11 June 2012

West Africa: Pay Back

The ECOWAS Court of Justice sitting in Abuja on Friday ordered the return of 508, 200 dollars by the Liberian Government to Mr. Valentine Ayika.

The presiding judge, Justice Hansine Donli, held that the plaintff, Ayika, was exonerated from drug trafficking and money laundering by an investigative team in Liberia.

Donli said Ayika was not indicted by the investigative team and that Liberian Government had no legal justification to confiscate the said money.

The judge noted that the defendant violated the plaintiff's right to possession and enjoyment of property as enshrined in Article 14 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights.

"The money was held pending the investigation into money laundering charges on the plaintiff.

"The defendants said they had critically scrutinised the documents presented by the plaintiff disputing false allegations.

"In four years, the defendants, the Liberian Government, were not able to find the plaintiff guilty. Sept. 9, 2006 to the present date is too long."

She ordered the defendants to pay the costs of 20,000 Liberian dollars to the plaintiff as well as return his seized passport.

Donli, however, ruled that the manner in which the money was brought into Liberia by the plaintiff violated its laws.

She added that the offence attracted a 25 per cent deduction from the 508,200 dollars as demanded by the defendants.

She turned down the 21 per cent interest demanded by the plaintiff.

"Evidence points out that the plaintiff did not declare the amount at the Robert International Airport in Liberia.

"The fact that the plaintiff strapped money to his body gives rise to suspicion of crime, especially when he did not declare the amount he had on him.

"If the law requires it, then it is the duty of the passenger to obey. His money should be released after 25 per cent deduction as penalty. "

The counsel to the defendant, Mr Kanie Wesso, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that "we will take advantage of the provisions of the law to seek a review of the case because there are new issues."

Counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Okwy Ejezie, said he was satisfied with the judgment as the case had been on for long.

Ejezie, however, countered the move by the defendant to raise new issues in the case, saying "this is a ploy for the defendant to buy more time but the ruling has been made and there is no justification for that.

"If they decide to do that, I will sue for 100,000 dollars because that will be a waste of time of the court.

NAN recalls that 508,200 dollars was seized from Ayika at the Roberts International Airport in September 2009, by the Liberian authorities after it was alleged he did not declare the amount on him.

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