Liberia: Court Reserves Ruling in Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai’s Economic Sabotage Case
Monrovia – Criminal Court ‘C’ Judge Yarmie Quiqui Gbeisay has reserved ruling in former Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai’s Economic Sabotage case.
Judge Gbeisay reserved ruling into the case on Thursday, March 19, after the final arguments between both the prosecution and the defense team.
He did not give the exact date for the final ruling stating, “Ruling is reserved pending announcement.”
However, during the final arguments, prosecution lawyer Ndubusi Nwabudike argued that the withdrawal of monies from the AFL account was a deliberate attempt of the defendants to deplete the account.
Cllr. Nwabudike also argued that bank records show that the defendants withdrew monies from the AFL account 11 times.
He also argued that the US$460,000 paid by the government as reimbursement funds into the AFL pension account towards the US$1.3 million used from the account, does not exonerate the defendants from committing the crimes charged in the indictment.
“They used the money and gave justification that they used it for army deployment in Mali. However, the government paying back the money used from the AFL account does not exonerate the defendants for the money they stole,” Nwabudike argued.
In its argument, Defense lawyer Cllr. Michael Watkins Wright argued that the withdrawal of monies from the AFL pension account was done on the orders of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
“This country (Liberia), when a Commander-In-Chief gives orders, it is final and binding. More beside, prosecution did not provide any evidence to prove that these people (defendants) benefited from any of the money withdrawn from the account,” Cllr. Wright argued.
Cllr. Wright further argued that all the monies withdrawn from the AFL account were used on the welfare of the soldiers.
The Defense lawyer also added that the crimes leveled against the defendants in the Indictment are false, stating, “The state has not provided any evidence to the crimes charged.”
Meanwhile, Defendant Samukai and his two former deputies, Joseph F. Johnson, former Deputy Minister for Administration and J. Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller, were charged with the alleged commission of the crimes of Economic Sabotage, Money Laundering, Misuse of Public Money among others.
The trios were indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County on October 19, 2019 for the alleged commission of the crimes.
They pleaded not guilty to the crimes when they were arraigned before court (Criminal Court C), thereby joining issues with the State.
According to the indictment, in July 2009, the Ministry of National Defense (MOD) opened account named and styled “AFL Pension Account” at the Eco Bank Limited with account number 1092-522-22-19.
The Indictment further mentioned that the purpose of the account was for salaries deductions; provide benefits to wounded AFL soldiers, and also to families of dead AFL personnel as well as to supplement pension package to personnel of the AFL upon retirement from active service.
The Indictment maintained that during the period (July 2009-November 2017) the amount of US$1, 943,971.99 was deposited into the account.
“Thereafter, Defendants J. Brownie Samukai, Former Minister of Defense, Joseph P. Johnson, Deputy Minister for Administration and J. Nyumah Dorbor, Comptroller and others to be identified, by virtue of these positions within said entity, knowingly, purposely, criminally and intentionally withdrew and or transferred from the said account the amount of US$1,259,462.00 between the period of September 2014 up to and including September 2017,” an excerpt of the indictment states.
It continues: “Co-defendant J. Brownie Samukai, then Minister of Defense, with criminal mind personally authorized cosigned defendant J, Nyumah Dorbor, then Comptroller of MOD, thereby causing the direct withdrawal and or transferred of US$852,860 on items that were already provided for under the national budget of Liberia such as AFL Operations. In furtherance to the theft, co-defendant J. Brownie Samukai illegally paid US$50,000 as death benefits to the families of the late, General Abdurrahman, who did not contribute anything to the fund while serving as AFL Chief of Staff.”