5 August 2013

Liberia: Wanted for 'Corruption'

Photo: Wikipedia
Downtown Monrovia

Two officials of the Liberian Airport Authority (LAA) are being pursued by the Liberian government on allegation of corruption. Musa Bility, the former Chairman of the LAA Board and Ellen Cockrum, the dismissed Managing Director of the entity are alleged to have misappropriated more than one million United States dollars from the institution's account.

The two officials are wanted for prosecution by the Ministry of Justice. Over the weekend it was reported that Mr. Bility was allegedly on the run. However, sources hinted The NEWS yesterday that lawyers representing the interest of the former LAA Board Chairman filed a bond on Friday.

According to the state, it is pursuing legal and diplomatic means to extradite Madam Cockrum to Liberia for prosecution. Details surrounding the extradition of the former LAA Managing Director remain scanty.

However, Liberia and the United States signed an extradition treaty several years ago. But it is not clear whether the treaty between the two countries is active and enforceable.

Corkrum, a U.S. citizen and a trained pilot who previously served in the American military, and Bility, a former campaign manager of the ruling Unity Party, have been indicted by the state and are wanted for prosecution. Others indicted by the government include Diaspora Consultants allegedly recommended by Madam Cockrum, First International Bank Liberia Limited, Cockrum's boyfriend Melvin Johnson, among others.

A Special Grand Jury of Montserrado County handed down formal charges against Cockrum, Bility and others with economic sabotage, theft of property, criminal conspiracy and misapplication of entrusted property.

According to the indictment, Madam Cockrum, Bility, Diaspora Consulting, Moamar Dieng and the Liberia Bank for Development & Investment (LBDI) by and thru its President John B. S. Davies and General Manager , Gloria Menjor are alleged to have conspired, did commit the crime of economic Sabotage in flagrant violation of Chapter 15, sub-chapter "F", section 15.81(a)(b)(c),Misapplication of Entrusted property in violation of Chapter 15, sub-chapter "D", sections 15.56; Theft of Property in violation of Chapter 15, sub-chapter "D", section 15.51 (a)(c); Criminal Conspiracy in violation of Chapter 10, sub-chapter "D" section 10.4 (1)(2)(3)(4) of the penal code of Liberia.

The indictment indicated that Madam Cockrum and Mr. Bility, both signatories to the account of the LAA maintained with LBDI, are alleged to have criminally conspired with Co-defendant Diaspora Consulting LLC represented by Dieng and LBDI for defrauding the government by making unauthorized transfer of funds that amounted to over US$269,000.00 from account number 005USD21235003306 at the bank.

The indictment further indicated that the accused on varied occasions remitted monies to the Bank of America account of Diaspora Consulting LLC through the LBDI for services which were never performed or rendered.

According to the state (Ministry of Justice) on December 4, 2012, the LAA through its former MD Cockcrum submitted two requests to the PPCC for "no objection" to single source SSF Entrepreneur Inc and Diaspora Consulting LLC for the rehabilitation of the RIA's runway and other pavements in the combined amount of US$1,283,333.00 proposed for SSF Entrepreneurs Inc. and over US$ 255,000.00 proposed for Diaspora Consulting LLC.

The indictment said that Board Chair Musa Bility, although not authorized to sign any financial instruments, whether cheques or transfer application along with Cockrum as a signatory to the account, he [Bility] ignored the instructions of the Board of Directors to the LBDI and signed all checks and application for transfer of funds from October 1, 2012 to February 4, 2013.

Corkrum, a product of Harvard and MIT was earlier tipped by President Sirleaf as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia long before the scandal was uncovered.

Madam Corkrum alleged to have masterminded a scheme to set up a fake company called Diaspora Consulting Engineering which was heralded as being listed on the New York Stock Exchange with the intention of securing a bid to revamp the Roberts International Airport.

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