20 February 2013

Liberia: Lawsuit Against Ellen Corkrum

Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) has finally decided to pursue legal action against Madam Ellen Corkrum, the former Managing Director of the airport authority, who is at the center of a major corruption case.

Madam Corkrum was tipped by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to become the first female Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

A source told this paper Tuesday that the LAA has already arranged with a local law firm and are finalizing the necessary legal papers to pursue Corkrum and lover Melvin Johnson in the United States of America.

The Liberian government, through the LAA supports the legal action and vows that the amount allegedly stolen from the country's coffer is retrieved through legal means.

Madam Corkrum and her boyfriend Melvin Johnson absconded the country recently to the United States with little over US$1 million dollar. Corkrum is specifically accused of making payments (including US$255,000.00) to Diaspora Consulting, a bogus group she recommended to rehabilitate the Roberts International Airport (RIA) runway and other pavements.

She also stands accused of making two payments (US$125,000 each late last year) to her boyfriend from the LAA account held at a local bank.

The amount yanked from the country's coffer by Madam Corkrum comes at the time when Liberia and the UN are jointly appealing for urgently needed humanitarian assistance to address serious humanitarian issues.

Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world and its population lives in extreme poverty, surviving on less than US$1 per day.

Sources told The NEWS that the lawsuit against Madam Corkrum will take effect within the coming weeks. The lawyers involved in the case are said to be top notch, who went to school and practiced law in America before returning home.

Authorities of the LAA said Madam Corkrum spent five months at the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) before the scam was uncovered.

Corkrum, the dismissed former Managing Director of the LAA, was respected by everyone at the LAA including members of the Board because of her credentials and her career as a Major in the U.S. Military.

Corkrum is a graduate from Harvard University and MIT, two of the world's best academic institutions. LAA officials admitted that everybody submitted to her and didn't expect that she would have engaged in such a swindle.

According to a document, the PPCC had earlier raised concern over what they thought was a bogus deal on the part of Madam Corkrum to mislead the entity. The PPCC document actually revealed that Madam Corkrum's request for "no objection" for the Diaspora Consulting Engineering to rehabilitate the RIA runway and pavements was rejected based on some interesting findings.

In a letter addressed to Madam Corkrum on December 12, 2012, PPCC wrote: "The Commission wishes to bring to your attention that, in the reference of its due diligence, it was unable to confirm the existence of the Diaspora Consulting Engineering, as written on the company's letterhead, and/or Diaspora Consulting Engineering, as referenced in your communication. The Commission noted that all the contact information provided, as per the submitted Expression of Interest, could not be verified. The Consumer Affairs Division in New York, the United States of America, could not find evidence of the company's listing on its database......."

In the same letter PPCC informed Madam Corkrum that "...in the review of your document, it was unable to find the past performance history and references validating that Diaspora Consulting Engineering has performed similar services for other clients, consistent with Section 32 (1)© of the PPCC Act. The Commission could not find evidence which proves that Diaspora Consulting Engineering is certified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which was a primary justification for its selection for supervision of the proposed works."

Sources also informed this paper that apparently based on this letter, Madam Corkrum and PPCC Executive Director, Mrs. Peggy Varfley Meres never got along very well.

Our sources said on number of occasions Madam Corkrum had rained invectives on the PPCC Executive Director and other individuals at different occasions and times.

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