12 June 2012

Liberia: Court 'C' Slaps Ex-Police Chief

The Criminal Court "C" at the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill has denied former Police Director Munah Sieh-Brown's motion.

The motion was seeking the dismissal of multiple corruption charges levied against her, and ordered the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to prosecute defendant Sieh Brown.

Court "C" Judge Yusiff D. Kabba ruled Monday that the LACC is competent, potent and possesses the legal authority, rights and power to prosecute the case at bar (in court), despite defendant Sieh-Brown's legal counsel C. Alexander B. Zoe's threat to take the lower court before the Supreme Court of Liberia if the trial judge did not stand firm to do the right thing.

The defense however took exception to Judge Kabba's ruling Monday and announced that it will take advantage of the statute controlling. In his ruling, Judge Kabba incorporated an earlier judgment made into the matter by his colleague James W. Zotaa at Criminal Court "A", adding that his well learned colleague dealt adequately with the issue before the court.

Judge Kabba's ruling was in conformity with Criminal Court "A" Judge James W. Zotaa's judgment during a hearing when the LACC earlier filed a motion before the first judicial circuit (Court "A") seeking the court's permission to enter into the deliberation room of the grand jury to obtain a presentment (indictment), after the Justice Ministry cleared the defendants from answering to the charges brought against them by the LACC.

Judge Kabba recalled that at the hearing of the LACC's application strenuously resisted by the Justice Ministry, Judge Zotaa found and held that indeed and in law the LACC by statute possessed the legal competence to enter into the room of the grand jury to obtain a true bill after which an indictment was drawn against defendant Sieh-Brown and others.

The former Police Director was indicted in 2008 along with co-defendants Harris Manneh Dunn and Prince O. A. Akinremi for allegedly diverting US$199, 800.00 (US$1.8 million dollars) intended to purchase uniform sets for officers of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and Police Support Unit (PSU), respectively of the Liberia National Police.

The defendants were indicted by the LACC for alleged Economic Sabotage, theft of property, criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy. In the motion dismissed by Court "C" Monday, the defense's exhibit however indicated that the Justice Ministry issued them clearance on September 30, 2011, exonerating the party from answering to the charges on grounds that LACC did not provide sufficient evidence against them.

The defense argued that the LACC was established to cause prosecution of cases in coordination with the Justice Ministry, but not to serve as a sole prosecutorial arm of the government by assuming the responsibility of the Justice Ministry.

For its part, the LACC argued that Section 15.1 of the Act establishing the commission withdraws exclusivity prosecutorial authority from the Justice Ministry.

The commission also cited Section 11.4 of the LACC Act, which states that the commission may directly prosecute acts of corruption through the court, if the Ministry of Justice, for whatever reason, does not take action to prosecute a case of corruption forwarded to it by the LACC within three calendar months of the receipt of the request to prosecute.

Notwithstanding, defendant Sieh-Brown and the two co-defendants will now face LACC prosecution before the Criminal Court "C' at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.

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