‘Restitute AFL Penson Money or Go to Jail’

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Flashback: Defendants Johnson and Samukai (dressed in coat suits) leaving the courtroom of Criminal Court 'C' in March of 2020.

Supreme Court tells Lofa County Senator-Elect Samukai

Few days after the National Election Commission (NEC) declared former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai winner of the highly challenged December 8 Special Senatorial election in Lofa County, the Supreme Court on Monday, February 8, made the Senator-elect’s victory sour.

In its unanimous opinion (judgment), the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling from Criminal Court C, which declared Samukai and co-guilts of illegal withdrawing money from Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) pension funds. The court however affirmed the ruling with some modifications.

“The defendants (appellants) are hereby sentenced to serve a term of two years each in a common jail.” The court ruled. “The sentence should be suspended provided the said appellants shall restitute the full amount of US$1,147,656.35 or fifty percent (US$573,828.175).”

Former Defense Minister Samukai, together with two others including Joseph P. Johnson, former Deputy Minister for Administration, and James Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller, was in 2020 pronounced guilty by Criminal Court ‘C’ and mandated to restitute the amount of US$1,147,656.35 that they, without the authorization of the leadership of the AFL, withdrew from the soldiers’ Pension Savings Account.  

During the case, Samukai argued that it was former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that instructed him to withdraw the money; as a result, he cannot be held guilty for a crime he did not commit. The payment, the court said, must be made within the period of six months and thereafter, enter appropriate arrangements to pay the remaining portion in one year.

“Shall the appellants fail to pay the remaining portion in one calendar year or refuse to restitute as stated, they shall be incarcerated in the common jail until the full amount is paid or liquidated at the rate of US$25 per month as provided for by the law.”

The Supreme Court’s decision was necessitated when Samukai and his codefendants rejected the lower court’s judgment and subsequently announced an appeal to the high court.

Samukai contested on the ticket of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP). However, as a member of the political opposition that swept the Senate in the recent Senatorial mid-term elections, it remains unclear as to whether or not Senator-elect Samukai, now a convict, can be allowed to take his seat in the Senate after being finally declared by the NEC following weeks of delay as a result of hearing of electoral dispute between him and defeated candidate Joseph Jallah.

The Supreme Court’s decision comes few weeks after another CPP Senator, Counselor Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County, was implicated by the US Treasury Department into corruption in the Liberian judicial system, which accusation the High Court rejected and subsequently demanding evidence from the US Treasury.

In Judge Gbeisay’s ruling earlier, he ruled that the defendants (Samukai and others) were guilty of the crimes of theft of property, misuse of public money and criminal conspiracy. Further, the Judge said from the analysis of testimonies on both sides — the defense and the prosecution — it is crystal clear that the defendants did not deny the withdrawal and use of the AFL funds, but instead justified their actions on two counts.

In one justification, Judge Gbeisay said, the accused maintained that they acted in line with the Constitution and relevant laws, and on the other hand, they acted on the orders of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and current President George Weah, adding that it was based on this commitment that President Weah made an initial payment of US$460,000.

According to him (Judge Gbeisay), the AFL pension account is private money owned by the AFL personnel and that the Minister of Defense was correct in making himself, his deputy, and comptroller as signatories to the funds, in that the AFL is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defense who administers the affairs of the AFL.

The AFL’s account was opened under the signatures of Co-defendant J. Brownie Samukai, Jr., former Minister of National Defense as “signatory A” and Defendant J. Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller of the Ministry of National Defense as “Signatory B” and Defendant Joseph P. Johnson, former Deputy Minister for Administration, Ministry of Defense, also as “signatory A.”

“As such,” the judge ruled, “Defendant Samukai is by law a fiduciary of the AFL.”

However, Gbeisay further ruled, “It is of the considered opinion that Samukai breached and abused his fiduciary duty to the men and women of the AFL when he selected to misuse their funds for purposes other than intended.”

Earlier, the government had alleged that, of the total amount of US$1,259,462, co-defendant Samukai, with criminal mind, personally authorized and co-signed along with defendant Dorkor, a check for US$852,860 withdrawal, transferred and intentionally expended same, basically on activities that were already provided for under the National Budget of the government, such as AFL operations.

In addition, Samukai illegally paid US$50,000 as death benefits to the families of the late General Abdurrahman, who did not contribute anything to the fund while serving AFL as Chief of Staff; that money was misapplied. In the case of Co-defendant Johnson, the document claims that he authorized and co-signed a check along with co-defendant Dorkor, and caused the withdrawal and subsequent transfer of the sum of US$406,602 from the AFL Pension Account contrary to the intended purpose of the funds which was for supplementary pension package to personnel of the AFL.

Further, all operational funds from the AFL-pension account were authorized to be transferred into the account of the Ministry of National Defense, except the amount of US$16,000, which was paid directly to one Joseph Gegeh to be identified.

“As part of the collusion, all authorization letters directly resulting in the commission of the crime of theft of property by deception was done by Co-defendant Dorkor.

