not against this government prosecuting people or former officials for alleged corrupt acts, once there are incontrovertible evidence against the accused.

In this matter, the former minister continues to speak of no wrongdoing, for which he should face such rigmarole and hopes that this is not “politically-motivated,” as he feels or a ”witch hunt,” as a caller believes since he wants to contest the senatorial race next year for Lofa County.

There is reason for concern on the issue that this might be the result of a politically-motivated motive or a witch hunt because ,according to Mr. Samukai, he was once asked by leaders of the Congress for Democratic Change CDC), who he refused to accept as a member of the party, but egregiously refused. Therefore, there is a likelihood that his refusal is what is leading him to this issue of indictment.

As it is said, ”an indictment is a criminal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdiction that uses the concept of felonies; the most serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that do not use the felonies concept often use that of an indictable offence, an offence that requires an indictment.”

Additionally, according to Black’s law Dictionary, ”an indictment is the formal written accusation of a crime, made by a grand juLy and presented to a court for prosecution against the accused person “ Undeniably, this means that the state (prosecution) is convinced of evidence it has gathered to carry on the case.

It cannot be based on assumption or perception. This piece is not intended to exculpate the former minister of any wrongdoing, as I have no standing, but to caution the government about this announced or reported pending indictment.

While welcoming the government’s move of fighting alleged corruption, it should extend this to the issue of the money for the mopping up exercise, and the issue of the new banknotes for which some former officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) are being prosecuted.

In all fairness, the issues of the US$25m mopping up exercise and the new banknotes for which only “tear-tear money” is in circulation, remains a mystery.

The team, headed by Cllr. Arthur Johnson, who I respect, could be of help to set the record straight, on the status of the money and the new banknotes.

Hence, let the fight against alleged corrupt acts be holistic and not selective or discriminatory.

I Rest My Case.

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