The Sayeh & Sayeh Law Firm, representing the legal interest of Brownie J. Samukai, Jr, former Minister of National Defense, on August 3, 2019, denied their client admitted to any act of corruption as is being alleged.
In a press statement, the law firm said it was taken aback when Cllr. Arthur Johnson, Chairman of the Assets, Investigation, Restitution, and Recovery Team (AIRRET), in a live feed press conference on Friday, August 2, 2019, made some “factually incorrect statements alleging that Mr. Samukai had confessed” to personally utilizing funds belonging to the solders of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), and that he will restitute such amounts of money.
Sayeh &Sayeh said Cllr. Johnson also said that Samukai was a soldier, thus insinuating his actions violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
“First, our client was a civilian serving as Minister of National Defense and not a soldier; his actions and decisions are not subject to the jurisdiction of the UCMJ. Second, at no time did our client agree nor confess to spending any welfare funds for personal use, and there is no legal basis for restitution of funds spent on the AFL,” the law firm claimed.
“Our client along with our law firm responded to an invitation and met the Team on Monday, 22 July during which Cllr. Johnson presented allegations that funds accumulated for the welfare of personnel of the AFL were used and unaccounted for,” Sayeh & Sayeh Law Firm said.
Sayeh & Sayeh said Mr. Samukai responded and presented the team countless documentary evidence showing the team how the funds were used, pending refund by government thru budgetary appropriation.
“Our client said that for the years 2014-2017, the Ministry of National Defense did not receive any operational funds to replenish the funds that were used from the Welfare funds to support, sustain, and maintain the welfare, mission, and operations of the AFL,” the law firm said.
The law firm said the government team disregarded these documents, and refused to accept the legitimacy of utilizing the funds on the welfare or training or mission of the AFL, pending refund.
The law firm said Mr. Samukai repeated the decisions reached between former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President George Weah during series of meetings held together between January 13 and 17, 2018, and with the leadership of the AFL that the incoming government will refund all funds spent from the AFL Welfare Fund.
The firm further said that “for the record, on January 17, 2018, then President-elect George Weah held a meeting at his residence in Rehab, Paynesville, with our client then Minister of National Defense, along with senior leadership of the AFL where they discussed the outstanding issue of refund to the AFL Welfare Fund, and President Weah confirmed, and reiterated in that meeting that he and Madam Sirleaf have met and discussed this situation and agreed to refund all funds spent on the AFL from the AFL Welfare Fund during the passage of he budget 2018.”
“During this meeting,” the firm said, “President-Elect Weah, also read and approved the draft press statement presented to him, which had already been read and approved by then President Sirleaf, and the senior leadership of the AFL, for release to the public as the official resolution of this matter.”
The law firm alleged that President Weah in true to his words through budgetary appropriation delivered on his promise and made full refund payments to the AFL as evidenced by final payment made in the amount of US$460,000 in July 2018.
Sayeh & Sayeh Law Firm said there is no evidence that Mr. Samukai used any portion of the AFL Welfare Funds for his personal use, adding that he did not need permission from soldiers to issue orders or instructions.
“As lawyers representing Mr. Samukai,” the firm said, “we believe that given the non-factual statements issued against our Client, and consistent with the dictates of Duty of Care as a professional lawyer, Cllr. Johnson erred in making public non-factual statements against our client; We believe Cllr. Johnson has a duty of professionalism to retract such non-factual statements about any confessions made by our client.”