8 May 2017

Liberia: Judge Gbeisay Hits Back At Prosecution in Sable Mining Bribery Trial

Kakata — In what appears to be rare move in the Judiciary, Judge Yarmie Gbeisay, now presiding over the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Kakata, Margibi County has hit back at critics of his recent ruling in the Sable Mining bribery case, saying those who come to equity must do so with clean hands.

"We as a nation cannot fight corruption by using corrupt means," he said.

"People employed to fight corruption must be people of integrity, high moral standing and above reproach."

"That is to say, they themselves must be free of corruption, we cannot fight bribery for instance by offering bribes," said Judge Gbeisay, who maintained he is under oath protect the constitution without fear or favor.

Judge Gbeisay said his ruling was not an advertent error as alleged by the prosecution but one based on Article (21)(h) of the Constitution that states that in all criminal cases, the accused is entitled to lawyer to confront witnesses against him.

"An attempt to fight corruption by wrong or illegal procedure is a bad governance and this is totally against international best practice."

"In the administration of Justice the world over, the substance and the procedure have equal weight in other words no matter how clear a case may be in the eyes of the layman, if the evidentiary procedure laid down by the statutory law is not meticulously followed guilty cannot be legally established."

On the question of his last assignment at the Criminal Court "C" while presiding over the Sable Mining case, Gbeisay added that he is guided by ethics not to speak to the press except during the opening of the court.

He claimed that during his last assignment, there was a lot of falsehood written against him by some media personnel who were engaged in blackmailing but their actions need to be curtailed.

While presiding over the Sable Mining bribery case involving former and current government officials during the February Term of Court at the Criminal Court "C" on the grounds of the Temple of Justice, Judge Gbeisay ruled to temporarily admit an email evidence of the prosecution until the author of the e-mail can come and testify.

However, the ruling of judge Gbeisay was objected by the prosecution lawyer, Cllr. Daku Mulbah, who later filed a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court Associate Justice-In- Chamber, Philips A.Z. Banks, accusing the judge of allegedly committing an advertant error by temporarily admitting the e-mail evidence.

Cllr. Mulbah prayed the high court in his writ of certiorari to have the judge's ruling rescinded and a determination be made to bring relief to the prosecution.

The e-mail referred to by the prosecution was reportedly obtained from an executive of the Sable Mining, Hans Van Niekerk, in South Africa and it is believed to have been email exchanges between co-defendant Varney Sherman and the Sable Mining executive.

Sable Mining is a British Company that has been accused by the prosecution of allegedly offering a bribe of US$950,000 to the eight former and current government officials at the time they served in various positions in government to change the Public Procurement and Concession Commission Act in favor of the British Company to mine the Wologisi Mountain in Lofa County, the claim that the eight officials have denied.

While the writ of certiorari is pending before the chamber of Associate Justice In-Chamber Banks for determination, Judge Gbeisay commenting on the matter in his charge (speech) to open the May 2017 Term of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Kakata stated that the country is been blessed with natural resources but corruption has been the major source of its under development.

Judge Gbeisay went on to say that it was his considered opinion that corruption can only be legally fought within the frame work of the Constitution and existing statutes and that no two wrongs can make a right in his view.

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