Liberia: Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, Others Pleaded Not Guilty In Economic Sabotage Case

Mr. Brownie Samukai (in red tie) and sympathizers leaving the court

Monrovia – Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and his two former deputies, Joseph P. Johnson – former Deputy Minister for Administration – and J. Nyumah Dorbor – former Controller – have pleaded not guilty to the crimes of economic sabotage, misused of public money, money laundering, criminal conspiracy and theft of property.

The three Defendants made their not guilty plea at Criminal Court ’C’ on Monday, February 17, when they were arraigned to answer to the crimes.

However, the defendants have waived their right to jury trial and requested the court for a bench trial.

The defendants were indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County in October 2019 for the alleged commission of the crimes.

According to the Indictment, in July 2009, the Ministry of National Defense (MOD) opened an account named and styled “AFL Pension Account” at the Eco Bank Liberia Limited with account number 1092-522-22-19.

The Indictment further mentioned that the purpose of the account was based upon salaries deductions; provide benefits to wounded AFL soldiers, and also to families of dead AFL personnel as well as to supplement pension package to personnel of the AFL upon retirement from active service.

The Indictment maintained that during the period July 2009 to November 2017, the amount of US$1, 943,971.99 (United States Dollars, One Million Nine hundred and Forty Three Thousand, Nine hundred and seventy one and Ninety Cent) was deposited into the account.

Excerpt from the indictment reads: “Thereafter, Defendants J. Brownie Samukai, Former Minister of Defense, Joseph P. Johnson, Deputy Minister for Administration and J. Nyumah Dorbor, Controller and others to be identified, by virtue of these positions within said entity, knowingly, purposely, criminally and intentionally withdrew and or transferred from the said account the amount of US$1,259,462.00 ( United States Dollars, One Million Two Hundred and Fifty Nine thousand, Four hundred and Sixty Two dollars) between the period of September 2014 up to and including September 2017.”

It continued: “Co-defendant J. Brownie Samukai, then Minister of Defense, with criminal mind personally authorized cosigned defendant J, Nyumah Dorbor, then Controller of MOD, thereby causing the direct withdrawal and or transferred of USD$852,860 (Eight Hundred and Fifty Two Thousand, Eight Hundred and Sixty Dollars) on items that were already provided for under the National budget of Liberia such as AFL Operations. 

“In furtherance to the theft, Co-defendant J. Brownie Samukai illegally paid US$50,000.00 (Fifty Thousand United States Dollars) as death benefits to the families of the late, General Abdurrahman, who did not contribute anything to the fund while serving as AFL Chief of Staff.”

However, during the hearing of the case, State prosecutors took an exception to defendant Samukai, Johnson and Dorbor bail bond and filed a motion for the justification of the surety.

The state prosecutors argued that property evaluation bond posted by the defendants to substantiate said bond was self-assessed by the defendants and the value given to it is incorrect.

In resistance, the defense team also argued that they obtained a certificate from the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), which presupposes that the bond is valid and the LRA is satisfied with the assessment done on the property.

In his ruling, Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay ordered the Management of the LRA to appear on Monday, February 24 to explain the procedure of obtaining tax clearance and to justify the defendants’ criminal appearance bond. 

“This court says it is not a staff of the LRA that assessed the said property and that it does not know the LRA’s procedure that is required in obtaining a tax certificate of property. The obvious thing to do is to have the LRA authority to appear in court to tell this court whether or not they have assessed the property in question or have agreed to the amount stated as assessed value of the property,” said Judge Gbeisay.

“The ruling of the motion to justify surety is hereby reserved to be delivered on the following Monday, February 24, 2020 at 9:00AM at which time the LRA will appear in court.” 

Meanwhile, Judge Gbeisay has fined state lawyers US$150.00 for failing to provide all species of evidence to the defense team.

“This court, last Tuesday issued out an order, commanding the prosecution to make available all species of documentary evidence to each of the defendants on or before the 17th of February at the Hour of 4:00PM. The record shows that the prosecution did not take the court seriously,” Judge Gbeisay stressed.

Meanwhile, Judge Gbeisay has also fined defendant Nyumah DorKor US$200 for his failure to appear in court. 

The case has been reassigned for Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at 9:00AM.