“At the same time, on the 3rd day of the month of October in 2017, former AFL Deputy Minister for Administration, Johnson, criminally and intentionally authorized Ecobank Liberia Limited to change the ‘AFL-Pension account title to AFL Morale and Welfare account’ without any evidence, consultation, and administrative decision and without the consent of the AFL High Command,” the court document said.

The indictment further alleges that, at diverse times during the periods of July 1, 2009, an account named and styled, “AFL Pension Saving Account” at ECOBANK Liberia Limited with account number 1092-522-22-19, was opened under the signatures of Co-defendant Samukai as “signatory A” and Dorkor, as “Signatory B” while, Johnson was also “A”.

The soldiers’ salaries, which were deducted between the period of July 2009 up to and including October 2017, the total of US$1,943,971.99, representing the combined deductions from the salaries of AFL soldiers, was deposited into AFL account.

The deductions were made on the basis of ranks. State prosecutors claimed that the defendants misused US$1,259,462.

The said account was based upon salaries deductions and was established to provide benefits for wounded AFL soldiers, families of dead AFL soldiers and was intended to supplement the pension package to personnel of AFL upon retirement from active service, the indictment further alleges.

16 COMMENTS

  1. LIBERIA is just a SAD story.
    How in the world did an indicted Felon like Brownie Samukai end up on the Senatorial ticket of the CPP???

  2. Was the money not used for security purposes, did the former President not instruct the then Minister of Defense to use the money? and the current President was in agreement to refund the money? Stop play politics with security situation; our democracy is too fragile, be careful. The funds were used to provide logistics for soldiers in Mali. It was testified to by ranking officers of the AFL, who all reaffirmed the orders of the Commander in Chief.
    Take politics out of this issue.

    • Mr. Gloom,
      If you are so concerned and sincere that the US$1.4 Million reportedly and illegally withdrawn by defendants J. Brownie Sumakai, Joseph P. Johnson and James Nyemah Dorkor from the private account of members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were withdrawn on the orders and instructions of Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s Former President, then J. Brownie Sumakai, Joseph P. Johnson and James Nyumah Dorkor, by Law, were required to establish and prove their claim. Defendants Sumakai, Johnson and Dorkor, represented by Cllr. M. Wilken Wright, Former Associâtes Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia, but failed to prove their claim. That being said and notwithstanding, Cllrs. Wright, Augustine Fayiah and Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods, failed and neglected to prove that defendants J. Brownie Sumakai, Joseph P. Johnson and James Nyumah Dorkor acted on the legitimate orders of President Johnson Sirleaf and therefore, they did not STEAL THE MONEY of members of the Forces of Liberia, and thus, the Crime of Property Theft was not established by the State, the Republic of Liberia. Due to this massive failure and neglect by defendants Sumakai, Johnson and Dorkor, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia, confirmed and reaffirmed their conviction by Criminal Court ‘C’. Defendants J. Brownie Sumakai, Joseph P. Johnson and James Nyumah Dorkor, had their day in Court and thus, they must restitute or pay back the US$1.4 Million they collectively and separately withdrew out of the private account of Members of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Stop your B.S, reckless, and misleading and political talk about Liberia’s so-called weak and vulnerable security. The days of Dr. Amos C. Sawyer’s self-induced and Rebel Army are long gone. Defendants Sumakai, Johnson and Dorkor, shamelessly stole the members of the AFL’s US$1.4 Million dollars, and so, let them pay it back or be re-arrested and imprisoned. With the judgment of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia, the conviction of Defendants Sumakai, Johnson and Dorkor is final and conclusively concluded. Call it what you may, defendants Sumakai, Johnson and Dorkor were lawfully and regularly convicted.

      No Liberian is above the Laws of Liberia.

      Why is so difficult for many of you 1970s and 1980s Progressives to tell the truth?

  3. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !
    What A Country ? What A God Forsaken Country That Not Even The Town Trap Called South Beach Prison Can Never Catch The Politically Connected Rich Children From Poor Country People’s Backgrounds ? Yes, from poor country people’s backgrounds. And the have become the best thing that ever happened for That God Forsaken Country. They are the best thing that ever happened for that sick country and its political leadership.
    But soon, and very soon, the next generation of the child soldiers will definitely be the equalizers. One day for who ?
    The They Are Best Thing That Ever Happened For That God Forsaken Land.
    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !
    South Beach Prison keeps catching little rats, but the big fat belly waistline rats keep getting away from the law
    What A Country ? What A Country ?

  4. I just can’t believe this. A former Minister of Liberia, Mr. Samukai has stolen money. Not small money. But money in the hundreds of thousands. What a guy! And after doing that, Mr. Samukai became boldfaced and got into politics? Shame on you man.

  5. Another political vendetta!

    This is not the first time this case is being carried by the Daily Observer. The last time it published an article on the saga, President Weah promised to reimburse the $406 kilo dollars and Mr. Samuaki was acquitted, reason why he was even qualified to contest the senatorial election. Why be found guilty again seldomly when the guy has been certified?

