What appears to be a desertion on the part of the Liberian Government to extradite one of its citizens from the United States who was indicted for her alleged involvement in the squandering of thousands of United States dollars of taxpayer money seems to be a nightmare to the lager population of the Country.
Ellen Corkrum who once served as Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) and her fiancé, Melvin Johnson, who is said to be the boyfriend of Ms. Corkrum, both residing in the United States is being ordered wanted by the Liberian Government in connection to her role in the alleged mismanagement of entrusted funds while serving in that capacity as Managing Director of the LAA.
Corkrum, one of the diaspora Liberians brought in the Country by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf under the canopy of contributing her quota to the national revival drive, mysteriously left the country in a bid to escape the Liberian Government indictment against her in July, 2013.
She was indicted for theft of property and economic sabotage in line with a deal that was intended to revamp the country’s lone international airport (Robert International Airport) devastated by the civil war.
The government mounted sustained and relentless efforts to have Madam Corkrum and her boyfriend (Johnson) extradited to Liberia, relying on a reported extradition treaty with the US, to face trial.
Bringing the alleged culprits back to Liberia on the strength of the ‘extradition treaty’ became a hotly debated issue across the country, with the Liberian publicly stating that it had filed extradition request to the US government through the Department of State, and that negotiations were in advanced stage to consummate the arrangement.
However, legal minds counter-argued the government’s claims, and questioned the veracity of any existing treaty between the two nations.
The delay to have Madam Corkrum brought into the country to face trial coupled with government’s silence on the case which borders on misapplication of public money is raising eyebrows.
Many Liberians are interpreting the government’s reticence as its inability to pursue the case beyond its borders.
Some are saying the government has given up on the matter, citing legal bottlenecks and lack of financial resources.
This outlet could not get words from the government on the issue which also goes to the core of the fight against corruption.
But it can be recalled that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf promised that the Government of Liberia was exerting all efforts to ensure the return of Corkrum to face trial in the country.
Also, Betty Lamine Blamo, Liberia’s Solicitor General is said to have travelled to the US at one point to seek the return of Corkrum.
To date, the Liberian Government is yet to bring Corkrum under the jurisdiction of the court, let alone to be served the indictment.
Madam Corkrum, a reported pilot in the US Air Force did not take lightly the allegation leveled against her. In response to her indictment, she took the nation by storm by releasing series of secret recordings on government officials including President Sirleaf, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and former Police Director Chris Massaquoi.
Though many said releasing the recordings which somehow were done illegally was an escapade to divert public attention or evoke public sentiment in her favor.
The recordings revealed detailed revelations by two, Samukai and Massaquoi, which many also considered treacherous and an act of betrayal.
Minister Samukai was heard in the recording as telling the indicted Cockrum that he could not understand why the government was pushing corruption charges against her when others were siphoning millions of dollars.
The indictee was reportedly out of the country when she released those series of damaging recordings of senior government officials which according to legal and international diplomats made the case complicated to proceed with legal proceedings based on territorial jurisdiction issue growing from the result of her location, the United States and that of Criminal Court ‘C” which has jurisdiction over the case.
Although she is a Liberian, but Corkrum reportedly holds a dual citizenship as a Liberian due to birth and an American.
The legal system of Liberia provides that a motion to dismiss can be filed if the opposing party fails to proceed with the case after two terms of court.
Meanwhile, in the case of Corkrum, legal pundits have said that the motion to dismiss filed by the defendant has no legal basis on grounds that she was not properly served the indictment and brought under the jurisdiction of the court.
Chapter 18 section 18.2 of the criminal procedure law on filing a motion to dismiss provides that a case on failure to proceed can only be done unless good cause is not shown for failure to proceed with trial.
It also provides that a court shall dismiss a complaint against a defendant who is not indicted by the end of the next succeeding term of court after his arrest for an indictable offense or his/her appearances in court in response to a summons or notice to appear charging him with such offense.
The statue states “Unless good cause is shown a court shall dismiss an indictment if the defendant is not tried during the next term after the finding of the indictment, a court shall dismiss a complaint charging a defendant with an offense liable by a magistrate or justice of the peace if trial is not commenced in court in response to a summon or notice to appear.”