Liberia: Supreme Court Upholds Lower Court Verdict on Brownie Samukai
MONROVIA – The Supreme Court of Liberia has affirmed the verdict of the lower court convicting Lofa County Senator-elect, Brownie Samukai, and others to two years imprisonment or the restitution of US$1.4 million.
This ruling now plunges Lofa County into a constitutional crisis as there is no law that stops an elected person taking office once his/her victory is affirmed.
The same Supreme Court is expected to hear an appeal from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) after both the National Elections Commission (NEC) hearing officer and the Board of Commissioners affirmed and reaffirmed, respectively, Mr. Samukai’s victory in the December 8 Special Senatorial election.
Such embarrassing verdict has the propensity to dampen the enthusiasm that has engulfed his victory sitting as a Senator, diminish his spirit of serving the people of Lofa.
Mr. Samukai, Liberia’s longest serving Defense Minister along with Joseph F. Johnson, former Deputy Minister for Administration and J. Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller were all found guilty in March 2020 but took an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Criminal Court ‘C’ Judge Yamie Gbeisay sentenced Samukai and his deputy to two years imprisonment but with a condition to restitute US$1.3 million over a one-year period.
A summary of the prosecution argument is that defendant Samukai and his co-defendants had no authority to use the AFL pension funds; that in fact said funds were private funds although they charged Samukai for using public funds; and that the defendants issued checks in their own names for personal benefits.
Misuse of private funds has another legal remedy, as compared to misuse of public funds for which Samukai and co-defendants are charged. It means the prosecution made a legal blunder charging someone for something but argued on another legal ground. This is an element of doubt to the detriment of the prosecution, but to the benefit of the defendants.