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Is Liberia’s Justice Minister undermining the fight against corruption and economic crimes in Liberia?

NEW YORK – Liberia, an economically struggling and poorly managed country, has a compounded problem: billions of dollars in stolen wealth and assets are stacked in offshore accounts (including properties acquired through graft and theft of public funds) and a Justice Ministry that covers up and protects those involved in the economic crimes.

According to research conducted by some highly established, reputable and respected private investigative groups and globally acclaimed western law firms, Liberia has the potential and ability to immediately recover more than a billion dollars from stolen money and assets that some of its past and current officials have taken from the country, but the country’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General Frank Musa Dean has apparently become an obstacle and the strongest opposition to such a move – some insiders believe Mr. Dean’s complacency is tied to his unwavering support for Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Robert Sirleaf. Particularly Robert Sirleaf who once headed the National Oil Company (a State Owned Enterprise) as it lost nearly $100 million dollars.

As Justice Minister and Attorney General, Frank Musa Dean has refused to sign on the mandate of the asset recovery team set up by His Excellency President George Manneh Weah despite tremendous goodwill from the international community and several international firms based in the UK and the United States to assist Liberia to recover the stolen money and assets.

The Justice Minister and Attorney General has also refused to investigate credible information regarding the more than $34.5 million dollars stolen from rent and liaised agreement for the Pan Africa Plaza Building signed between the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and a fictitious quasi firm acting on behalf of a few Liberian officials and individuals tied to the former Liberian Unity Party-led administration.

Struggling and unemployed Liberian youth demonstrate against theft of public funds in Liberia while the Justice Minister pay deaf ears

The action of the Liberian Justice Minister and Attorney General has become a major concern for some within the United Nations, the international community and with donor countries, especially key policymakers associated with various ‘think tanks’ groups in Washington, D.C. considering that Liberia largely relies on donor support in carrying out both development efforts and in meeting budget obligations.

According to the United Nations, “fighting corruption is a global concern because corruption is found in both rich and poor countries, though evidence shows that it hurts poor people disproportionately.”

“Since the mid-1990s the General Assembly of the United Nations, through multiple resolutions, has expressed serious concern about the problems and threats posed by corruption to the stability and security of nations, undermining the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice, and jeopardizing sustainable development and the rule of law. Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, by perverting the rule of law, and by creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existence is the soliciting of bribes. Foreign direct investment is discouraged, and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the “start-up costs” required because of corruption. Corruption corrodes government institutions and starves the economy.” The United Nations maintained.

As Justice Minister, it appears Frank Musa Dean has failed to understand that corruption is undermining the social and economic development and the social fabric of Liberia.

The Liberian Justice Minister and Attorney General has provided the international community with the perception that the Weah administration and the CDC-led coalition government – which depends on U.S. taxpayers’ money and support from the European Union and other donor nations to meet its obligation –  does not have the willpower or fundamental understanding that corruption:

– Hinders social and economic development and increases poverty by diverting domestic and foreign investment away from where it is most needed;

– Weakens education and health systems, depriving people of the basic building blocks of a decent life;

– Undermines democracy by distorting electoral processes and undermining government institutions, which can lead to political instability;

– Exacerbates inequality and injustice by perverting the rule of law and punishing victims of crime through corrupt rulings.

The key questions are: What is Justice Minister and Attorney General Frank Musa Dean [who is also a former managing director of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation] afraid of for which he does not want to probe glaring economic sabotage allegations that appear to undermine Liberia’s economic development? Is the Liberian justice minister deliberately undermining the government of President George Manneh Weah? Or, is he acting based on President Weah’s private instructions?

The United Nations and all donor nations whose citizens use their hard-earned money through taxes to support resource-rich but very corrupt countries in Africa, including Liberia, take the fight against corruption very serious. This is why it is baffling to many in the United States, Canada, and Europe and around the world that the man entrusted with the authority to fight crime and ensure justice seems to be the very individual protecting criminals and promoting injustice.

“Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability,” Mirella Dummar-Frahi, Civil Society Team Leader at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned at the UN Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

In an interview with UN News, the senior United Nations official pointed out that tackling corruption plays an important role in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Organization’s blueprint for a sustainable future that leaves no one behind.

“The fight against corruption is deeply rooted in Sustainable Development Goal 16, which aims to provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels,” she said.

“One of the targets within this Goal, Target 6.15, is to ‘substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all its forms,’ and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is the guardian of the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument: the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). The vast majority of UN Member States are parties to the Convention.”

Among those states is the Republic of Liberia, whose Justice Minister and Attorney General Honorable Frank Musa Dean appears to be aiding and abetting the protection of economic crimes in the country while millions of Liberians roam the streets in excruciating poverty, lack access to healthcare, face food insecurity and high unemployment.

Liberia’s controversial and compromised Justice Minister, Frank Musa Dean who only prosecutes poor people for minor offenses but protects individuals who undercut the country’s development by stealing millions of dollars from the nation.
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Ben Mabande

Ben Mabande is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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