Liberia: State Prosecutors Present First Witness in Former Defense Minister Economic Sabotage Case
Monrovia – State prosecutors have presented their first witness in the trial of former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and his two former deputies – Joseph P. Johnson and J. Nyumah Dorkor- in the economic sabotage case.
They also presented copies of documentary evidence to the court to prove their case against the three former Defense Ministry officials.
The former Defense Minister and his two deputies are charged with the commission of the crimes of economic sabotage, misuse of public money, money laundering, criminal conspiracy and theft of property.
They were indicted on October 9, 2019 by the grand jury of Montserrado County for the alleged commission of the crimes and have pleaded not guilty.
However, Augustine S. Mehm, Senior investigator of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) took the witness stand for the State on Wednesday, February 19.
Mehm also served as the senior investigator in the former Defense Minister and his two deputies’ case at the level of the LACC.
In his testimony, Mehm said the Former Defense Minister, Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and President George M. Weah had an agreement to pay for the amount taken from the AFL account.
“He (Brownie Samukai), Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and President George Weah had a meeting that the present government had agreed to pay the money that Samukai spent from the AFL account,” Mehm testified.
However, Mehm could not provide documentary evidence or reliance to his assertion.
He added that during investigation, the Deputy Minister for Administration, Joseph P. Johnson told LACC investigators that the account was established in 2009 to deduct salaries from AFL personnel in order to carter to their welfare but no one benefited from the scheme.
“When the account was opened, it was under the signatures of the defendants (Samukai, Dorbor and Johnson) in the dock and during the operations, the soldiers did not benefit from it,” Mehm testified.
He further explained that financial documents obtained from the Eco Bank Liberia Limited revealed that defendant Samukai opened the account, made himself signatory ‘A’ that no one could access it or withdraw from it without him.
“In 2012, Hon. Joseph P. Johnson joined the Ministry of Defense and made himself signatory ‘A’ and J. Nyumah Dorbor became signatory ‘B’ which means that ‘A and B’ can sign in the absence of Hon. Samukai,” he said.
Mehm also testified that defendant Samukai told LACC investigators that he did not spend any money from the AFL’s account neither did he personally benefited from it.
“Hon. Johnson explained that all of the monies spent were in the interest of the AFL and Dorbor also said the money was withdrawn and used on the AFL’s welfare,” Mehm told the court.
Mehm further alleged in his testimony that the LACC’s investigation established that defendant Samukai and his two former deputies withdrew thousands of dollars from the account.
“Thousands of dollars – US$20,000, US$30,000, and US$10,000 – and only Samukai and his deputies were withdrawing the monies,” he claimed.
“It was also established that Hon. Samukai during the back to back transactions over the account, personally withdrew the amount of USD$852,860.00 with no evidence of send users, the monies rested with them”.