In a significant development, President George Weah has exercised his annual prerogative of executive clemency, pardoning former Minister of National Defense Brownie Samukai, along with his principal deputy Joseph P. Johnson and comptroller Nyumah Dorkor. This decision follows their conviction in 2021 for economic sabotage and misappropriating funds intended for the pensions of retired members of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The restitution amount of US$1.3 million has been waived, aligning with the President’s tradition of pardoning individuals convicted of various crimes.
The move stems from the presidential tradition, where each year, the President grants clemency to a select group of individuals. The trio is among 101 convicts who have been granted executive clemency by President Weah. Notably, this decision comes after Samukai, Johnson, and Dorkor were found guilty of embezzlement in January 2022, resulting in a two-year prison sentence for each.
The Supreme Court of Liberia handed down the conviction, specifically focusing on the misappropriation of U.S.$1.1 million from a government pension account intended for retired members of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Despite the court’s order for the restitution of US$537,828.15 within six months, the trio failed to comply. In February 2022, President Weah granted an executive clemency to Samukai, suspending his prison sentence but requiring him to collaborate with the Ministry of Justice for the full settlement of the AFL’s funds.
The decision to pardon the individuals is grounded in the 1986 Liberian Constitution under Article 59, which empowers the President to remit public forfeitures and penalties, suspend fines and sentences, grant reprieves and pardons, and restore civil rights after conviction for all public offenses, except impeachment. President Weah has mandated Attorney General Cllr. Frank Musah Dean Jr., Minister of Justice, to oversee the seamless implementation of the Presidential Pardon, ensuring adherence to judicial procedures.
It’s noteworthy that the rest of the pardoned individuals had been convicted of minor offenses, with varying circumstances such as life-threatening ailments, old age, and demonstrated good behavior during their respective sentences. The decision has sparked public discourse, raising questions about accountability and the use of executive clemency in the Liberian justice system. Additionally, the presence of Samukai, a key member of president-elect Joseph Boakai’s advisory team, at President Weah’s church service in November has added a political dimension to the situation, capturing public attention on social media platforms.