…with fear of closure against those companies that would be inclined to post bond for any indicted officials from the Sirleaf administration.
Under pressure to recover $4.6 billion worth of alleged missing assets during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a highly placed source at the echelon of the judiciary has confided in the Daily Observer a plan by the Assets Investigation, Restitution and Recovery Team (AIRReT) to close down insurance companies that would attempt to file bond for anyone indicted of corruption.
To make the situation worse, AIRReT has already released a long list of “persons of interest,” and has announced an indictment to recover assets said to have been illegally acquired by some of the former officials in the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration, when they served in various capacities.
AIRReT has also requested from the national coffer US$2.1 million in the 2019/2020 national budget in an attempt to “recover stolen funds.”
However, some of the officials listed have refused to appear before the AIRReT, and have even threatened legal suits in response to being named.
Many individuals, including former Finance Minister Amara Konneh, issued letters to AIRReT, accusing it of issuing “unsubstantiated speculations, street gossips, and media reports implicating me in some unnamed offense.”
Former President Sirleaf, who is not listed as a “person of interest,” but could be called in for questioning, has also strongly defended her son, Charles Sirleaf, who is being tried in connection with the missing L$16 billion from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), insisting that her son had been “unjustifiably, illegally charged.”
Others on the list, have described the AIRReT’s attempt as being a “politically-motivated witch-hunt with little basis in fact or evidence.”
But the legal source said the planned threat is to implant fear of closure against those insurance companies that would be inclined to post bond for any officials from the Sirleaf administration that would be indicted.
“This strategy is intended to keep the accused in prison, while undergoing court trial, because such a person would not be able to find an insurance company that will secure a bail for their immediate release,” the source in the Judiciary said.
The source said if the imprisoned person cannot find any insurance company to post a bail, that means they would be compelled to file a property valuation bond, thus putting their property under AIRReT’s jurisdiction.
Thereafter, the source said, another strategy the AIRReT has formulated, is to seize the property(ies), and subsequently launch an investigation as to how said properties were acquired by the accused.
“By that trick, AIRReT would later demand an explanation of acquisition, and then press money laundering charges against the indicted individuals,” the source unveiled.
The source said it is several ways that AIRReT has designed to distract public attention from the appalling economic hardship, and to shift blame on the past government through confiscating assets of Sirleaf administration officials.
It can be recalled that at the launch of the recent three-day National Economic Dialogue, President Weah said these challenges result from a broken economy, coupled with structural changes that his administration inherited.
“In the 18 months since my incumbency, we have exercised our best efforts as a government to address these issues, yet, many continue to present challenges,” President Weah then admitted.
Weah also admitted that he has exercised all efforts to address economic challenges confronting his administration, but to no avail.
It is not clear as to whether AIRReT’s threats to insurance companies is being influenced by President Weah’s assertion that the economic challenges resulted from a broken economy he inherited.
Recently, Solicitor General Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus mandated AIRReT to commence a comprehensive review and investigation of cases involving the ministries of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, of Health, and of National Defense.
The AIRReT is charged with the responsibility to investigate, restitute, and subsequently recover funds that were embezzled, and or misappropriated from the government as contained in reports the General Auditing Commission, (GAC) submitted to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
AIRReT Chief Prosecutor, Cllr. Arthur Johnson, has also confirmed that the international team is expected to arrive in the country any time in the coming weeks to immediately begin the review, investigation, restitution and recovery process of the Liberian people’s funds.