Liberia: “President Weah has agreed to reimburse AFL retirement money”

-AFL Deputy Chief of Staff Geraldine George testifies

As the government’s prosecution body expresses its enthusiasm to prosecute and hold some former officials, including former defense minister Brownie Samukai, responsible for alleged embezzlement of public funds and assets, the chief Deputy Armed Forces Staff Brigadier General Geraldine George, who is one of the prosecution witnesses, testified in a tone that appears to corroborate the testimony of former Minister Samukai.

Testimony on Monday February 24 as a special government witness (for the prosecution) in connection with the outstanding US $ 1.9 million which would have been withdrawn and used outside the purpose for which the “Force Retirement Account Armies of Liberia (AFL) ”was created, said the AFL Deputy Chief of Staff, although some of the money was not used for the welfare of the soldiers, the President George Weah assured them that he would reimburse the amount spent.

In his testimony in Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice, Witness Geraldine J. George explained that President Weah said he would ensure that payment is made through a budget allocation. , from 2018.

The account was established in 2009 as a compulsory contributory savings fund, which collected salaries from all ranks of the AFL to serve as a supplementary retirement benefit to provide assistance to wounded soldiers and the families of deceased soldiers.

But the government has brought several charges, including money laundering, against former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and his two co-defendants, Joseph Johnson, Deputy Minister of Administration and Nyumah Dorkor, Comptroller General, who were signatories. of this account.

The prosecution also claims that the US $ 50,000 which was withdrawn from the soldiers’ retirement account at Ecobank-Liberia to help the family of the late Nigerian general Abdurrahman was unnecessary expenditure because, according to government lawyers, the late Abdurrahman did not was not a contributor. on this account and, as such, his family should not have benefited from money taken from the salaries of AFL soldiers for this purpose.

Geraldine J. George, Deputy Chief of Staff, AF

Following his testimony, General George said: “President Weah gave assurances that his government was prepared to reimburse the money at a meeting with the committee that she headed which was responsible for investigating. the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of money from their account at Ecobank. -Liberia.

General George said that during his committee meeting with President Weah, he (President Weah) was very interested in why the issue of soldiers’ money was not being addressed by the administration of the former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, “but we have not provided an answer to the President’s question.”

Shortly after, Witness George, in his testimony, quoted President Weah as saying, “He said he was going to reimburse the army’s money through budget allocations.

The Deputy Chief of Staff was also prevented by prosecution attorney from addressing defense attorneys ‘concern whether or not she knew President Weah made a payment to the soldiers’ account. at Ecobank-Liberia.

The reason the prosecution prevented Witness George from answering the question was that she was not a signatory to this account; because it is the Ministries of Defense and Finance and Development Planning, vested with the power to provide this information.

This issue has raised a serious debate between the defense and the prosecution; however, Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay ruled that the Deputy Chief of Staff should not be responding to the case but to the two ministries – Defense and Finance and Development Planning.

Again, when defense attorneys asked the Deputy Chief of Staff to explain his committee’s recommendation for payment of the used portion of the money, that the prosecution holds Samukai and his co-defendants accountable. to reimburse, Witness George’s replied: “When we made this report, we did not do it for an individual to reimburse the money, rather the government of Liberia should. could not comment further.

Witness George also explained that the whole problem started during the transition period, when former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was about to hand the country over to current President George Weah, a period in which officers were so curious to know the state of their pension fund. since those who were signatories to the account were going to be replaced.

In trying to counter a check, she said, it was when they found out that there was about US $ 700,000 left in the account out of the US $ 1.9 million, that balance led to the creation of its committee to investigate how the remaining money was used. .

“The money was not used personally by any of the defendants, but it was used for unrelated matters,” the state witness said.

Again when asked to explain why none of the AFL’s top commanders were not signatories to the account, but the defendants, Witness George, replied: “I don’t know”.

When asked if there was a policy regarding the withdrawal of money from the pension account, “the prosecution witness replied:” There has been no approved policy regarding this pension fund ” .

In the meantime, the court summoned the Minister of Defense, retired General Daniel Ziankahn, who was the AFL Chief of Staff when the pension fund was created, as well as the Major General. Prince C. Johnson, III, Chief of Staff, to appear. today, Tuesday February 25, to testify in this case.

Samukai had repeatedly admitted to the payment transaction, arguing that the said payment was made with the approval of then-AFL Commander-in-Chief, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. However, the current government now claims that the transaction fell far short of the purpose of the account, named and titled: “Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Retirement Account” at Ecobank-Liberia.

Samukai had reiterated that the decisions made between former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President George Manneh Weah, in a series of meetings held together between January 13 and 17, 2018 and with the AFL leadership, were that the new government would reimburse all funds spent. from the AFL Provident Fund.

Samukai also argues that on January 17, 2018, President George Weah, then President-elect, held a meeting at his Rehab residence, Paynesville, with him and AFL senior management, where they discussed the matter in The AFL Social Protection Fund and President Weah confirmed and reiterated at this meeting that he and Ms Sirleaf had met and discussed the situation and agreed to refund all the money spent on AFL by the Social Protection Fund when adopting the 2018 budget.

Despite Samukai’s explanation and documentary evidence established between former President Sirleaf and President Weah that the government would reimburse the money from the 2018 budget, the prosecution continues to prosecute the former defense minister and now ask AFL generals to testify in the case.