Posing as Whistleblowers, Liberians Accused of Economic Crimes and Fraud often Flee without Prosecution

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Posing as Whistleblowers, Liberians Accused of Economic Crimes and Fraud often Flee without Prosecution
Posing as Whistleblowers, Liberians Accused of Economic Crimes and Fraud often Flee without Prosecution

Africa-PressLiberia. MONROVIA –

When Ellen Corkrum was booked by the Liberian government for allegedly embezzling over US$1 million intended for the renovation of the Roberts International Airport, she and her fiancé began to release series of secret audio recordings indicting several officials of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government at the time of wanting to siphon the airport makeover money.

Corkrum, a Liberian-American, was the Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority at the time. She reportedly managed to convince the airport board to hire her fiancé, Judge Melvin Johnson, as legal advisor to the airport authority.

After their indictment, they claimed to have assembled hundreds of pages of documents and email correspondence that would prove their case. According to the pair, they began secretly recording senior officials of the government when they learned of a plot to undermine their anti-corruption measures.

At one point, they said they were told by the then Minister of Defense, J. Brownie Samukai, that certain government officials, including the Finance Minister, Amara Konneh, and Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Edward McClain, “wanted unfettered access to US$130 million that was slated for airport renovation.” But the Liberian government said Corkrum and Johnson concocted and stole over US$1 million and fled the country.

In her 2014 Annual Message to the Legislature, Madam Sirleaf stated, “A major setback in efforts for the development of the airport resulted from an unscrupulous and conspiring newly recruited Managing Director, who returned kindness and deference with entrapment and intriguing accusations to damage the credibility of several individuals, and the image of the country. This matter is under review by counsel in the United States for legal redress, including extradition.”

However Corkrum and her cohort said the charges were bogus and were an attempt by the government to cover up what they called “the embarrassing revelations” contained in the secret recordings made of government officials and others.

To date, Corkrum and Johnson are yet to face justice in Liberia, neither was there any investigation to the revelations contained in the secret recordings released by them.

Then Came the Passport Saga

Having been denied entry into the United States last September for alleged role in fraudulent sale of Liberian diplomatic passports, former Director of Passport and Visas Services at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made startling revelations after fleeing Liberia.

Mr. Andrew Wonplo said passports issued under his watch were done with the approval of some senior officials in the George Weah-led government whom he said were part of a syndicate granting diplomatic passports to foreign nationals.

Mr. Wonplo, released a damning audio recording reiterating his innocence, just days after U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, at the time, announced his public designation due to his involvement in significant corruption.

In his recording, Mr. Wonplo said Liberia is sitting on a time bomb because of the syndicate he said that includes top officials in the government. “Liberian people, Liberia is on a time bomb and this is a very serious problem. People around here don’t want to come up with the truth. So, basically, that’s how these guys ganged up against me based on my refusal to be corrupt, then people there pointing hands at me today. With the kind of character, I build up over the years.”

Mr. Wonplo accused associates of President Weah of trying to ruin his still-young life. “I’m still young. Politically, I’m still young – and I’m yet to make headway. I will not sit there and join a cartel that will damage my political future in this country. I will never allow this to damage my future – and that’s the reason why I’m not running from this Liberia.”

According to Wonplo, he became a target of the Liberian government who reportedly “misinformed the U.S. government” because of his refusal to join their “corrupt cartel”.

“What I have observed is that if you are in disagreement with corrupt activities in Liberia, then you are seen as a corrupt man. If you are in line with corrupt activities in Liberia, you are the best man. Today, people are saying the man talking about things because he wants to protect George Weah, that’s not the issue. As I said the last time, when you are in certain position in government, certain positions of trust, you listen more, talk less and not just talking less but talk at the appropriate time. This is the appropriate time,” he said.

Mr. Wonplo went on to name top associates of President Weah of being in the know of the sale of diplomatic passports. “As I said in my press release, I was not part of the committee, but meanwhile, I was receiving instructions – and these instructions came from the higher-ups, I maintain. And who are they? Instructions to issue these passports came from the office of the President, it came from through individuals, the likes of Trokon Kpui, the likes of James Emmanuel Potter of course the rescue mother, Nora Finda Bundoo and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Legal, Deweh Gray.”

The case has been dormant since and there have not been any investigation instituted to verify his allegations against the top officials under whose instructions he claimed to have been working.

Same Case at Port of Buchanan

The embattled Manager of the Port of Buchanan fled the country even before a petition for travel ban was filed with the court by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).

He was picked up by the National Security Agency (NSA) for his alleged involvement in the transfer of US$300,000 from the port’s account to foreign accounts.

Upon fleeing the country, the took to Facebook and posted: “I am safe now. I can talk. If it wasn’t about my integrity, I would had kept quiet. I will apologize to friends that this clarity will be exposed, but it is about my name being rub in the dirt. While the real culprits are the big guns.”

Mr. Gull recently alleged that what was transferred out of the Port’s account was not US$300,000 as being suspected, rather, US$1.5 million under the instruction of the Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Mr. Bill Tweahway.

He alleged that Mr. Tweahway personally withdrew the US$1.5 Million under the title ‘Special Order’ and made away with the money without any written communication from the Port of Buchanan account department.

According to him, his secret departure from the country was due to several threats received from Mr. Tweahway and some individuals whom he said threatened him not to expose Mr. Tweahway. The management of the NPA has, however, refuted the claims, terming it as unfounded, false and misleading.

The spokesman of the NPA, Mr. Malcom Scott said, all revenues from the outstation Ports (Greenville, Harper and Buchanan) are not kept in those outstation Ports accounts, but rather but, are rather channeled to the NPA’s Central Account which makes it impossible for a single individual to effectuate unilateral withdrawal.

He maintained that the NPA investigated Mr. Gull and Mr. Kamara over allegations of opening a bogus Global Bank account were the pair have since admitted to depositing over three hundred thousand United States Dollars ( 300,000.USD) for personal gains.

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