Liberia: Samukai Gets 150+ Years to Pay Back AFL Pension Funds

Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai.

Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai will need a little more than 150 years to restitute the over US$1 million he was convicted for, along with two others.

This comes after the former Lofa County Senator-elect reached an agreement with the Ministry of Justice to pay US$500 monthly as part of his attempt to pay back the Armed Forces of Liberia pension funds — for which he and two co-defendants were convicted for theft of property, criminal conspiracy, misuse of public money, and money laundering of over US$1 million and sentenced to two years in prison.

Samukai and his co-convicts are due to pay a balance of US$956,380.30. However, the agreement with the government only mentioned the former defense minister as the sole individual who will pay the stolen money.

“The defendant hereby promises and offers to pay the government through the office of the Sheriff of Criminal Court ‘C’ the amount of US$500, the monthly payment on the first day of each month, beginning June 1, 2022.” 

So far, Samukai is the only one that had paid some money towards the Court order of restitution of the US$1 million-plus.  

However, Samukai’s monthly payment of US$500 amounts to US$6,000 annually — provided he is consistent with payments.

For the 2022 payment, Samukai's monthly payment will amount to US$3,500, since the agreement with the government mandates payment by June 1. 

If he continues on such a payment path, it will take him more than 150 years to pay back the AFL pension money.  

The US$6,000, is the annual sum of the monthly money expected to be paid by Samukai. After 150 years of consistent payments, Samukai will have reached “US$900,000. But he will still be left with an outstanding balance of US$56,380.30. 

The restitution agreement, which was reached between Samukai's lawyers and authorities of the Ministry of Justice, called on him to make a monthly payment of US$500 to the Sheriff of Criminal Court 'C', in fulfillment of his reprieve clemency which called on him to enter into a payment plan with the ministry.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice did not raise any contention about the payment plan and said once he can afford to remove the disabilities imposed on him by the Supreme Court, they do not have a problem. 

Samukai’s agreement with the ministry took place about four months after being issued reprieve clemency by President George Weah, which relieves him from the burden of forceful restitution of 50% of the judgment sum, equal to US$573,828.15, which he and his co-defendants failed to do, causing the Supreme Court to order their jailing until the full sum of the money is paid. 

The President's clemency back then brought an end to the drawn-out legal saga of Samukai, whose whereabouts at certain times were unknown after being ordered jailed by the Supreme Court.  However, when the clemency was announced, it changed everything as he started to make public appearances. 

Samukai, who overwhelmingly won the December 2020 Lofa County Senatorial seat, was prevented from being certificated after the Supreme Court reaffirmed a lower court ruling that he misappropriated money belonging to personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia while serving as Minister of National Defense. 

His case became incredibly contentious after the Supreme Court revoked the suspension of the two-year jail sentence handed against him and his two deputies for failing collectively failed to comply with the high court’s mandate and judgment to pay 50% of the judgment sum, equal to US$573,828.15, within six months of last year. 

That ruling then means that Samukai would have served two years imprisonment along with his co-defendants, Joseph Johnson and James Nyuman Ndokor while paying the full judgment amount of US$1,147,656.35, minus the amount the former paid.

The Court by then noted that law provides that where criminal defendants are jointly adjudged guilty of a crime, they are together, considered collectively responsible for any fines or penalty until the judgment is fully satisfied.  

The Supreme Court added that the defendants were jointly charged and convicted and, at no time did the Supreme Court order any of the defendants to make payment separately from the others. As such, she noted, the issue of separate payment by the defendants has no place in the Supreme Court’s verdict.