The Supreme Court of Liberia has finally handed-down final ruling in the case involving former Defense Minister J. Brownie Samukai and one of his deputies and the comptroller, for the crimes of “Money Laundering and Economic Sabotage”.
The nation’s highest court in its ruling today, January 27, ordered the Sherriff to ‘arrest, incarcerate, and place in a common jail’, the former Defense Minister. See the Supreme Court’s ruling on J. Brownie Samukai
It may be recalled, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia, on Monday, February 8, 2020 upheld the lower Criminal ‘C’ conviction against Brownie Samukai for corruption during his tenure as Minister, Ministry of National Defense during former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s regime.
Samukai was declared Lofa County Senator-elect, on the opposition CPP ticket in the December 8, 2020, Special Senatorial election, a victory upheld by the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission, after a series of challenges by some of his opponents from Lofa.
The nation’s highest Court withheld and modified the Criminal Court C’s ruling involving the former Defense Minister and one of his deputies and the Comptroller, saying that, “The law extant in this jurisdiction that a person is guilty of theft of property when he knowingly takes misappropriates, coverts or exercises unauthorized control over or makes an unauthorized transfer of an interest in the property of another with the purpose of depriving the owner there of.”
The Criminal Court ‘C’ on Tuesday March 24, 2020 found former Liberian Defense Minister Samukai and his deputies guilty of corruption, but Defense lawyers took exception to the ruling and announced that they will file Appeal to the Supreme Court.
Mr. Samukai had been facing trial for misappropriating some US$1.3 million. His leadership of the Armed Forces of Liberia had received huge amounts for the AFL’s Compulsory Contributing Fund, which the Government of Liberia had sent to the Ecobank Liberia, Ltd. It included US460,000.00 in addition to US$687,656.35, making a total sum of US$1,147,665.35.
But the Lower Court, presided over by Judge Yamie Gbeisay, said there has not been sufficient evidence to convict the former Defense officials of the crimes of Money laundering and Economic Sabotage.
In its February 8, 2021 ruling upholding the lower court’s guilty verdict and sentencing, the Supreme Court said it is also the law extant in this jurisdiction that all public officials and employees shall obey all lawful instructions issued to them by their supervisors and shall declines to obey orders they know or ought to know to be wrong or unlawful
Consequently, the Liberian high court said officials and employees of government who are adjudged to have one unlawful order shall be held personally responsible and liable for their acts of Commission or omission as in the instant case.
That the defendant is guilty of misuse of public fund when he disposes, use or transfer any interest or property which is entrusted to him as of; that there is unrefuted evidence gathered from the record of this case that the soldiers of the AFL compulsory contributed to the fund in the AFL pension account established at Ecobank Liberia LTD therefore the said account is not a public account intended for the ministry of national defense.
That there are evidence from the record showed that defendant Samukai over fiduciary of the soldiers of the AFL pension account.
Wherefore in view of the foregoing, the final judgement of the trial court judge is hereby affirmed with modification.
At the same time, the Supreme Court has ruled that that Samukai and the other defendants are all hereby sentenced to serve a term of two years each in a jail.
However, the high court’s ruling says the sentence shall be suspended provided the said defendants shall restitute the full amount of USD 1,147,456.35 or 50% there of within the period of six months and thereafter enter appropriate arrangements to pay the remaining portion in one year shall the defendants fail.
If they refuse to pay the remaining portions in one year, the defendants shall be incarcerated in the common jail and there in until the full amount is paid or liquidated at the rate of 25 USD per month as provided by law, the Supreme Court’s ruling added.
Facing the lower court, former Minister Samukai and the two other former Defense officials were represented in the trial by Cllr. G. Wiefueh Alfred Saye, Cllr. J. Augustine Toe and Cllr. Ruth Jappah.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges in the indictment. Mr. Samukai said: “The Ministry of National defense authorized the expenditure of funds from this account on the soldiers’ welfare without the requisite consent of the AFL high command; and that all monies spent on military personnel welfare should not have been handled by and through the government normal budgetary appropriation and not from the AFL account.”