Liberia: Fighting Corruption Begins And Ends With a Clean Custodian at the Helm of Justice

PRESIDENT JOSEPH BOAKAI used his first Annual message Monday to hit home a point which has posed a nagging dilemma for Liberia.

SAID THE PRESIDENT: “Our justice system which is meant to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, has been marred by inefficiency, corruption, and lack of public trust. I am counting on this honorable Body to pass effective legislation and support financial appropriations that will help us win the fight against corruption. Anyone caught in the act of corruption will face the full weight of the law, with swift and non-discriminatory enforcement.”

THE PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT comes in the midst of much controversy surrounding his nomination of Cllr. Cooper Kruah as Minister of Justice, a man whose history of unethical and criminal behavior is well documented.

FOR YEARS, the Mano River Agricultural Rehabilitation & Development Corporation (MARDCO)has been raising a red flag on Cllr. Kruah.

CLLR. KRUAH WAS investigated by the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Supreme Court and found guilty and liable for theft of the money in violation of rule 15 of the Code of moral and professional Ethics of lawyers in Liberia which states: A lawyer should refrain from any act whereby for his personal benefit or gain he abuses or takes advantage of the confidence reposed in him by his client. Money collected for his client, or other money or property of his said client coming into his possession as a result of his professional duty to his client, should be reported and accounted for promptly, and should not under any circumstances be commingled with his own or used by him.”

CLLR. TIAWON GONGLOE, appointed to review the case, prayed that the Supreme Court approve the recommendation of the Grievance & Ethics Committee that Kruah be ordered to account within thirty days to the complainant or be suspended from the practice of law until he fully accounts for the money. The brief also urged the court to take any action in the court’s consideration that would protect the integrity of the legal profession based on the facts and circumstances of the case in a manner consistent with its previous actions in similar matters.

ACCORDING TO DOCUMENTS in possession of FrontPageAfrica, between 2009 and 2012 Cllr. Kruah was hired as a lawyer for MARDCO during its case with Mr. Edmondo Trombetta in the Republic of Liberia. It was found that both Trombetta and Cllr. Kruah received on behalf of MARDCO the total amount of One Hundred Eight Thousand Nine Hundred Forty-One and Sixty-Five Cents United States Dollars (US108, 941.65) from the proceeds of MARDCO’s Rubber from the Republic of Liberia by the Civil Law Court.

MARDCO HAD PREVIOUSLY INFORMED both President Boakai and his VP Koung that Cllr. Kruah is indebted in the amount of US$58,814.08 which represent the balance that is still due to MARDCO from him.

THE FORMER GOVERNMENT of President George Weah faced similar issues with the nomination of Cllr. Charles Gibson, who was nominated as Minister of Justice/Attorney General. However, in February 2018, following multiple staining media reports on his integrity, President Weah withdrew the nomination, in an official communication to the Senate Pro-Temp Hon. Albert Chie.

CLLR. GIBSON WAS found guilty by the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Supreme Court after it was established that Cllr. Gibson misappropriated US$25,322.00 from a client. His suspension was lifted by the High Court after he restituted the amount. Gibson was also accused by a lady identified as Freda Mensah, believed to be in her late 60s of attempting to shortchange her on a 75-acre farmland he was selling on her behalf. According to her, Cllr. Gibson received an initial payment of US$22,000 but reported only US$2,000.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, President Boakai and his Unity Party pledged to rescue Liberia from the likes of Cooper Kruah. Now, it is risking all of its cards to go to be with him, despite a litany of allegations and conviction by the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the Supreme Court.

PRESIDENT BOAKAI is slamming the door on justice by hinging his bets on a nominee who has failed to click on the key boxes essential for restore faith in Liberia’s bludgeoned justice system.

THE 2022 US Human Rights Report highlighted among other things, “significant human rights issues included credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings: cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions.

THE REPORT ALSO highlighted arbitrary arrest or detention; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including violence and threats of violence against journalists; serious government corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for gender-based violence, including child, early, and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation/cutting; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons; the existence and enforcement of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and the outlawing of independent trade unions or significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association.

EVEN MORE TROUBLING, the report highlighted a system in which judges misused the bail system, viewing it as punitive rather than a way to regulate appearances in court. Some judges reportedly used the possibility of bail to solicit bribes.

THIS IS WHY it is very dangerous to have a man like Cooper Kruah at justice, a man known and proven to have a taste for stealing his clients’ money will more than likely sell the justice system to the highest bidder.

PRESIDENT BOAKAI is doing a disservice to Liberia, by leaving Cllr. Kruah’s fate in the hands of an unpredictable Senate which has in the past allowed such nominations to go through.

IF PRESIDENT BOAKAI is truly committed to good governance, as he stated in his first annual message Monday, he owes it to Liberia to do the right thing.

TRULY, PRESIDENT BOAKAI, “the state of our nation is in distress”, but the appointment of Cllr. Kruah will only dwindle whatever hopes Liberians had for change under your stewardship – and your pledge to rescue Liberia from the very norms you are now looking to continue with the likes of Cllr. Kruah.

IF PRESIDENT BOAKAI is really true to his campaign mantra of “Think Liberia, Love Liberia, and Build Liberia”, he will not allow the nomination of Cllr. Cooper Kruah to stand as doing so puts him amongst the laundry list of politicians who make lofty campaign promises they cannot keep – and assurances they are oftentimes, unwilling to implement.

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