The ARReT is charged with the responsibility of investigating, restituting and subsequently recovering funds that were embezzled, and misappropriated from the Liberian government as revealed by reports by the General Auditing Commission, (GAC) and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
It can be recalled a fortnight ago, the Ministry of Justice(MoJ) released a list of individuals classifying them in categories of indicted, persons of interest and others to aid with corruption investigation informed by a GAC and LACC audit reports.
Those the report named consist of some current heads of Ministers, Agencies, and other Senior former Government officials that are linked to the alleged embezzlement and misappropriation of government funds.
" In all fairness ladies and gentlemen and the people of Liberia, based on our investigation in and out of Liberia, what we are investigating so far like assets is close to US$4.6 Billion that was taken out of Liberia. Not millions but billions in USD. The records are there,” Cllr. Arthur Johnson, Chief Prosecutor on the team, said.
Addressing journalists at a special press briefing held at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) in Monrovia on Friday, August 2, 2019, Cllr Johnson asserted what the team’s investigation is concerned about is how such a huge money was taken out of Liberia during the regime of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Cllr. Jonson averred that the team’s analysis has shown that some of the monies were taken through frontiers, businesses established by individuals in the name of doing business to take the money, while some used the process of buying gold, among others.
He pointed out that the investigation has revealed that over US$ 500m and more than one billion Liberian Dollars were all expended to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
“For example, the expenditures were done to vendors in paying more Liberia dollars on a discount basis and that same amount was paid in USD, but it doesn't go to the vendors. We have the evidence, we have the checks, and the account numbers and summaries of payments of purported individuals and institutions that were alleged to have received these amounts. For the purpose of this investigation, we will state or give the account numbers and names,” He, among other things, added.
For his part, Liberia's Solicitor General, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, who also spoke at the special press briefing, warned that individual names that will be published should stop going to the media to clarify instead they should appear before the team.
He said those who are doing so and avoid appearing before the ARReT are doing the wrong thing.
However, he assured the Liberian people that those stolen monies taken from the economy will be brought back no matter what as far he is concerned.
"This is not a fiasco team. Our investigation is reliable and credible. So anyone who hears his or her name or read his or her name in the newspapers and decides to go to the newspapers and stays away until the length period given to appear elapses, you certainly become a special person of interest and no longer a person of interest," Cllr. Cephus urged.
"I am glad that there is a political will to fight corruption. I've indicated long ago that there will be no mountain too high to climb, no ocean too deep to swim and no valley too low to walk. I will publicly arrest you no matter where you are. Again, I will publicly arrest you. I have all the International will to do so. We have to take this fight seriously and the reason is simple. We praise other nations but in our own, it's a business,” Cllr. Cephus accentuated.
" This is a win win situation, all we need from you is to provide clarification. This is not a witch hunt. The real witch hunt is when you see your name in the media and refuse to come to the team to clarify. You do not have the right to free or exonerate yourself without coming to the team. And no lawyer can do this on your behalf except you the individual that has been listed," the Solicitor General Cephus added.
Meanwhile, the solicitor general announced that more names will be published in the newspapers this week, and therefore, those concerned should go to the Asset Recovery Team to provide clarification on why they are being listed and not to run to the media.