The Criminal Court “C” in Monrovia has subpoenaed authorities at the Executive Mansion, Defense and Justice Ministries to produce original copies of communications referenced and identified by former Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai in relations to approvals given for spending of Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) officers’ compulsory savings funds.
Testifying Monday, 9 March as first defense witness, Mr. Samukai, one of former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s longest – serving cabinet members, said all withdrawals made out of the soldiers’ account were made for the benefit of the AFL, having sought and received the authorization of the Commander – in – Chief, Mrs. Sirleaf.
“Your Honor, all withdrawals made out of this account having sought and received the authorization of the Commander – In – Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, were made for the benefit of the AFL,” he says.
He recalls that between January 15 and 17 January 2018, series of meetings were held which included Defense Ministry officials, the AFL High Command, outgoing President Sirleaf and incoming President George Manneh Weah, which were predicated upon the AFL’s report and recommendation pertaining to the utilization of the AFL’s pension and welfare account funds.
He says Mrs. Sirleaf indicated that she had discussed with Mr. Weah concerning the money, and the two presidents ( Mrs. Sirleaf and Mr. Weah) “agreed to refund the nearly 1.3 million that was used on the AFL.”
Mr. Samukai cites support to the AFL Mission in Mali for pre – deployment training was to the benefit of the AFL. The provision of [death] benefits of AFL personnel to their beneficiaries were to the benefit of the AFL. “All support to operations order than war to include but not limited to operation restore hope, operations white shield and watch over 1,2,3,4,5, were in support of the AFL,” he explains.
The former Defense Minister and former Deputy Defense Minister Joseph Johnson and former Defense Ministry Comptroller Nyumah Dorbor are standing trial for allegedly embezzling funds generated in a compulsory saving scheme established in July 2009 for AFL personnel during former President Sirleaf’s rule.
President George Manneh Weah’s regime indicted the officials on 9 October 2019, accusing them of committing economic sabotage, theft of property, and misuse of public money, among others. However current military officials have testified in the case, saying President Weah has committed to pay back the AFL personnel’s money.
Through the compulsory savings funds, prosecutors here allege that former Minister Samukai, former Deputy Defense Minister Johnson and former Defense Ministry Comptroller Dorbor deducted the salaries of AFL officers from all ranks to serve as supplementary pension benefits for assistance to wounded soldiers and deceased soldiers’ families.
Over US$1.2m of the US$1.9m deposited was allegedly misapplied by Mr. Samukai, the prosecution alleges, and claims further that the defendants made themselves the only signatories to the account, leaving out the then AFL Chief of Staff and other ranking officers.
But Mr. Samukai tells the court that consistent with the Constitution Chapter 6, Article 50 as well as the Executive Law Chapter 24, 24.1 and 24.2, all actions of the Minister of Defense are upon the order of the Commander – in – Chief of the AFL.He explains that the Commander – in – Chief may issue orders as he or she pleases, saying it may be written, oral or through policy speeches internally or externally.By Winston W. Parley