Liberia: AFL Deputy Chief Tells Court President Weah Agreed to Pay US$1.4 Million AFL Fund
Monrovia – State lawyers’ special subpoenaed witness in former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai economic sabotage case, Gen. Geraldine Janet George says President George Manneh Weah had promised to pay monies allegedly squandered by former officials of the Ministry.
General George testified that President Weah had agreed in a meeting with the Ministry of National Defense Team of investigators that he would ensured the allotment of the money in the national budget.
She made the statement in open court on Monday, February 24, 2020 when she took the witness stand for the State.
“During the meeting with His Excellency George Manneh Weah, Commander-In-Chief of the AFL, he asked, ‘why was the amount used not reported to the government of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf?’ But the question was not answered. However, he said he was going to pay the money back to the army (AFL) through budgetary allotment,” George told the court.
General George is the current Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed forces of Liberia. She also served as the chairperson of the Internal Investigative Committee setup by the Ministry of National defense to probe the AFL squandered saving funds saga.
George was subpoenaed on Friday, February 21, 2020 to testify for the State in the trial. She was summoned to testify to her statement made to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) during its investigation of the scandal.
George was also requested to testify to the internal investigative report conducted by the Ministry of National defense concerning the AFL compulsory saving funds.
However, General George could not complete her testimony on Friday, February 21, 2020 due to abrupt power outage that locked down the Temple of Justice. She continued her testimony on Monday.
“When we did the report, we did not recommend that an individual should refund the money, but the Government of Liberia,” She said, adding that the reason for the internal investigation of the AFL squandered funds was to ascertain how the funds were used.
“The circumstances that led to this report was, after the presidential election and His Excellency George Manneh Weah was declared President, dependent of the AFL personnel wanted to know what have become of funds that were deducted from their husbands or family salaries.
“Based on that, the account was turned over to the AFL. When this account was turned over to the AFL, and the AFL did their own background check, we found out that about USD$700,000.00 was in the account. Based on that, the former chief of staff, now Minister of Defense, setup a board of inquiry to find out what happened to the funds and within that time, the personnel dependent setup a road block.”
“During the meeting with His Excellency George Manneh Weah, Commander-In-Chief of the AFL, he asked, ‘why was the amount used not reported to the government of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf?’ But the question was not answered. However, he said he was going to pay the money back to the army (AFL) through budgetary allotment.”– General Geraldine Janet George , Deputy Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of Liberia
Gen. George also testified that following the completion of the internal investigation report, a meeting was convened by former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to ascertain the findings contained in the report.
“After the completion of this report, it was forwarded to the former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the President of Liberia. The former president sent for a team to enable us to discuss this report and those present in the meeting were Brownie Samukai (then Minister of defense), late Fredrick Cherue, Former chief of Staff Ziankahn, Sgt. Manqueh Cooper and the present deputy Chief of staff Geraldine George.”
Witness George adds: “The former President wanted to know if the unrelated expenditure was used for personal gain by Hon. Samukai. That was the question she posed to the chairperson of the board, Geraldine George. I told the former president (Ellen) that I do not know whether funds were used for personal gain because my term of reference did not say whether we should find out whether funds were used for personal gain.”
She further testified that the purpose of the account was to settle personnel of the AFL upon retirement.
George added that there was no approved policy during the opening of the account that requires the AFL high command approval of any withdrawal by the minister and his deputies.
Meanwhile, Judge Gbeisay has summoned the Minister of National Defense, Daniel D. Ziankahn and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Prince C. Johnson to testify in the case.
Judge Gbeisay summons was based on prosecution’s submission to the court to use the officials as State witnesses.
In his ruling, Judge Gbeisay granted the prosecution request and ordered the officials to appear, Tuesday, February 25, 2020.
“The request of the prosecution is hereby granted. Both generals are to be served with subpoena to appear on tomorrow same being the 25th of February at 10: 00am. Failure on their part, this court shall ensure that they are in court. The Clerk is order to issue said subpoena,” Judge Gbeisay ordered.
Initially, Chief of Staff Johnson was subpoenaed by the court but could not be served as he was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia attending the African Union (AU) summit.