    The big female and male elephants are still around roaming freely, yet you have chosen to attack the little racoon just to express your shame from a horrible defeat.
    Liberians with normal brains, please answer the following questions:
    Is it possible for a simple minister to withdraw such huge amounts from a pension scheme without the written and tacit orders of the president of the Republic of Liberia?
    Let’s assume your answer is affirmative, why should such case be brought before the outgoing and incoming presidents, with the AFL being present as a witness?
    And finally, why will the current president, who was then the incoming president, accept to make partial reimbursement of such monies?

    Leave poor Samukai alone!
    If you guys want to retrieve the money, Ellen and Weah are around, let them account for the soldier people money.
    Mind you my people, la soldier people money ooooooooh! Ah, me I na talk my own.

    • This case is about a crime, not politics. Why didn’t the defendants produce evidence to support their claim that former President Sirleaf ordered them to use money from the pension fund? They couldn’t produce such evidence because they had none. Because there is no consequence for stealing public funds, these guys thought it would have been business as usual but somehow, their luck ran out. That’s how life is. Now, they face serious legal jeopardy and that’s great for the country. People must pay for their crimes to deter others from doing the same thing.

  6. Political decision are now made in our courts, what a fragile nation? Hoping this ends peacefully as Lofa county looks anxiously. Johnson & Weah road project did not even start when it was buried, now a fine reputable son is being damaged to keep Lofa silent but, Lofa has always resisted to the end.

    • Come on dude. This case follows a simple logic. Samukai claims his former boss, President Ellen ordered him to use the money but there is no record of the request? When the President ask you to use $1.4 million from a pension fund for Soldiers, wouldn’t you ask for a letter from the President’s office to cover your ass? Is he that stupid or just a lame excuse to justify his crime? Nobody believes his bullshit lie. Hopefully this case will set an example for other criminals in the government. It’s time!

  7. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !
    What is actually at the center of the AFL or solders’ fund is the: Will And Pleasure of The Presidency vs. The Law. That was what was before the Court against Mr. Samukai. What the Court determined was the Will and Pleasure of the presidency is not the law but political, as part of the Executive Privilege.
    In the Richard Nixon’s Watergate Case, President Nixon tried to use the Will and Pleasure of the president as a presidential privilege. What was said to and by all ” The President’s Men” were Executive Privilege as serving at the Will and Pleasure of President Nixon. That was struck down by the Court.
    The recent elections in the US saw many of the Trump officials resigning rather than work at the Will and Pleasure of President Trump to say the election was stolen. Many rather resigned than to serve at the Will and Pleasure of President Trump. And if they broke the law serving at the Will and Pleasure of President Trump, they will be held accountable
    The Will and Pleasure of the presidency is political rather than the Law ! Where the executer of the Will and Pleasure of the presidency is held accountable or responsible or liable for the actions of the Will and Pleasure of the presidency. Mr. Samukai just found that out how political it is serving at the Will and Pleasure of the President. Especially when the action is wrong. That is the tinline that the Supreme Court is drive home to Mr. Samukai and others.
    Unfortunately, serving at the Will and Pleasure of the presidency left the nation’s Central Bank out of Money with the citizens holding the empty brown bag! Unfortunately, serving at the Will and Pleasure of the presidency left the mop-up exercise out of 25 million US dollars, and the citizens holding the empty bag.
    Can any of the President’s team of advisers say that they were working at the Will and Pleasure of the presidency, and was following orders ? That is what the Court did not agreed with, as the argument puts forward by Mr. Samukai’s team of lawyers.
    In that country, for officials to get away with wrongful acts of crimes clandestinely, they are working at the Will and Pleasure of the presidency. The nation saw this under the previous regime of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her son. How can she, when million of US dollars missing and unacceptable that the oil company into bankruptcy ? How can she ? Presidential Privilege that led Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to take responsibility, and closed the case. Had that Presidential privilege gone before the law, just as Mr. Samukai found out, the Sirleaf’s boy would have been behind bars, in an idea country.
    The whole idea behind the Will and Pleasure of the presidency is responsible for the under development of that country through its clandestine corruption with impunity.
    Back in the days, citizens were under the impression that questioning the Superintendent, meant questioning the authority of the President. They understood that the Superintendent represents the President. If the Superintendent got insulte or accused, that means the President is being insulted. Because the Superintendent represents the President’s authority of his Will and Pleasure. No one dared say a word about the Superintendent.
    It is not surprising to see Mr. Flomo arguing on the same issue of Mr. Samukai carrying out the order of the previous President. That Mr. Samukai served at the Will and Pleasure of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. That was how it was taught down to many generations of that country’s. The tinline of the law was never taught. It is unfortunate that Mr. Samukai refused to know that there is a tinline between serving at the Will and Pleasure of the presidency and the law !
    The just recent elections in the States saw huge resignations, rather than to push the country into political turmoil, divisions and crisis. Had that been the case, the Federal Court would awaits them.
    It is a good thing under the law that the Supreme Court was able to check the serving at the Will and Pleasure of the presidency. Unfortunately, the result did not meet the punishment of the clandestine crime committed by the Presidency.
    Serving at the Will and Pleasure of the President vs. the law, The Law Won ! A warning To Others In That God Forsaken Country.

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