Monrovia – An investigation by FrontPageAfrica has discovered that both President Joseph Boakai and his Vice President Jeremiah Koung ignored major red flags prior to the nomination of Mr. Cooper Kruah as Minister of Justice. Cllr. Kruah, according to more than 150 pages of court records, was found guilty of unethical practice as a lawyer by the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Supreme Court of Liberia. However, then Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor failed to enforce the said judgement due to his personal relationship with Cllr. Kruah, according to documents in possession of FrontPageAfrica.
Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
FrontPageAfrica has obtained two letters written to both President Boakai and his Vice President dated, January 7 and January 8 respectively, carrying the same content, raising red flags about Kruah, who was at the time being pushed by the former warlord, Prince Y. Johnson, as one of his many recommendations for jobs in the Boakai administration.
Johnson, now a senator from vote rich Nimba County, played a crucial role in the election of President Boakai and has been making a list of demands for jobs at several government ministries and agencies.
The Kruah controversy mirrors a similar saga that unfolded in the early days of Boakai’s predecessor, George Manneh Weah.
In February 2018, President Weah was forced to withdraw the nomination of Cllr. Charles Gibson, Minister of Justice/Attorney General following multiple staining media reports on his integrity.
President Weah made the withdrawal on February 7, 2018, in an official communication to the Senate Pro-Temp Hon. Albert Chie.
Cllr. Gibson was found guilty by the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Supreme Court after it was established that Cllr. Gibson misappropriated US$25,322.00 from a client.
His suspension was lifted by the High Court after he restituted the amount. Gibson was also accused by a lady identified as Freda Mensah, believed to be in her late 60s of attempting to shortchange her on a 75-acre farmland he was selling on her behalf. According to her, Cllr. Gibson received an initial payment of US$22,000 but reported only US$2,000.
JNB Under Pressure
Last week, FrontPageAfrica reported that President Joseph Boakai was in the midst of a dilemma in picking his Minister of Justice who also doubles as Attorney General and head of the joint security of the government. Both Vice President, Koung and political ally, Prince Johnson prevailed on the President to pick Kruah, the chairman of their party, the Movement for Democratic Reconstruction.
President Boakai had reportedly resolved to appoint a member of the Unity Party league of lawyers, Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi, to the top-notch position. This was evidenced by the appearance of his name on a list of nominees for various positions, including the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Industry, Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Liberia Revenue Authority. This list circulated on social media and various chatrooms on Wednesday. However, it was said not to be authentic. The official list, released last Wednesday evening, bore all the names seen on the initial list, along with additional nominations for the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, and Education. The Ministry of Justice was removed from the updated list, thereby, raising eyebrows.
FrontPageAfrica gathered that the removal of Cllr. Massaquoi from the list was triggered by the disagreement of Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson along with his protégé, Vice President Jeremiah Koung. The pair had been pressuring the President to nominate Cllr. Cooper Kruah for the post.
Insiders familiar with the situation speculate that Senator Johnson’s proposal, stemming from his past as a warlord with a controversial background, may have been a reaction to the President’s recent announcement regarding the initiation of feasibility studies for a war and economic crimes court. It is believed that Senator Johnson, seeking to exert influence, may be attempting to appoint an Attorney General who could act as a shield, potentially hindering or impeding the establishment of the court.
A diplomatic source speaking to FrontPageAfrica on condition of anonymity said Wednesday that the idea of Kruah heading the Ministry of Justice is generating a lot of disappointment, especially regarding the issue of war crimes and the former warlord Prince Johnson’s likely influence over a critical justice post.
A Dossier of Criminal Acts
On January 8, 2024, the Mano River Agriculture Rehabilitation & Development Corporation (MARDCO) wrote President Boakai, notifying him about Mr. Kruah’s legal issues which led to guilty verdict by the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the high court.
The letter reads:
With honor and great respect, we write to humbly bring to your attention and to seek your intervention to amicably resolve a matter of financial dispute between the Mano River Agriculture Rehabilitation and Development Corporation and Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah of the Henries & Henries Law Firm.
Our above-mentioned institution was established in both the Republic of Liberia and Sierra Leone since 2006. Between 2009 and 2012 Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah was hired as a lawyer for MARDCO during our case with Mr. Edmondo Trombetta in the Republic of Liberia and he, Cllr. Kruah received on behalf of MARDCO the total amount of One Hundred Eight Thousand Nine Hundred Forty-One and Sixty-Five Cents United States Dollars (US108, 941.65) from the proceeds of MARDCO’s Rubber from the Republic of Liberia by the Civil Law Court.
