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Liberia: Brownie Samukai Clarifies Usage of AFL Funds; Takes Issues with Cllr. Arthur Johnson

Former National Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai, Jr.

Monrovia – The Sayeh & Sayeh Law Firm, representing the legal interest of the former Minister of National Defense, Mr. Brownie J. Samukai, Jr, said they were taken aback, when the Chairman of the Assets, Investigation, Restitution, and Recovery Team (AIRRET), Cllr. Arthur Johnson, made, what they termed “factually incorrect statements,” on Friday, August 2.

During a live press conference on Friday, according to Min. Samukai’s lawyers, Cllr. Johnson alleged that their client had “confessed” to personally utilizing funds belonging to the AFL, and that he will restitute such amounts of money. 

“Cllr. Johnson also indicated that our client was a soldier, thus insinuating his actions violated the AFL Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ),” Sayeh & Sayeh Law Firm further stated in a press statement on Saturday, August 3rd.

“First, our client was a civilian serving as Minister of National Defense, and not a soldier. His actions and decisions are not subject to the jurisdiction of the AFL UCMJ.

“Second, at no time did our client agreed nor confessed to spending any welfare funds for personal use, and there is no legal basis for restitution of funds spent on the Armed Forces of Liberia.”

According to the press statement, Min. Samukai, along with the law firm, responded to an invitation and met AIRRET on Monday, July 22nd, during which Cllr. Johnson presented allegations that funds accumulated for the welfare of personnel of the AFL were used and unaccounted for. 

“Our client responded and presented the team countless documentary evidences showing the team how the funds were used, pending refund by Government thru budgetary appropriation. Our Client indicated that for the years 2014 to 2017, the Ministry of National Defense did not receive any operational funds to replenish the funds that were used from the Welfare funds to support, sustain, and maintain the welfare, mission and operations of the AFL.  

“The team disregarded these documents and refused to accept the legitimacy of utilizing the funds on the welfare, or training or mission of the AFL, pending refund by central Government.” 

The Sayeh and Sayeh Law firm also disclosed that its client, repeated the decisions reached between former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President George Manneh Weah during series of meetings held together between January 13 and 17, 2018, as well as with the leadership of the Armed Forces of Liberia, that the incoming Government of President Weah will refund all funds spent from the AFL Welfare Fund on the AFL.    

“For the record, on 17th January 2018, His Excellency President-elect George Weah held a meeting at his residence in rehab Road, Paynesville, with our client, Brownie J. Samukai, Jr. then Minister of National Defense, along with Senior leadership of the AFL.  During that meeting, they discussed the outstanding issue of refund to the AFL Welfare Fund, and His Excellency President-elect Weah confirmed and reiterated in that meeting that he and out-going President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have met and discussed this situation and agreed to refund all funds spent on the AFL from the AFL Welfare Fund during the passage of budget 2018. During this meeting, President-elect Weah, also read and approved the draft press statement presented to him, which had already been read and approved by out-going President Sirleaf, as well as the Senior leadership of the AFL, for release to the public, as the official resolution of this matter.”  

Min. Samukai’s legal team further stated that President-elect Weah along with Out-going President Sirleaf did not raise any objection that the Minister of National Defense hold a press conference and deliver that statement to the public. That press conference was held on January 18, 2018 at the Ministry of National Defense.

“True to his words, His Excellency President George Manneh Weah, thru budgetary appropriation, delivered on his promise and made full refund payments to the Armed Forces of Liberia, as evidenced by final payment made in the amount of US$460,000.00 in July 2018.”

Chairman of the Assets, Investigation, Restitution, and Recovery Team, Cllr. Arthur Johnson

In Min. Samukai’s lawyers’ third count, they said Cllr Johnson also “prematurely” stated that their client should have consulted and sought permission from the AFL on how their welfare, training, missions, and orders are to be supported before deciding to spend funds from the AFL Welfare Fund.  

“Our client as Minister of National Defense, acting under the direction, guidance, instructions, policy directives, consultations, orders, and National Security interest of Liberia, and as directed by the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces Liberia, took decisions to support, sustain, and maintain the welfare and missions of the Armed Forces of Liberia. There is not any evidence that Mr. Samukai used any portion of the AFL welfare funds for his personal use. Mr. Samukai did not need permission from soldiers to issue orders or instructions.”

The Sayeh and Sayeh Law Firm said as lawyers representing Mr. Samukai, they believe that given the “non-factual statements” issued against their client, and consistent with the dictates of “Duty of Care” as a professional lawyer, Cllr Johnson erred in making public “non-factual statements” against our client.  

They added: “We believe Cllr. Johnson has a Duty of Professionalism to retract such non-factual statements about any confessions made by our client.  Such untruth statement by Cllr. Johnson has the propensity to impugn on the integrity and reputation of our client.”

“Finally, we responded to the invitation of Cllr Johnson and his Team out of respect and duty of responsibility, and has been cooperating and providing some documentary evidence to prove that the actions of our client were in support of the AFL without criminal intent nor malice, neither selfish benefit whatsoever; and that our client’s decisions caused no harm nor injury to the mission of the AFL.   

“There is ample evidence that the AFL has been refunded by the Government in fulfillment of the agreement by His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia.”