Liberia: Samukai, Others to Face 2-yr Jail Time

Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai.

The suspension of the two-year jail sentence that was handed down by the Supreme Court of Liberia, against Lofa County Senator-elect Brownie J. Samukai and his two deputies, has been revoked, since the trio collectively failed to comply with the high court’s mandate and judgment to pay 50% of the judgment sum, equal to US$573,828.15 within a period of six months.

Essentially, Samukai, Joseph Johnson and James Nyuman Ndokor have to serve two years imprisonment each and pay the full judgment amount of US$1,147,656.35, minus the amount they have already paid.

The three former Defense Ministry officials were indicted and found guilty for theft of property, criminal conspiracy, misuse of public money and money laundering in the sum of US$1,147,656.35.

Their two-year sentence was suspended by the Supreme Court on condition that they (defendants) would restitute 50 percent of the amount payable within a period of six months, a condition which the defendants appear to have breached.

Reading the high court’s verdict on January 27, 2022, Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh threatened to have Samukai and his two deputies remain in prison until the balance amount is fully liquidated at the rate of US$25.00 per month for what she termed as gross violation on the part of the defendants.

Prior to the Supreme Court Thursday judgment, Samukai made the payment of US$191,276.05 in three separate checks before Criminal Court “C” Judge Blamo Dixon, but Justice Yuoh that said payment by Samukai does not constitute 50% nor adherence to the conditions in which the jail sentence was suspended by the supreme court.

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

It had been expected by some, especially supporters of the former Defense Minister, that the amount already paid by Samukai would have satisfied only his portion of the required amount, leaving his two co-defendants to come up with their portion. 

However, Justice Yuoh said that the defendants were jointly charged and convicted and that at no time did that honorable 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.

According to her, Judge Dixon improperly executed the mandate of that honorable Court when he (Dixon) relied on a ruling by judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay, which was modified by that court and apportioned the judgment amount of US$1,147,656.35 among the three defendants thus ordering each defendant, including Samukai to pay his share of 50 percent (US$191,276.05).

Justice Yuoh noted that judge Dixon was clearly in error to have apportioned the US$1,147,656.35 amongst the defendants, ordering each to make their 50 percent share.

Given the clear language of the February 8, 2021, opinion and judgment of the Supreme Court regarding the joint liability of restituting the judgment amount, Justice Yuoh indicated that the US$191,276.05 payment by Samukai cannot be considered compliance with the mandate of the high court.

“A bill of information will lie to prevent the inferior court or officer thereof who attempts to execute the mandate of the Supreme Court in an improper manner, or to prevent anyone whosoever from interfering with the judgment or mandate of the court. Hence, this bill of information is the propitiate remedy where it is established that the trial court is improperly executing the mandate/ judgment of the Supreme Court.”

While the court acknowledges payment of Samukai in respect to the amount guilty of, it says that the amount should have been jointly paid by all three defendants and not a single defendant, hence said cannot be considered as honoring its mandate.

By this, Justice Yuoh asserted that all three defendants have failed to honor the Court’s mandate as well as breached the conditions of the suspended sentence.

Similarly; the Supreme Court had moot the request for enlargement prayed for by Samukai through his lawyers to enable him make full payment of his share of the amount for which he was found guilty.

The High Court holds that the bill of information filed on august 18, 2021 by Samukai, requesting for enlargement of time, is a plea made in bad faith, as one cannot claim satisfaction or reparations and, at the sametime pray for time to comply.