On EU US$13M Saga - Amara Konneh Throws Out Challenge

On EU US$13M Saga - Amara Konneh Throws Out Challenge Featured

Former Finance and Development Planning Minister, Amara Konneh, has requested Liberia’s Solicitor General, Sayma Cyrennius Cephus, to provide the specific General Auditing Commission(GAC) or European Union(EU) Audits or Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission(LACC) Reports that implicate him(Amara Konneh) for allegedly ‘diverting’ US$13 million of European Union’s Budget Support to Liberia’s Health Sector in 2013.

In a recent face book post, former Minister Konneh asserted: “All I’m asking for is for him to provide the specific GAC or EU audits or LAAC reports that implicate me for allegedly diverting”$13 million of European Union’s budget support to Liberia’s health sector in 2013. That’s all I have requested.

Should take 5 minutes for a critically acclaimed lawyer to do that if he’s seriously interested in seeking justice. Cllr. Cephas knows he needs to correct this. In so doing, he might just make a case for the $2.1 million he is requesting to undertake what, for now, truly is a witch hunt. Other than an attempt at a publicity stunt, they have zero evidence!”

Konneh’s request to Solicitor General Cephus came in the wake of the release of what the Assets Investigation, Restitution and Recovery Team (AIRReT) called partial official list of “persons and institutions of interest” who the AIRReT had invited to appear before it beginning Monday, July 22, 2019 to provide clarifications on multiple questions arising out of the GAC Audit Reports and the LACC Investigative Reports.

The GAC, which is the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) in Liberia, was mainly created to audit government transactions and investigate issues of corruption and financial malpractices, while the mission of the LACC is to prevent, address and reduce corruption in the public and private sectors and to promote good governance, integrity and the rule of law.

The AIRReT, which is headed one of Liberia’s seasoned lawyers, Cllr. Arthur Johnson, is charged with the responsibility of investigating, restituting and subsequently recovering funds that were embezzled, and misappropriated from the Liberian government as revealed by audit reports by the GAC and the LACC.

In its partial official list of “persons and institutions of interest” released recently and published in some of the local dailies, the AIRReT named former Minister Konneh and several other former and current top government officials to appear before it.

The Chairman and Special Independent Counsel (SIC), Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson, in the release of the partial list, warned that the failure to honor this invitation and seek alternative arrangement for a possible deferred date for the conference at the time of his choosing would be construed and considered as a defiance and an attempt to undermine the restitution and recovery process, and therefore, a ground to revert to the most appropriate legal recourse to compel compliance.

However, Konneh in his post, accentuated that, “fighting corruption is good. Liberia needs such efforts, and needs them to be credible and well managed. Those seeking to recover mishandled or stolen resources must undertake that effort judiciously. That means being ethical and methodical in the approach to pursuing alleged wrongdoers. It means applying a key principle in international jurisprudence: the assumption of innocence until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

He continued: “Public bombast for sensational newspaper headlines is not a credible tool in that effort. The modus operandi of a mature and seasoned jurist is not to shoot bellowing emails at interested parties; rather, it is to quietly and steadily build an indisputable case and present it to the public in as clear, impartial and impersonal a manner as possible.

Mr. Cephas, therefore, would command more respect for himself and his efforts if he were to take a page out of Robert Mueller's playbook: quiet down and build his case; communicate formally, clearly and constructively with interested persons; show the evidence to back his claims against those listed as persons of interest; and then indict those proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

He said that he has tried to be forthright about how he feels about Mr. Cephas and Mr. Arthur Johnson's approach from the beginning.

“In my letter and emails to them, portions of which Mr. Cephas’ surrogates at the Analyst have published today, I have made my demands plain, simple and (I believe) reasonable. Their approach is a glaring missteps in the pursuit of justice. Justice cannot be bordered on newspaper stories and sentiments. It has to be based irrefutable evidence and must be transparent.”

“This is why I have courageously decided to keep all my friends and other interested Liberians informed about this matter through my Facebook page. I want a formal invitation complete with well- founded information justifying my being named a person of interest, something I’ve been asking for since June 19, 2019 when they first published their list. I believe this is a reasonable demand that would prepare me and my lawyers to appear before his tribunal.”

“I also expect an apology for the unprofessional way in which the release of the list was handled. It was not published on Ministry of Justice letterhead – which is the proper way for a Government entity to issue an official statement – but was cut and pasted in sloppy fashion on the Analyst website. As he describes himself to be a critically acclaimed lawyer, I therefore hold him to the highest standards of professionalism and look forward to him leading this crusade he’s embarked on by example.”

Following the above post, konneh further posted :
The EU US$13 million Saga - Part 3: Accepting My Fate

I greatly underestimated the power of one misunderstanding and one newspaper article. FPA ran their initial story for about several days, it spread nationwide like wildfire across the radio airwaves, and the hatai (tea) shops in Monrovia stayed abuzz with it for weeks. I thought it would stop there. It didn't.

Instead, the story dovetailed into a Hollywood style imagery suggesting I had gone to the EU headquarters in Brussels, personally taken delivery of $13 million and brought it back into Liberia in a suitcase. This is understandable, as the money involved is plenty and the suitcase bit adds intrigue. But the story is false, and I continue to suffer reputational damage from it today.

Shortly after the story broke, members of the then main opposition (CDC), particularly those based in Minnesota, USA, led by the current NPA’s Deputy MD for Operations Christopher Wisner launched a large protest when I was invited to address an annual gathering of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM). They took their protest to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.

They wrote US customs and border patrol officers, stating that I had stolen $13 million. They also used internet images of malnourished children in Somalia and clippings of Liberian newspaper articles to accuse me of causing the deaths of babies. Like criminals, my three traveling companions and I were questioned and searched for hours by US Customs and Border Protection officers at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.

It was a humiliating experience that I have never disclosed until now. The US officials would later apologize and let us through when they found nothing.

At the event that evening, attended by the Mayor of Minneapolis/St. Paul who had brought a fire truck to donate to me for Liberia, I was shocked to see two groups of opposing Liberian protesters: the opposition, who called me a criminal, and supporters who believed in us. I was grateful for the latter.

Although humiliated by the full breadth of the day’s events, I kept my head up and a big smile on my face. Late that evening after the events, I spent hours exposing the same stories that I’m sharing now with you all. Most of the protest leaders began asking me for jobs including a request from one of the protest leaders for me to put in a word to former President Sirleaf to appoint him Minister of Health. Meanwhile, some members of the CDC Youth League called radio stations every morning and labeled me a thief and a murderer. Some of them have sent me private messages of apology and I have forgiven them.

Some say I’m “parading on Facebook pretending to be a saint” and that “I’m seeking empty.” They use these flimsy excuses as justification to continue their lies and attacks. They have no ideas of how one wrong newspaper story, though corrected later, has hurt me and my family. I say to them that when scrutiny and criticisms of public officials are not backed by factual evidence but driven by political posturing, hate, jealousy or otherwise, it is incumbent on the accused to provide the facts and clarity to the lies. Beyond defending my record, I share my experience with the hope that it will benefit our current leaders, who have been given responsibilities for the lives of about 5 million Liberians. My posts on Facebook are my small way of speaking my truth and attempting to set the record straight.

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