Liberia: New Twist in Ellen Corkrum Case: Solicitor General Asks LACC to Probe EJS-Era Saga
Monrovia – Just days after her rousing arrival to Monrovia, the government of Liberia through the office of the Solicitor General Cllr. Saymah Syrennius Cephus has asked the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the circumstances leading surrounding the case and the single-sourcing of a US-based firm to help with Ms. Corkrum’s extradition.
In a communication from the Solicitor General Cllr. Syrennius Cephus to the head of the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission, Cllr. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, dated February 3, 2020, obtained by FrontPageAfrica Monday, the SG wrote:
$200K Sole Source Extradition Bid Questioned
“We present our compliments and have the honor to forward herewith the attached case file involving Madam Ellen Corkrum, Musa Bility and members of the Board of Directors of RIA and a number of commercial banks which were investigated, others dropped and some were subsequently indicted for “Economic Sabotage, Theft of Property, Criminal conspiracy, and Misapplication of entrusted funds.”
A careful review of the records of the case shows, that the previous government entered a Nolle Prosequoi in favor of a number of defendants involved in this matter prior to our ascendancy, and we in recent times, did the same due to the absence of Madam Corkrum and to avoid being seen as pursuing a “selective prosecution.”
Further, we also noticed that a sole source recommendation was made by our predecessor Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo to hire a US-based firm, Fox Rothschild to which US$200,00(Two Hundred Thousand Dollars that was allegedly paid to Fox Rothschild to have Madam Corkrum brought back to Liberia.
Finally, the investigation should take into consideration the legal basis for the former Solicitor General Betty Lamin-Blamo recommending a sole source bid or selection of Fox Rothschild recommending a sole source bid or selection of Fox Rotschild, what became of the extradition proceedings, if any among them.”
In May 2019, the ECOWAS Court of justice ruled dismissing Ms. Corkrum’s suit filed against the Government of Liberia on September 22, 2016.
The ECOWAS court ruled that the acts complained of by Ms. Corkrum against the Government of Liberia did not amount to the violation of her human rights. The Court ruled that if Ms. Cocrkum wanted to ensure that her case was tried, she should return to Liberia and submit herself to the court’s jurisdiction because the Government of Liberia cannot not try her in abstentia.
Ms. Corkrum had requested the court to declare that her human rights had been violated by the issuance of an indictment against her, which is claims, was baseless and unfounded, and that the Government had failed to have her tried. She also requested the court to enjoin the Government of Liberia from arresting her and that she be allowed to freely travel in and out of Liberia.
At the time, the Liberian government, represented by Solicitor General and the former Solicitor General Cllrs. J. Daku Mulbah and Betty Lamin-Blamo respectively, argued that case should be dismissed because it fails to state or demonstrate an act or conduct on the part of the Government that is indicative of a characteristic violation of a fundamental human right of the plaintiff. The Government argued that the failure of the Government of Liberia to proceed with the case and grant speedy trial to Ms. was because had not presented herself to be tried.
Ms. Ellen Corkrum was the former Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority. Ms. Corkrum, whilst serving as Managing Director (MD) of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), on her own and in conspiracy with others. The Government alleges that she illegally procured the transfer of US$US$269,000.00 of public funds to a fictitious company, Diaspora Consulting, LLC (Diaspora), and to its CEO, Mr. Momar Dieng, her friend from the Kennedy School, Harvard University, for work that he and his company did not perform. Ms. Corkrum also authorized the illegal transfer of US$56,750 of LAA funds to her romantic partner Melvin Johnson, and his firm Melvin Johnson and Associates (a law firm in the State of Georgia, United States of America) allegedly for services rendered in connection with the security system at Roberts International Airport (RIA), which services were neither perform by Johnson or his firm. The transfer was carried out by First International Bank (“FIB”) through its then-Head of Operations Mr. Jeremi Tegli) and another officer (Mr. Justin Ogugua), at Ms. Corkrum’s behest, despite the fact that the application for transfer did not contain the requisite authorizing signatures.
Ms. Corkrum obtained authority from the LAA Board to purchase certain computer equipment for the Board. She obtained access to US$19,480 in LAA funds. However, she delivered to the LAA no more than $8,500 worth of equipment. The balance – at least US$10,980 – remains unaccounted for.
Bailiwick Issued in 2013.
On July 30, 2013, a Special Grand Jury sitting in Montserrado County, Liberia, brought down an indictment against Ms. Corkrum and other co-conspirators, for the crimes of economic sabotage, theft of property, criminal conspiracy, and misapplication of entrusted property. A writ of arrest was issued and served on all of the other Defendants thereby bringing them under the jurisdiction of the court, except for Ms. Corkrum, Mr. Momor Dieng, and Mr. Melvin Johnson who were all outside of the bailiwick of Liberia at the time the writ was issued up to and including today.
