Liberia: New LACC’s Issues 120-Day Ultimatum to Past, Present Public Officials Hooked for Corruption to Restitute Stolen Fund or Risk Arrest
MONROVIA – Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission’s new Executive Chairperson, Cllr. Edwin K. Martin has hit the ground running with a 120–day ultimatum to all past and present public officials to return the properties they stole from government or risk being arrested.
Cllr. Martin replaced Cllr. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, the embattled former Executive Chairperson who was forced to resign due to pressure from the public over his questionable nationality status.
Speaking at a brief ceremony marking his official takeover on Thursday, Cllr. Martin said the period of this voluntary restitution starts August 1st and ends November 30, 2021.
“Today, as I take over, the war on corruption has begun,” he declared. “By that, I am asking all those previous and present public officials who have mismanaged, misapplied, misused and stolen public funds to voluntarily restitute same with immediate effect. This request also goes to private individuals and businesses who are also allegedly involved in stealing or misappropriating public funds.”
He said the LACC is aware and has knowledge on the whereabouts of all those in question, and if they do not adhere to the caveat, there will be unannounced public arrest- whether in offices, businesses or homes.
He named the government’s ‘Asset Recovery Account (in United States Dollars with account# 1602003653) at the Central Bank of Liberia as the dedicated account to be used to deposit all restituted funds.
He also instructed the Division of Enforcement and Intelligence of the LACC to conduct immediate investigation into Government’s Ministries, Agencies and Commission (MAC), Private individuals and business houses who willfully squandered public money for their selfish gains. He said those found culpable will be arrested and charged in accordance with the law.
“Let me make this emphatically clear that I have come to fight corruption beyond all borders. In this light, you are expected to join me as we collectively strive to ensure that our society is protected from all forms of corruption,” he said.
Speaking further, he said his leadership will work through the courts to put in place an extradition proceeding for all those undergoing investigation and charged with corruption that have left the country or escaped to be brought to court. In addition, he mentioned that his leadership will work with friendly countries in making sure that regulations regarding extraditions are reviewed and revised. “This will further give us the power to extradite individuals charged with corruption,” the said.
Corruption Fight- Not A Witch Hunt
Cllr. Martin also stated that the LACC has the sole responsibility by law to investigate all matters of corruption.
“No agency is authorized to do so beside the LACC. As such, all security agencies that are in such habit are kindly asked to desist and have same reported to the LACC,” he said.
He noted that the Act of the LACC is not about witch hunt, rather, it is to ensure that the rights and benefits of Liberians are fully protected.
He announced that all those captured in all the audit reports and that of the LACC investigation will be barred from leaving the bailiwick of the country until justice is served; warning that anyone who attempting to escaped surreptitiously will be arrested and prosecuted.
He thanked the government for its stands to fight corruption and assured development partners that any assistance given to the LACC under his leadership will be utilized as intended for, and accountability will be adhered to.
He also called on the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and civil society organizations, students community and the public to provide the LACC with information on any acts of corruption in aiding the anti-graft agency as it ensures the Liberian society is corruption free and protected. He revealed that two hotlines and an online platform will be set up for said purpose.
Cllr. Martin: “There will be no political witch-hunt or witch-hunt of any kind, but only those involved in corrupt practices will be dragged into the prosecution net by the LACC. Fellow citizens this is the time that we wake up and uphold a new dynamism in this new fight. I know there will be challenges associated with such fight. Howbeit, we have to resolved to redeem our country from the evils of corruption, I promise that I will remain steadfast and unbending in this fight.”
Speaking earlier in his turnover notes, the Vice Chairperson who has been acting as Executive Chairperson following the departure of Cllr. Nwabudike, Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala pledged to work with his new boss to ensure the LACC’s mandate to fight corruption is fully met. He said under his short spell as the acting head, the agency made several significant strides including the restoring of trust from its international partners that led to the procurement of US$500,000 from the UNDP for the next two years.
The event, held at the LACC office was graced by the CSOs and its development partners, who pledged their support.