The final argument that is intended to provide the opportunity for either a guilty or not-guilty verdict in the ongoing US$1.9 million case that was said to have been withdrawn and used by former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and two-other co-defendants was on Tuesday, March 17, scheduled for Thursday.
The decision to set Thursday as the date for the final argument resulted when the prosecution rested with the production of oral and documentary evidence that they have relied on to convict the defendants at Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice.
The prosecution’s action came shortly after the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Chief of Staff, Major General Prince C. Johnson, testified about the US$852,860 which defendant Samukai claimed that he paid to facilitate the deployment of soldiers to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) in the Malian peacekeeping operation in 2013.
However, the prosecution had argued that Samukai, then Minister of Defense, with a criminal intent personally authorized cosigned defendant J. Nyumah Dorbor, then Comptroller of MOD, to withdraw directly and or transfer USD$852,860 on items that were already provided for under the National budget of Liberia such as AFL Operations.
Further to his testimony, Gen. Johnson said though money was provided by the government then, he does not know where the fund came from, because initially the UN did not sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government particularly regarding the provision of equipment to the troops that were deployed in Mali.
“The UN was only providing salaries and allowances to the mission in Mali, and not equipment — that was the government’s financial obligation,” Gen. Johnson testified.
Johnson said the agreement between Liberia and the UN regarding equipping the troops was not signed by the parties, thereby shifting the financial burden on the government to facilitate the deployment and provide equipment, which Samukai claimed that some of the money was spent there to keep up the soldiers in Mali.
The account, established in 2009, was a contributory saving fund that deducted salaries from all ranks of the AFL to serve as a supplementary pension benefit to provide assistance to wounded soldiers ant to families of deceased soldiers, which the prosecution argued that the defendants misapplied the funds.
Former Minister Samukai, Joseph Johnson, Deputy Minister For Administration, and Nyumah Dorkor, Comptroller General, were indicted by the government of Liberia for multiple offenses ranging from theft of property to criminal conspiracy, economic sabotage, misuse of public money and money laundering in the tune of US$1,943,971.99.
Samukai had repeatedly admitted to the payment transaction, arguing that said payment was made with the approval of then Commander-In-Chief of the AFL, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but the current government is now claiming that the transaction was far from the purpose of the account, named and styled: “Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Pension Account” at Ecobank-Liberia.
Samukai had further repeated that the decisions reached between former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President George Manneh Weah during a series of meetings held together between January 13 and 17, 2018, and with the leadership of the AFL, that the incoming government would refund all funds spent from the AFL Welfare Fund.
Samukai also argued that on January 17, 2018, President George Weah, then President-elect, held a meeting at his residence in Rehab, Paynesville, with him along with senior leadership of the AFL, where they discussed the outstanding issue of refunding the AFL Welfare money, and President Weah confirmed and reiterated in that meeting that he and Madam Sirleaf had met and discussed the situation and agreed to refund all money spent on the AFL from the AFL Welfare Fund during the passage of the budget 2018.
According to the Indictment, in July 2009, the Ministry of National Defense (MOD) opened an account named and styled “AFL Pension Account” at the Ecobank Liberia Limited with account number 1092-522-22-19.
The Indictment further mentioned that the purpose of the account was based upon salaries deductions to provide benefits to wounded AFL soldiers and also to families of dead AFL personnel as well as to supplement pension package to personnel of the AFL upon retirement from active service.
The Indictment maintained that during the period July 2009 to November 2017, the amount of US$1,943,971.99 (One Million Nine Hundred Forty-three Thousand, Nine Hundred Seventy-one United States Dollars and Ninety-nine Cents) was deposited into the account.
Defendants J. Brownie Samukai, Former Minister of Defense, Joseph P. Johnson, Deputy Minister for Administration and J. Nyumah Dorbor, Controller and others to be identified, by virtue of these positions within the said entity, knowingly, purposely, criminally and intentionally withdrew and or transferred from the said account the amount of US$1,259,462.00 (One Million Two Hundred Fifty-nine thousand, Four Hundred Sixty-two United States Dollars) between the period of September 2014 up to and including September 2017.”
It continued: “Co-defendant J. Brownie Samukai, then Minister of Defense, with criminal mind personally authorized cosigned defendant J. Nyumah Dorbor, then Controller of MOD, thereby causing the direct withdrawal and or transfer of USD$852,860 (Eight Hundred Fifty-two Thousand, Eight Hundred Sixty United States Dollars) on items that were already provided for under the National budget of Liberia such as AFL Operations.
“In furtherance to the theft, Co-defendant J. Brownie Samukai illegally paid US$50,000.00 (Fifty Thousand United States Dollars) as death benefits to the families of the late, General Abdurrahman, who did not contribute anything to the fund while serving as AFL Chief of Staff.”