FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

23 June 2014

Liberia: 'I Don't Know' - EJS Unsure About Corkrum Extradition From U.S.

The government of Liberia has already indicted the former head of the Roberts International Airport (RIA), Ellen Corkrum along with Melvin Johnson an alleged accomplice on charges of economic sabotage and others, but with Miss Corkrum, a US citizen currently residing in the United States of America there has been confusion on how she will be brought back to Liberia to answer charges leveled against her by the state.

The lawyer representing the Government, Cllr. Steven Schneebaum has said that he is working to ensure that the two are extradited to Liberia to face trial with a letter to the State of New Georgia Bar.

Schneebaum says should Corkrum and Johnson be tried in the United States it will be a civil case, while a trial in Liberia will be a criminal case. "If they will be tried in the US, it will be a civil case, but when they are extradited, it will become a criminal case", says the Government of Liberia lawyer, Schneebaum.

The American lawyer says a Federal Judge is responsible for the extradition, but it is subject to appeal indicating that he is confident that the Government will pursue the case to the fullest in order to make sure that Ellen Corkrum and Johnson are made to account for the Liberian people's monies. Information Minister Lewis Brown has repeatedly echoed the statement by the lawyer contracted to ensure that justice in done in the mater when he assured that the Government of Liberia is doing all to ensure Corkrum and Johnson extradition to face the law.

"That is why we will not rest, no cost will be too high for us, no effort will be too much. We will not stop to have former Judge Melvin Johnson and Ellen Corkrum to answer to the law," Brown said recently.

But in spite of the statements from both Cllr. Schneebaum and Information Minister Brown, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says she is not sure whether Corkrum will be extradited indicating it is left with the Ministry of Justice of the United States to determine the transfer of Corkrum to Liberia.

Speaking to UNMIL Radio last week, Sirleaf asked rhetorically: "Will they send her home? I don't know because that depends on the Justice Ministry for the US when they look at the whole case whether they will send her home for trial, I don't know. But let me say Ms. Corkrum will face a bigger judge, the judge of God because she has no conscience for rendering evil for good. Everybody in this country try to help her and be good to her, but we didn't know that she was here with a scheme to defraud this government and because she they did not she is mounting this campaign personally against me when all I did was to help her, in my house; she has been to my house several times".

No fear of Corkrum's recordings

The Liberian leader who was one of several government officials that interacted with Corkrum during her stay in Liberia, where several other high ranking officials were recorded by Corkrum, admitted that she might have also been recorded but fears nothing.

"She may have, but she will not have anything that will indict me, in fact, she's scare to call because if she was to play all the recordings that she made on me, it will expose her, she can't do it. Maybe she will play those little ones where she was begging me, please do this but anyway, I don't want to talk about that because it is in the law. Like I say, she will be judged by God and the day God deals with her, she will know".

No action against recorded officials

With some trusted officials of government recorded casting negativity on the government and even President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President has said the action of Corkrum was illegal and she can not take action against those affected by the strings of recordings.

Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, Police Director Chris Massaquoi and a number of other officials were recorded by Corkrum reportedly gossiping about President Sirleaf and fellow government officials spurring public calls for Sirleaf to act against those officials. However, Sirleaf averred that the recordings were done with criminal intent.

Said Sirleaf: "What she did was illegal; you cannot go to something like a friend and start asking them questions and you have something on your body to record them. That person is a wicked person, wicked. All those people were trying to help her and if they say things to her like ooh this government is doing this, it is because you know she's a nice pretty, girl, they want to talk to her, all want to laugh with her. She looks small, she looks nice; all of them want to be friends with her - and so they were saying all these things, not knowing she is wicked girl, plotting on them."

Can't prosecute

Addressing corruption, Sirleaf said her regime is fighting corruption as she has been dismissing people, but admitted that she cannot prosecute because it is left with the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission and the Ministry of Justice to do so.

"I can sack people and I have done that, I cannot prosecute people. It's got to be the LACC based on the documents and the evidence they have; it's got to be the Ministry of Justice. Recently, I heard the LACC new boss, talk, he met with me and said I am going to help you solve this corruption problem. Anytime you have document on any government official or anybody, send the document to me, I will do the work, to prosecute them and I am working on that", said Sirleaf.

Taking a stab at her critics, Sirleaf said her administration has done a lot in the fight against corruption through laws and other regulations to prevent people from stealing. "Let me say that it may not be today that people will see the result, maybe my term will be over when they'll see the type of laws we have put in place to stop people from stealing."

The President blamed corruption on the desire by many to enrich themselves as soon they have the opportunity. She described corruption as entrenched in the Liberian society - from churches to schools and sporting associations.

Added Sirleaf; We will continue to try; so if they look at the record coming from outside, the people who know corruption and what we have done, we have improved a lot but there is still corruption. But I am glad people are talking about corruption because it is everywhere, corruption in the NGO, corruption in your house, corruption in the church, corruption in sports associations. It is bad because over the years, people did not have anything, there was nothing to steal but now there is plenty to steal. Everybody wants to improve themselves, everybody wants to build houses quick, everybody wants buy car quick, everybody wants to go America all the time, everybody wants Jordan sneakers, everybody wants wear sunglasses and so everybody wants something".

The Liberian leader also laid the blame on some business owners who she asserted are helping to increase corruption in the country by failing to do business in the right order through bribery of customs and police officers.

Said Sirleaf: "There are some people who can compromise people, some of the same business people are the problem. Instead of going to do their business the right way, they go the back door and call somebody and say let me give you something if you let me pass this thing, I will give you something when you reduce the taxes I am suppose to pay. Now we need to catch some of those people too, not only those who get the money, but those who give it."

"Sometimes they know people weak, people want money, when you pay the customs officer, you bribe the police officer, you bribe this person, you bribe that person, you weaken the system, it becomes a way of life, because the person who will come after you will say the other man that was here, we did this so if you want, we have to do the same thing. That is what spoils the country."

"It is not good - and that is the problem we have now. You see the corruption is a big problem, so people who are complaining about the economy, about the budget they are part of the problem too, because corruption can make things worse", said President Sirleaf.

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