28 February 2014

Liberia: Deputy Justice Minister, CBL Faceoff in Court for $169k Debt

Monrovia — A legal battle has ensued at the Debt Court at the Temple of Justice between the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and deputy Justice Minister for Administration Benedict Sannoh over US$169,000 debt allegedly owed him through the former Meridian BIAO Bank Limited that operated in Liberia during the 1990's. Two other entities along with the CBL have been named in the Deputy Minister's action of debt claim filed before the Debt Court. The two entities include the Meridian Properties Inc represented by its Board of Director and Corporate Agent Teklonblah Togbah, 2nd defendant and Madison Insurance also represented by its General Manager Septimus Massaquoi.

In his 18-count complaint, Deputy Minister Sannoh, plaintiff told the court that on February 1, 1996 his services was retained as legal counsel for the three entities under a retainer agreement.

The plaintiff alleged that under the terms and conditions, the retainer was initially for a two -year period starting as of February 1, 1996 and terminated on January 31, 1998 with options for renewal for another two years in which the bank allegedly undertook to pay him US$36,000 per annum, payable on a quarterly basis.

Deputy Minister Sannoh, further claimed that with callous disregard for their obligations to him under the terms and conditions, the retainer failed, neglected and refused to pay the accrued retainer fee from February 1996 up to October 2000.

Again the plaintif argued that the BIAO Meridian Bank was a registered financial institution under the law to do banking in the country, while the Meridian Properties a corporate entity and one of the associated companies of the bank and the Madison Insurance Inc. also registered under the law to provide guarantees against risks.

According to the plaintiff the Meridian Bank under seizure of the CBL pursuant to the amended financial institution act is the proper party in any action such as debt brought against a financial institution under seizure, as is the case of the Meridian Bank.

"Wherefore and in view of the foregoing plaintiff prays for judgment of liable against the defendants jointly for the amount of US$169,800 representing principle obligation of plaintiff plus six percent legal interest" said the plaintiff.

In a 24-count response to the Deputy Minister's complaint, lawyers representing the Central Bank Cllr. Emmanuel James and Rosemarie James argued that the complaint is fit for dismissal.

The two lawyers argued that any attachment of lieu except a lieu existing six months prior to the seizure of the financial institution, shall be vacated and no attachment of lieu except a lieu created by the liquidator in the application of the provisions of the this act shall attach to any of the property or assets of the financial institution so long as such possession continues.

"Wherefore and in view of the foregoing the defendants pray court to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint in entirety, rule out all cost and grant unto the defendants all other reliefs" stated the lawyers.

Meanwhile hearing into the case continues on Tuesday at the Debt Court at the Temple of Justice at 2pm where the plaintiff is expected to face cross-examination from the defense lawyers.

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