This prevailing attitude and action of Cllr. Cooper Kruah has caused serious embarrassment for the continuation of operation of MARDCO both in the Republic of Liberia and Sierra Leone due to the incapability of MARDCO to settle the financial obligations with citizens and landowners of the Republic of Sierra Leone who had worked hard and expected their monies to enable them to meet their livelihood and obligations.
Your Excellency, Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah was investigated and found guilty of unethical practices as a lawyer by the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia and he deliberately failed to adhere to the findings and recommendations of the Disciplinary Committee of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia.
In view of the foregoing, the above-mentioned institution has been compelled to bring to your attention this matter to kindly see reason and intervene by causing Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah to pay our entity (MARDCO) the said amount of US$58,814.08 which represents the balance that is still due to MARDCO from him. We are kindly counting on your intervention as an institution with Investment and would like to continue to buttress the efforts of the government by providing jobs opportunities for some of our Liberian citizens.
Please see attached copies of the “Guilty Verdict” of the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Honorable Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia against Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah; Termination Letter of the contract from the Paramount Chief between MARDCO and the citizens, letter from the citizens within Tunkia Chiefdom of the Republic of Sierra Leone, dated October 3, 2019, demanding the payment of their thirteen (tons) of rubber from the Cooper W. Kruah’s case. The citizens said that since we are Liberians and also member of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), they are going to take our company to the ECOWAS Court upon failure on our part to pay their money.
‘Unethical’ Ethical Lawyer
On June 4, 2020, MARDCO wrote a letter to Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean, informing him of Mr. Kruah’s issues.
The company wrote:
The above company was established in both the Republic of Liberia and Sierra Leone with an investment since 2007. We established a rubber plantation in a small Bo Chiefdom Kenema District of the Republic of Sierra Leone along with our Italian partners in persons of Mr. Edmondo Trombetta and Mr. Roberto Mariani. Mr. Trombetta who was assigned to Sierra Leone as Operations Manager along with Mr. Mariani duped us illegally by changing the name of our company (MARDCO) to the Italian Agricultural Company and sold every proceed and diverted all incomes into their personal accounts.
We took our case with them to the Supreme Court of Liberia, and we won the case; this led to Mr. Trombetta escape from Liberia to Sierra Leone where we followed him and filed a legal complaint against him through our then lawyer Cllr. Francis Margai at the high court in Freetown.
Henceforth, between 2011 and 2012, Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah who served as a lawyer for MARDCO.
During our case with Mr. Trombetta in the Republic of Liberia, received on behalf of MARDCO the total amount of one hundred thousand, nine hundred forty-one United States dollars sixty-five cents (108,941.65 USD) for the proceeds of MARDCO’s rubber from the Republic of Sierra Leone that was sold in the Republic of Liberia by the civil law court and said amount was received by Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah through the court. Cllr. Cooper Kruah dubiously diverted the amount of fifty-eight thousand eight hundred fourteen dollars eight cents (US$58,814.08 USD) into his personal account. MARDCO filed a complaint against Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah to the Chief Justice (His Honor, Francis S. Korkpor) at the supreme court of Liberia on June 24, 2014, and the legal proceedings were done through the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Honorable Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia). Cllr. Cooper was found guilty of unethical practice as a lawyer and the above-mentioned committee recommended to the Chief Justice his Honor Francis S. Korkpor to enforce their findings and recommendations of said judgement, but the Chief Justice his Honor Francis S. Korkpor failed to enforce the said judgement due to his personal relationship with Cllr. Kruah.
On January 10, 2019, MARDCO followed up their complaints in a communication to Cllr. George E. Henries, then chair of the Grievance and Ethics Committee notifying him of the obstacles they were facing regarding the refusal of Chief Justice Korkpor to enforce the Grievance and Ethics Committee report and recommendations against Cooper Kruah which was investigated by the committee.
On January 18, 2029, MARDCO sent another communication to the office of former President George Weah urging his intervention into the Kruah case. At the time, Mr. Kruah was Minister of Post & Telecommunication in the Weah government. “Mr. President, MARDCO is kindly asking for your urgent intervention into a case where the Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia His Honor Francis Korkpor Sr. is protecting Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah who is now a Minister in your administration to go with impunity for stealing our company’s money when he was lawyer for the company.”