Further, we also noticed that a sole source recommendation was made by our predecessor Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo to hire a US-based firm, Fox Rothschild to which US$200,00(Two Hundred Thousand Dollars that was allegedly paid to Fox Rothschild to have Madam Corkrum brought back to Liberia. Finally, the investigation should take into consideration the legal basis for the former Solicitor General Betty Lamin-Blamo recommending a sole source bid or selection of Fox Rothschild recommending a sole source bid or selection of Fox Rotschild, what became of the extradition proceedings, if any among them.”Cllr. Cyrennius Cephus, Solicitor General, RL
In September 2013, the Liberian Ministry of Justice transmitted through its Foreign Ministry and the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C., a request for the extradition from the United States of Ms. Corkrum, Mr. Momar Dieng, and Mr. Melvin Johnson. Ms. Ellen Kwame Corkrum, is believed to reside at Hanscomb Air Force Base in Massachusetts, Melvin Johnson, Esq., believed to be a resident of Stone Mountain, Georgia, and Mr. Momar Dieng, believed to reside in or near Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Request recited that the three, among other defendants, had been indicted by a Special Grand Jury sitting in Montserrado County, Liberia, on July 30, 2013, for the crimes of economic sabotage, theft of property, criminal conspiracy, and misapplication of entrusted property. 1.6. Notwithstanding the fact that Ms. Corkrum has not been placed under the jurisdiction of the courts of Liberia, on May 26, 2014, Ms. Corkrum filed a Motion to Dismiss the indictment against her in the 1st Judicial Circuit Court, Criminal Assizes “C” for the failure of the Government of Liberia to proceed with the case against her in Liberia, knowing very well that the Government cannot proceed with the case against her in abstentia under Liberian law, and particularly so, when she has never been brought under the jurisdiction of the court by the appropriate service of the writ.
The Government of Liberia moved to have the Motion Stricken because firstly it was improperly verified and secondly, and most importantly, because the Plaintiff was not under the jurisdiction of the court. On June 2, 2014, the First Judicial Circuit Court, Criminal Assizes “C” ruled, striking and dismissing the Motion to dismiss, chided and rebuked the Counsel for Plaintiff for the procurement of a fraudulent affidavit which he attached to the Motion.
The Sirleaf administration, appeared frustrated over its inability to have Madam Corkrum and her romantic partner, Mr. Melvin Johnson, apprehended and accused the pair of launching a smear campaign against the government. “Corkrum and Johnson instead of presenting themselves before court in Liberia to defend the charges brought against them, elected to try their cases in the court of public opinion, and by propaganda, by calling into Radio talk shows into Liberia from the United States,” the Sirleaf government said in 2017.
Nolle Prosequoi filed
Last December, the case to a surprise twist when state lawyers dropped charges against Corkrum.
The charges were dropped against Corkrum on Monday December 9, 2019 by Judge Nancy F. Sammy of Criminal Court ‘C’ based on prosecution request through a motion to Nolle Prosequoi the case.
The motion to Nolle Prosequoi the case was filed by the prosecution on December 3, 2019.
In the motion, the Assistant Minister for Litigation at the Ministry of Justice, Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh argued that the case has been pending before the court since 2013 without having the opportunity to serve defendant Corkrum with the Indictment or the Writ of arrest to bring her under the jurisdiction of the court.
“Counsel submits that the defendant along with other defendants in these proceedings, was indicted in 2013 during the November A.D 2013 Term of Court for the crimes of Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy, Theft of Property and Misapplication of Entrusted property.”
Cllr. Wesseh continues: “Movant further says that after the indictment was obtained against the defendants, it has become very impossible to have the defendant (Corkrum) served with the indictment, and that as a matter of law, the said proceedings have been on the docket of this court almost five years, thereby making it impossible to have the case assigned or trial.”
Cllr. Wesseh also stated in the motion that the decision to enter a Nolle Prosequoi was based a reservation to have the matter dismissed in keeping with Chapter 18, Section 18.1 of the Criminal Procedure Law.
Chapter 18, section 18.1 of the Criminal Procedure law States: “The prosecuting attorney may by leave of court file a dismissal of an indictment or complaint or of a count contained therein as to either all or some of the defendants. The prosecution shall thereupon terminate to the extent indicated in the dismissal.”
In her ruling, Judge Sammy granted the prosecution request to Nolle Prosequoi the case, stating that it is the State that has the responsibility and obligation to prosecute all crimes.
“This Court says that the Republic of Liberia has the responsibility and obligation to institute all criminal charges against an accused person. In keeping with this responsibility, they also have the responsibility to prosecute all crimes in this country. Since it is the Republic of Liberia that indicted the movant and it is the same Republic of Liberia that has come and entered or requested the court to Nolle Prosequoi this case, this court hereby grants the said motion in keeping with Section 18.1 of the criminal Procedure Law.”
Corkrum Celebrates Freedom but…
Following the court’s decision, Ms. Corkrum praised George Weah-led government for creating the environment for her freedom. “I thank our Honorable President Weah for creating the environment in our country where the three branches of government can function independently as our constitution reads and for the intestinal fortitude that he continues to exhibit in taking on this challenge of truly carving the structure to bring our country into post war success. I thank our president’s cabinet members who continue to give him support and guidance, led by Minister Nathaniel McGill.”
The latest request from the Solicitor General’s office to the LACC raises new question as to who authorized or was behind the government’s decision to drop the case and why is the government now reopening the same case in the wake of public outcry over the fanfare last week which greeted Madam Corkrum to Monrovia.
Speculations have been rife that Ms. Corkrum may be in line for a security-related post in the government, a rumor, the former LAA boss dismissed when she spoke to FPA last week.