Assets Recovery Team Issues 10-Day Ultimatum Says Illegal Assets Must Be Return Or…

MONROVIA: In line with its mandate, the newly appointed Assets Recovery and Property Retrieval Task Force   has issued a 10-day ultimatum to employees, private individuals and past officials of government who illegally obtained government’s assets to surrender them to the Taskforce voluntarily to avoid unspecified legal actions or consequences.

The Chairman of the Taskforce, Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin, said the former officials of government agencies and ministries as well as private people possessing government properties illegally are granted 10 days grace period, commencing March 22 to March 31, 2024, to voluntarily surrender all state properties to save themselves from what he called “unspecified legal actions or consequences.

He noted that the exercise is not a witch-hunt, cautioning employees, private individuals and former officials of government, who are in possession of government properties, to surrender the same to the task force.

“On this note, the Taskforce is granting ten (10) days grace period, commencing March 22 to March 31, 2024, to those mentioned supra, to voluntarily surrender all state properties to avoid unspecified legal actions or consequences,” said.

The Chairman for the Assets Recovery and Property Retrieval Task Force spoke yesterday at a press briefing held at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, where he, on behalf of the Task Force, expressed gratitude to the Minister of Information for the opportunity accorded the Task Force, to give its first major press briefing since the announcement of Executive Order # 126 and their appointment to this national cause by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai.

“We consider this responsibility as a national cause, on grounds that this is a symbol of national preparedness by the President, to declare war on corruption and restore hope to the Liberian people by retrieving stolen assets that were diverted to private use by employees and formal officials of government,” he said.

The purpose of this Executive Order, Cllr. Martin said, is to open a new chapter for good governance and accountability, stating that the path of good governance and accountability is the apparatus on which, civilized nations of the world are built.

“Civilized nations are nations that are built on the tenets of democracy, good governance, accountability and rule of law. Unlike civilized nations, corrupt nations are vouchers that destroy the existence of the state and its people,” the leader of the Assets Recovery and Property Retrieval Task Force maintained; and pointed out the negative results of corrupt nations are abject poverty, poor health care delivery program, underdevelopment, bad roads, poor educational programs and bad salaries for employees of the system.

“Honorable Ministers, ladies and gentlemen of the press, Liberia as a nation state, has been victimized by bad governance, corruption and theft over the past years. Evidence of these are poverty, massive underdevelopment and hardship.”

According to Cllr. Martin, the pronouncement of Executive Order #126 is a redemption for the Liberian people and their state from the slavery of corruption, theft and bad governance.

“This is an indication that Liberia is gravitating to the expectation of the world, where the tenets of democracy, good governance, accountability and the rule of law are key initiatives for international recognition.”

Today, he continued, the Assets Recovery and property retrieval Task Force has been fully constituted, commissioned and charged with the power to perform its duties and responsibilities in line with the rule of law and without fear or favor.

The Taskforce, he maintained, considered this charge as a national responsibility and by this, it is anticipated of us, to perform to the expectation of the Liberian people and that of this Government.

“We uphold this, as an opportunity to be the first Task force under this government with the power and responsibility to recover stolen assets and retrieve properties from employees, former officials and private individuals who obtained same through illegal means,” he indicated, as he pledged to the people of Liberia and this government that the Taskforce will perform said responsibility to its maximum.

“In consonance with the law, we will be fearless, robust, drastic and strong. In the execution of our duties, no person(s), despite his or her former portfolio, will be exempted as the full weight of the law will not be selective in its application,” Cllr. Martin asserted.

Apparently referring to the start of its operation, the Liberian lawyer, “to hit the ground running, the Taskforce has commenced the process of property retrieval from employees, private individuals and past officials of government who illegally obtained them. We want to use this occasion to call on all agencies, ministries and corporations that we have contacted, to submit inventories of properties that we have selected for retrieval.

It was at this point that he issued the 10-day ultimatum when he announced, “We also want to use this medium to caution employees, private individuals and former officials of government, who are in possession of government properties, to surrender the same to the task force. On this note, the Taskforce is granting a ten (10) days grace period, commencing March 22 to March 31, 2024, to those mentioned supra, to voluntarily surrender all state properties to avoid unspecified legal actions or consequences.”

Meanwhile, the onetime Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman warned all garages that are currently in the habit of changing colors, vent and sache numbers of government vehicles to immediately desist. “The Task force has gotten intelligence of all those garages involved in said criminal act,” he said.

On the issue of Assets recovery, which he said is the second phase of their task, he indicated, “This portion of our responsibility borders on financial crimes and corruption investigations.

 

“Our financial crimes investigators are currently reviewing reports and other information gathered through our intelligence on theft and corruption of government’s assets.”

He pointed out that these reports and intelligence will be investigated and thereafter proceeds of those crimes that were converted into liquid and fixed assets (both at home and outside Liberia) by private individuals who transacted in bad business deals with government and former officials of government, will be legally confiscated thru a court of competent jurisdiction.

He then called on the public to assist the Taskforce with all relevant intelligence and information. “Your name and identity will be protected,” he said.

In a related development, he clarified that the task given them is not to witch-hunt a particular group.

“Our recovery and retrieval processes will be on the basis of cogent evidence. No one will be falsely incriminated on the basis of political affiliation. The legal chain of custody will be our guiding tool to establish the magnitude of our investigations,” he assured.

In the interim, he indicated that in line with their duties and responsibilities, the Task force will soon release the names of persons of interests that will be placed on Ne Exeate Republica.

These persons of interest have been captured as major suspects in our financial crimes and corruption investigations. The Taskforce is also aware of the illegal movement of liquid assets and is currently working with its intelligence to trace the domestic and international locations of those stolen assets. However, we are calling on all joint security at the various borders to remain vigilant,” he maintained.

Responding to questions, Cllr. Kla Martin indicated that the Assets Recovery Taskforce will be independent, pointing back to his work at the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, which he said can serve as a testament to his stance on fighting corruption.

“I am one person that is fearless, I go for the crimes and the actors despite their positions and portfolio but the best thing about our country is to set stage”. He further noted that it is the responsibility of those who are placed to these positions to ensure that the objectives and functions are performed in depth.

The former LACC boss urged Liberians to rest assure that he has not changed and his conduct toward the prosecution and investigation of those caught within acts of theft and corruption have not changed.

Cllr. Martin averred the task force’s dragnet is open and they will perform the task assigned to them to the best of their ability.  “This time around we are to act in accordance with the law, there will be no night calls and this will be achieved with the support of the government and everyone,” warning further that anyone who fails to submit to the Assets Recovery Taskforce, the team will use the law to handle such a situation.

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