Despite calls from some quarters calling on Liberia Government’s apparently most exuberant lead Prosecutor to shy away from the media and focus on details of the task conferred upon him to fight crimes, including fraud, Liberia’s new Solicitor General is not taking chances. Even as suspected culprits and potential indictees in the asset recovery campaign fight back vociferously particularly in the media to clear their names, Sayma Syrenius Cephus will not allow the least innuendoes go unaddressed. In a recent publication, one of the “persons of interests” tipped for probe in the government’s anti-corruption campaign, former Finance Minister Amara Konneh, descended heavily on the prosecution team in ways that brings their credibility and impartiality into question. Mr. Konneh took direct aim at the Solicitor General who is not taking the attack lying down. In a collateral response, Cllr Cephus called on the former Finance Minister to leave his hideout and the media and appear before AIRReT, the economic crimes tribunal pursuing suspects of stolen state wealth. But Mr. Konneh is not backing down at all; he is still venting his anger, as The Analyst’s Managing Editor Stanley Seakor reports.
In a communication to the the Asset Investigation, Recovery and Restitution Team (AIRReT), former Finance Minister Amara Konneh described as a witch-hunt attempt by the Team to drag him into a national investigation on corruption without confronting him with details of his wrongdoing.
As if that was not enough, the former Finance Minister took to his Facebook page where questioned the
The Solicitor General of Liberia who many believe is the citadel in Government’s efforts to chase and recover billions of monies stolen from the country’s coffers is taking the fight back to former Finance Minister in the erstwhile administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Amara Konneh, who recently questioned his motive and qualification.
He wrote: “I will expect a good prosecutor who’s not on a witch-hunt expedition to be thorough about his/her investigation before making baseless accusations that have the propensity to impugn the reputation of others.”
Referencing Cllr Cephus, Mr. Konneh said: “The Solicitor General has asked to spend $2.1 million of limited public resources on a promise to recover a non-existing and imaginary $4 billion. I will fight this witch-hunt and politically motivated phony investigation with every bone in my body to prove that they are lying and looking for people to shake down.”
The Liberian Solicitor General is not taking kindly those assertions by the former Finance Minister.
In a rebuttal, Cllr. Cephus countered: “I read your email with shocks but it is not strange to see such condescending description of my indisputably acclaimed qualification as an international criminal lawyer. It had to come from someone like you who do not value the importance of anyone except those in your political circle. And so I am not surprised. However, I feel deeply hurt to do this, because I feel harassed to stoop so low and this is a complete intellectual mismatch for me to respond to your diatribe, but I have to do this to set the records straight, and to educate you, and for this reason, let email this email be a form of workshop for you and your benefactors whoever they are.”
Cllr. Cephus wrote further: “I am taken aback to have read a portion of your email that says: ‘I will expect a good prosecutor who’s not on a witch-hunt expedition to be thorough about his/her investigation before making baseless accusations…’ This is how you and your benefactors treat and consider other Liberians who do not support you. The aforesaid expression clearly sums up your understanding and interpretation of the work of AIRReT as a platform for witch hunt. Nobody can change your opinion on this because Article 15(b) of the 1986 Constitution gives you that right. However, the truth is that my qualification as an international legal practitioner, practicing law before a number of international criminal courts, is far beyond your standard of rating people, let alone a Liberian standard.”
In defense of his qualification, the Liberian Solicitor General said he is a member of several national and international tribunals, including the International Criminal Court(ICC) United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon(STL), the European Criminal Bar Association(ECBA), European Fraud and Complaisance Lawyers(EFCL) Association of Defense Counsel practicing before all International Courts and tribunal(ADC-ICT), the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) based in Arusha, Tanzania, the European Lawyers Network(AEA) and the Justinian Lawyers(JL).
He said: “I am widely respected around the world and do not have any records of witch hunting people. I simply advised that instead of demanding AIRReT to provide evidence to Amara Konneh of Washington D.C., without proper address, it would be appropriate for Amara Konneh to come to Liberia to receive his letter of invitation from AIRReT. Amara should not behave like a coward general who is fond of throwing stones and denying his involvement from afar. It is because of this for which you have written: “I will expect a good prosecutor who’s not on a witch-hunt expedition to be thorough about his/her investigation before making baseless accusations that have the propensity to ‘impung’ the reputation of others.” Now you are so mad with AIRReT that you misspelled the word impugn and spelled it as ‘impung’ and you wanted me to understand what you meant. I am sure the basis of copying me your email was that you wanted it to claim my urgent attention for possible advice, and which I provided for which you are downgrading my professional competence. Let me say AIRReT has done nothing wrong.”
Warning and Request to Show Up
The Solicitor General said if the former Finance Minister does not stop issuing threats against the Republic of Liberia and its officials, he will complain him to his bosses, though unnamed, and there could be dire legal and judicial consequences for such media nuisance.
Cllr Cephus said it is preposterous for the Mr. Konneh refer him to a newspaper article to form the basis of any investigation by AIRReT.
“AIRReT is headed by a Special Independent Counsel (SIP), Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson who is also a European criminal and fraud lawyer. What is true however is that AIRReT, (all Liberians are proud) takes seriously all reports bet it newspaper or audit report,” the Solicitor General said. “I still believe that you may have a good argument but you need to appear on July 22, 219 or thereabouts as indicated by AIRReT to honour the invitation extended you.”
He said once Mr. Konneh appears, he would be at liberty “to raise all of the issues that you are spending a lot of money on in the newspapers and on the radio stations. Finally, I am not sure AIRReT wants a publicity debate with you on the airwaves and I am not sure it will go down your path either.”
He added: “My advice is for you, Amara Konneh, to do the honourable thing to come down and pick up your package from which you will be told what you will be required to do.
“Finally, let’s abandon the name calling, the mudslinging and let firmness and courage be our credo as history makes no excuses for weaklings. AIRReT will surely survive and so will its patriotic and heroic cause.”
Konneh Swiftly Responds
Even before inks got dry on the rebuttal from the Solicitor General, former Finance Minister released another counter, describing as insidious and unprofessional Cllr. Cephus’ approach in handling the work of the asset investigation team.
“I can see, from the belligerent email with which you responded to my formal letter, that you are very angry at my expressed opinions,” said Konneh his reaction to SG Cephus. “I stand by those opinions; I truly deem your approach to this ‘investigation’ insidious and unprofessional for a lawyer with your professed credentials.”
He pleaded with the Solicitor General and his team to do a couple of things: firstly to send him a formal letter, on the letter head of the Ministry of Justice, informing him (Konneh) that he’s a ‘person if interest’ and inviting me for questioning, and to scan and send the letter of invitation electronically.
Mr. Konneh also requested Cllr Cephus in these words: “Your letter should clearly state the matter being investigated, the source documents giving rise to your suspicion of wrongdoing, and the specific reason(s) why you deem me a ‘person of interest’; it should also contain an apology for the informal release of my name without basis, and the false assertion that you had invited me for questioning when you now admit that you had not.”
He also added: “As you say, you are a critically acclaimed lawyer. I, therefore, hold you to the highest standards of professionalism and look forward to you leading this exchange by example. Please provide the documentation I have requested. This is a precondition for my further engagement with you. If you have not fulfilled my requests in a reasonable time frame, please then expect to hear from my legal team.”