26 November 2012

Liberia: U.S.One Million Criminal Case Goes to Supreme Court

The ongoing US$1M theft of property, misapplication of entrusted property and criminal conspiracy trial involving Pastor Matthew Sakueh and his wife Plenseh of the Africa Indigenous Evangelical Mission (AIEM) has landed at the Supreme Court of Liberia. The AIEM is located on the Monrovia-Robertsfield highway in Paynesville, outsider Monrovia.

The pastor and wife are accused of stealing US$1million dollar. The indictment alleged that between the period of the 2006 to 2009, the defendant as a team communicated with ABC-International Iceland that they have an organization named AIEM. The ABC became interested in supporting the AIEM of establishing an organization in Liberia named ABC Children Aid Liberia, which acquired 52.76 acre of land to build church, school and clinic in Liberia.

The trial, which has been proceeding at the Criminal Court "C" at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, was forwarded to the Associate Justice-in-Chambers of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Philip A. Z. Banks, III on Friday, November 23, 2012, based upon a petition for a Writ of Prohibition prayed for by the defense lawyer.

In the petition for a Writ of Prohibition filed before the Justice-in-Chambers, counsel for the defendant prayed to the court for the issuance of an Alternative Writ of prohibition to restraint the Co-respondent Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh from proceeding contrary to the rules and methods that ought to be observed at all times by a court.

In count-two of the petitioner's petition, Cllr. Cooper Kruah, who is representing the legal interest of the accused, cited the case law, Kromah VS Pearson as his reliance, reported in 33 Liberian Laws Revised, where the Supreme Court also held that prohibition is a proper remedy when a trial Judge proceeds contrary to the rules which ought to be observed at all times. The defense lawyer also cited another case law, Union National Bank VS Hudge, which he said, the Supreme Court held that prohibition will hold to prevent an arbitrary conduct of the Judge.

"This Opinion is reported in 20 Liberian Laws Revised (LLR). The Supreme Court has also held that prohibition is the property remedy to restraint, prevent and prohibit the lower court from handling a matter unlawfully," Cllr. Kruah contended. The petitioner further informed Justice Banks that the indictment drawn against his client named one Hilda Videro, Francis Dunbar and Gudrum MargaretPalsdottir as witnesses for the prosecution with notice to the defendant as required by law.

Contrary to the practice and procedure as hoary with age in this jurisdiction, Petitioner Kruah further submitted to Justice Banks that at the call of the case Judge Gbeneweleh, who is presiding over trial, elected to qualify only one of prosecution's witnesses to testify, allowing the other two witnesses to sit in open court and listened to the testimony of the first principal witness, Palsdottirat the detriment of the defendant.

In count-three of the petition for a Writ of Prohibition, petitioner told the court that on November 21, 2012, before the commencement of the trial, he made a submission, calling the attention of Judge Gbeneweleh that other witnesses were in open court, listening to the testimony of the first state witness, Palsdottir. According to the petition, Judge Gbenewerleh refused to pass on the submission, but instead declared that counsel for the petitioner has destroyed the court record by making said application.

The defense alleged that Judge Gbeneweleh ordered the Clerk of the Court to remove the entire page containing his [Cllr. Kruah's] submission. Cllr. Kruah also alleged that the documentary evidence adduced at the trial, which were to form the basis for the indictment was never presented to the grand jury and cannot be used against his client as evidence.

Meanwhile, by directive of Justice Banks, both parties are to appear today, Monday, November 26, 2012 by 3:00PM for a conference in connection with said case.

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