‘I Did Not Run Away’: Journalist at Center of Missing L$16 Billion Saga on Arrest Warrant
TOKYO – Mr. Philibert Brown, publisher of the Hot Pepper newspaper, one of few newspapers which unearthed the saga of the missing LD$16 billion Liberian dollars has dismissed suggestions that he has fled the country to avoid appearing before the House of Representatives currently looking into the controversy.
The lower house of the national legislature on Tuesday, voted to give officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) through the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) the greenlight to arrest and enforce the appearance of Mr. Browne, on Friday, November 30, 2018, at 10 a.m.
In a petition proffered by Representative Matthew Zarzar(Sinoe County, District No. 3), the Lower House explained that it made the decision during the 14th Day Sitting following the third absence of Mr. Browne, with House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers describing Mr. Browne’s action as deliberate and callous and in clear violation of the constitution.
Mr. Browne, contacted via telephone Wednesday explained to FrontPageAfrica that it is in fact the lower house which is at fault.
Mr. Browne, who also doubles as President of the Liberia National Olympic Committee told FPA that he is currently attending a scheduled, Association Of National Olympic Committee (ANOC) General Assembly in Tokyo – Japan.
Said Mr. Browne: “I flew to Ghana to obtain my Visa for the General Assembly a month ago. Besides, I am a diabetic and ran out of my medications and within four days my sugar level had gone from normal to 480 that is when I panicked and my daughter took me to the Catholic Hospital. I was hospitalized over night and took three shots of insulin during the night bringing my sugar level to 219 in the morning.”
Mr. Browne further noted that he and his doctors wrote the Legislature explaining his predicament. “But apparently they thought I was hiding or running away from them. I have received no second letter to appear in front of anyone.”
Mr. Browne further explained: “I am on national duty in Japan as President of the National Olympic Committee of Liberia, my boarding passes, I left Liberia on the morning of the 26 of November for Morocco by Air MOROCCO, took Air MOROCCO to Doha and Qatar Airways to Japan where I am right now and I will be home on the fifth of December.”
Mr. Browne was first invited to appear on Thursday, November 22, following a communication from Representative Samuel Kogar(Nimba County District #5) to provide evidence on the involvement of lawmakers in aiding and abetting the printing of L$5 billion and additional L$10.5 billion.
Mr. Browne first revealed in an OK FM afternoon discussion on November 14, that more than 15 lawmakers of the 53rd Legislature, 12 of whom are members of the 54th Legislature, received bribes from the Central Bank Liberia (CBL) through an inappropriate communication to print additional L$10.5 billion banknotes.
The Hot Pepper newspaper publisher further alleged that some of the lawmakers distributed the “inducement money” at the T-Five Academy, located in Neezoe Community, Paynesville, and also at the CBL’s parking lot in Monrovia. T-Five Academy is owned by Montserrado County District #5 Representative Thomas Fallah. But Mr. Browne, citing poor health, wrote Plenary that his invitation be rescheduled.
The revelation prompted the House Plenary to invite Mr. Browne to appear on Monday, November 26, 2018.
Legislative aides have been unable to confirm whether Mr. Browne’s communication notifying the legislature was received and it remains to be seen what would become of the controversy in the wake of Mr. Browne’s clarification and intent to return on December 5th, 2018 as lawmakers continue their inquiry into the investigation relating to the printing of L$10.5 billion, which also prompted lawmakers to place him under contempt.