19 February 2013

Liberia: Munah Sieh, Others Plead 'Not Guilty'

Photo: The New Dawn
Police patrol.

Former Police Inspector General, Beatrice Munah Sieh Brown and four others have pleaded 'not guilty' to an indictment drawn against them on charges of economic sabotage, theft of property, criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy in the New Penal Law of the Republic of Liberia.

The indictment which was previously before the Resident Circuit Court Judge of Criminal Court "A" James Zotaa accused Mrs. Brown, Harris Manneh Dunn, Prince O.A. Akinremi, Kamah N. Zeon and Nebo Garlo for intentionally pilfering some US$199,800 under various schemes.

Yesterday, the five indicted defendants appeared in Criminal Court "C" to proceed with the trial which had been dangling in the Circuit Court of Montserrado County since its February 2012 term of court and entered a non guilty plea upon the reading of the indictment by the court's sheriff.

Meanwhile, 13 jurors have already been selected while the court is expected to select additional two persons to complete a jury panel after which the panel is to be sequestrated for the commencement of the trial during this term of court.

Economic Sabotage in Liberia is considered fraud on the internal revenue, misuse of public money, property and record as well as theft and or illegal disbursement and expenditure of public money and is termed first degree felony and Theft of Property is knowingly taking, misappropriating, converting exercising unauthorized control over, knowingly receiving, retaining or disposing of another which has been stolen.

While Criminal Facilitation is an offence in which a person renders aid to another who intends to commit crime but does not apply to a person who is either expressly or by implication may not be accountable by the statute defining the felony facilitated or related issue. And Criminal Conspiracy is if with the purpose of promoting or facilitating its commission, a person agrees with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of conduct which constitutes a crime.

Atty. Brown then Inspector General of the Liberia National Police was accused and forwarded to court along with her deputy for administration, the proprietor of an investment company, a Ministry of Finance auditor on October 8, 2008 for misapplying government funds entrusted to her to purchase uniforms.

The case was sent to court upon the orders of government prosecutors led by the Attorney General Christiana Tah and former Solicitor General Wilkins M. Wright. When the prosecutors saw that there was absolutely no merit to proceed with the case since its evidence was not sufficient to create a case, the government decided to drop the case.

The State prosecutors found out in their observation and findings that indeed the uniforms were purchased by the then Inspector General while a United Nations agency was responsible to procure equipment, materials and supplies for the police.

According to the prosecutors, the UN agency attested to procuring uniforms, materials and supplies as was agreed upon but because of the lack of specificity; that provided lack of sufficient evidence to continue with the trial against the defendants.

With this information the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission led by Frances Allison flared with anger and that created a friction between the Ministry of Justice and the LACC until the LACC was given the authority to serve as prosecutors if the trial was to recommence.

Now that the trial has resurfaced, the LACC is represented by its legal team headed by Cllr. Othello Payman, who was in court and ready to proceed.

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