MARDCO informed President Weah that when the case was investigated by the Grievance and Ethics Committee, it was found that Cllr. Kruah was found guilty and liable for the theft of the money in violation of rule 15 of the Code of moral and professional Ethics of lawyers in Liberia which states: A lawyer should refrain from any act whereby for his personal benefit or gain he abuses or takes advantage of the confidence reposed in him by his client. Money collected for his client, or other money or property of his said client coming into his possession as a result of his professional duty to his client, should be reported and accounted for promptly, and should not under any circumstances be commingled with his own or used by him.”
MARDCO reminded President Weah at the time that he had withdrawn Cllr. Charles Gibson, his first Justice Minister due to similar violation of Rule 15 of the moral and professional ethics when he was in the law practice. Similarly, MARDCO noted that Cllr. Marcus Jones made similar violations.
MARDCO went on to describe Cllr. Kruah’s actions as not only unethical but criminal.
In a September 2016 Amicus Brief by Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, who was appointed to the case, Cllr. Gongloe prayed that the court approve the recommendation of the Grievance & Ethics Committee that Kruah be ordered to account within thirty days to the complainant or be suspended from the practice of law until he fully accounts for the money. The brief also urged the court to take any action in the court’s consideration that would protect the integrity of the legal profession based on the facts and circumstances of the case in a manner consistent with its previous actions in similar matters.
A Temperamental Personality
Besides his unethical behavior as a lawyer, he has also come under fire amid accusations that he is abusive toward women.
In January 2019, Cllr. Cooper’s wife, Zondetta Pinky Jallah Cooper, took to social media, accusing her husband of wanton abuse and total seizure of her freedom. She accused her husband of crushing all her dreams and being controlling – a situation she said subjected her to mental and emotional anguish, and therefore, decided to leave the country to have peace of mind while she re-strategizes on how to make the marriage work.
Zondetta Pinky Jallah Cooper posted to Facebook:
“I had to run to the Farmington hotel to take shield from the roaming public until my flight time at 3:15am (Air Moroc). While shielding myself, I saw Mr. Ramsey T Gorwor, who is currently being tortured, harassed daily, and also being scraped off his rights of movements and was even jailed by Liberia National Police upon your order. You charged him of kidnapping me, because of his interactions with me at the hotel. You also used your power as Minister of Post and Telecommunications to intimidate and harass the hotel managers by carrying gun men and senior NSA personnel in person of Mr. Bon Jallah, who happens to be an uncle of mine. You took hold of the CCTV video of me and Mr. Gorwor who was seen escorting me to his guess suit to wait until my flight time. You also invaded my privacy by bribing the hotel technician to edit the CCTV video to just satisfy jealous spirit and selfish interest as a renowned lawyer who swore under oath to ALWAYS do what is right. You also distributed the CCTV video you criminally got from Farmington Hotel to the public in an attempt to defame my hard-earned character without further investigation.”
Cllr. Cooper declined to comment on the matter, saying “it’s a family issue, I’m not ready to go public”.
The Liberia National Police got involved with the case after the Minister had officially written the Justice Ministry informing them of his ‘missing’ wife and alleging that he had been able to establish that she was last seen with Ramsey at Farmington Hotel near the Roberts International Airport.
The LNP source said, the investigation found that the Minister had gone with other Ministers of government to receive President George Weah on his return from Senegal at the RIA, but due to some changes in the President’s flight schedule, they decided to do breakfast at Farmington where he discovered his wife’s vehicle parked at the rear of the hotel.
He, accordingly, inquired from the hotel management how the car got there. The hotel management informed him that it was driven there by a man who identified himself as Moris Siryon and booked a room for him and a lady. The next morning, he drove the lady to the airport and returned the car key in a white envelope with the name of the Minister’s brother-in-law.
Shades of Weah
The Kruah saga comes just days after the inauguration of President Boakai into office and seems to contradict President Boakai’s campaign rhetoric and inauguration statements in which he vowed to fight corruption. “We see hard times, we see dysfunctioning… we see corruption in high and low places. And (it’s) in these and similar conditions that we have come to the rescue,” Boakai declared at his swearing-in ceremony,” the President said in his inaugural speech.
Just few days in, however, it appears a number of appointments so far suggest that the new government is not properly vetting nominees to various government positions, a similar refrain that dogged Mr. Boakai’s predecessor, former President George Weah.