The Jallah Special Independent Committee which President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed to investigate the scandal involving the National Security Agency (NSA), whose operatives, without a warrant arrested several Korean businessmen and others and seized from them US$247,500, made a number of forthright recommendations.
In our editorial of November 13, 14, we commended the Jallah Committee in particular for recommending that the NSA ‘operatives’, having acted illegally, should be sent to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.
The Jallah Committee further recommended that the government of Liberia (GOL) repay the Koreans their money. The Committee’s full Report has not yet been made public.
The Executive Mansion did, however, issue a press statement indicating that President Sirleaf had received the Report and forwarded it to the Ministry of Justice. She mandated the Ministry to review the Report and to ensure that “appropriate actions, including all of the recommendations contained [therein] be taken into consideration, consistent with law.”
One of the recommendations made by the Jallah Committee concerned the US$247,500 which the NSA operatives seized from the Koreans, calling some of the money “counterfeit.” Recommendation (c) of the Jallah Committee Report said inter alia: “The Government of Liberia refund to the Korean nationals the full amount of US$247,500, which they withdrew from the International Bank of Liberia (IB) on July 8, 2014 and which they proceeded with to the City King Hotel immediately thereafter and were arrested shortly after their arrival.”
The Daily Observer approached Counselor Jallah and requested a copy of the Report, but he declined, saying he had already submitted it to the President and only her office could furnish us a copy.
Since Chairman Jallah further declined to divulge any details of the Report whatsoever, we speculated in our November 13 editorial that being a reputable professional lawyer, Counselor Jallah and his Committee had contacted IB Bank to confirm that the Koreans did indeed withdraw the amount of US$247,500. We felt the Committee had found it absolutely necessary to do this, if for no other reason than to confirm that the full amount was legitimate money and not “counterfeit,” as the NSA operatives had claimed.
We reckoned that had the Committee found the NSA’s “counterfeit” charge to have been true, the Committee would not have recommended that GOL “refund” the Koreans’ money.
Without the benefit of having seen the Committee’s full Report, we do not know why Counselor Jallah and his Special Committee recommended that GOL, rather than the NSA operatives themselves, who seized the money, refund the Koreans. Nor do we know what the Report said about what has happened to the money seized by the NSA operatives.
What is now clear, however, is that the US$247,500 is in the possession of somebody at NSA. Somebody within the Agency knows where that money is. It is only appropriate, just and responsible that the Director General, Fumba Sirleaf, who happens to be the son of President Sirleaf, should be called to account for that money, since he heads that Agency.
We most certainly believe that it would be a travesty (mockery) of justice should the Liberian government be made to refund the Koreans’ money. It would undermine everything the President has said or done to fight corruption which she, in her first inaugural address, described as “public enemy number one.”
Such a precedent would open even wider the floodgate of corruption which the President herself has admitted to be “endemic” (common, widespread, rife) in Liberia.
GOL paying back that money, which we know GOL does not have, given the grave economic crisis into which Ebola has plunged the country, would send a terrible message to the Liberian people and the international community, to whom GOL has appealed for support in the fight against this deadly virus.
It is our uncompromising conviction that the NSA, and not the government, should be directed to find and make restitution of the money they seized from the Korean businessmen.