Court Grants Temporary Travel Leave to Indicted Former Defense Minister Samukai

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Monrovia – Indicted former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai had left the country on a temporary leave granted by out-going Judge of the Criminal Court “C”, Blamo Dixon.

Judge Dixon’s decision to grant former Minister Samukai the leave was based on a request he had made and approved by the court to travel out of the country to honor a professional engagement.

In a communication request, copy of which has been obtained by this newspaper, former Minister Samukai had requested the kind indulgence of the Judge to approve for his travel to Cape Verde from November 17th – 25th 2019 to attend a professional engagement under the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) based in the Washington D.C.

Samukai has further stated in his communication that the reason for his request to the court for travel is because he served as Adjunct Faculty on National Security and Security Sector Reform as well as Catalyst and Panelist upon demand.

He also stated in the letter to the court that he has also been invited to serve as Panelist/ Catalyst at the ACSS sponsored symposium on Managing Security Resources in Africa in Abidjan, Ivory Coast from December 10 – 12 with travel dates December 8/9 and return date 13 December 2019.

“Your honor should you be kind enough to approve my travel aforesaid, my plan is to depart Liberia for Cape Verde on Sunday, November 17, 2019 and return to Liberia on November 25, 2019 and be ready to face trial in the case presently before you against me and then on December 8/9 travel to Abidjan,” said Samukai.

In response to Samukai’s communication to Judge Dixon, the Clerk of the court Knowles Shain wrote adding by directive of Judge Blamo Dixon, I acknowledged receipt of your letter dated October 26, 2019 requesting the court to grant you excuse for you to travel out of the country from November 17, 2019 to December 13, 2019.

“I wish to inform you that your request is hereby granted and you are hereby permitted to travel out of the country on November 17, 2019 and to return to Liberia on December 13, 2019,” stated Criminal Court “C” Clerk Shain.

Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, former Deputy Defense Minister Joseph Johnson, and former Comptroller Nyumah Dorbor have been indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado for their alleged role in embezzling the compulsory savings funds for the Armed Forces of Liberia.

The former officials were indicted with multiple crimes, including money laundering, economic sabotage, criminal facilitation, criminal conspiracy, and theft of property.

The case was brought against the defendants by the Assets Investigative Restitution and Recovery Team, headed by Arthur Johnson.

AIRReT, as the special team is known, is charged with investigating, restituting, and subsequently recovering funds that were allegedly embezzled and misappropriated from the government, as revealed by reports submitted by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).

According to the indictment, in July 2009, the Ministry of National Defense established a compulsory savings fund which deducted salaries from all ranks of the AFL to serve as a supplementary pension benefits to provide assistance to wounded soldiers and families of deceased soldiers.

The indictment stated that the former minister allegedly misapplied over US$1.2 million of the US$1.9 million deposited during former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s regime.

The indictment also accused Samukai of allegedly authorizing the transfer of all transactions of the compulsory savings account, except US$16,000, which was directly paid to a Joseph Gegeh. Gegeh has not yet been identified and the authorization of the amount is still under investigation.

Prosecutors also say US$852,860 was criminally withdrawn by the defendants from the account and expended on activities that were already provided for under the national budget for the Ministry of National Defense.

Moreover, the defendants made themselves the only signatories to the account, leaving out the AFL Chief of Staff and other higher-ranking officers of the Ministry of National Defense, the indictment said.

The Defendants are currently on an US$2,611.107.50  properties bond but it is not clear whether the office of the Montserrado County Attorney Edwin Martin is aware of the departure of the former Defense Minister out of the country as he could not be reached as his phone was switched off when contacted repeatedly Tuesday, November 11.

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