15 June 2017

Liberia: Access Bank Faces U.S.$10 Million Lawsuit

A decision by the Monrovia City Court yesterday to dismiss the crime of "Defrauding Secure Creditor" in favor of Madam Wenwu Benetta Gray was enough for her to seek US$10million in damages against Access Bank-Liberia.

Gray's lawsuit is expected to be filed before the Civil Law Court in Monrovia, Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi said after Magistrate Kennedy Peabody ruled in favor of his client dismissing the bank's criminal charges against her.

It may be recalled that on September 11, 2016, Magistrate Peabody charged Wenwu Benetta Gray with the crime of "Defrauding Secure Creditor," for her alleged failure to honor her US$12,372.72 loan obligation with Access Bank-Liberia.

Under the law, the crime qualifies a person for bail, but because Gray at that time could not find a lawyer to secure her bond, she was sent to jail.

Reversing Access Bank's criminal claim against Gray yesterday, Magistrate Peabody declared that "by laws and fact the action of defrauding secured creditor filed by the Access Bank against Wenwu Benetta Gray was wrong, because a security was offered as collateral and said security is still visible with the bank... it means there is no criminality."

Providing clarity on his decision, Peabody said initially, the bank and Gray entered into a loan agreement, of which the bank loaned her US$12,372.72, for which she offered a security as collateral that is still in the possession of the bank.

Magistrate Peabody said if the security offered as collateral was sold and or removed by Gray to an unknown location without the knowledge of the bank, then the bank is required by law to file for full closure of the security offered as collateral, and file an action of debt against Gray. "Wherein, the security offered is visible and documentation of the agreement is in Access Bank's possession, there is no criminality involved," said Peabody.

Initially, the bank alleged that it entered into a loan agreement with Mrs. Gray in May 2016, when she received US$11,000 with an interest of US$1,372.72 that she agreed to pay by September; an agreement, which the bank said, she has failed to honor.

Although she has paid back some of the loan, the bank said that alone could not stop the court from sending the defendant to jail.

Based on that complaint, the court without hesitation issued a writ of arrest against Mrs. Gray, brought her under the jurisdiction of Magistrate Peabody, who remanded the defendant to the Monrovia Central Prison until she could file a criminal appearance bond.

The alleged act, according to Magistrate Peabody, was "unlawful, wicked, and illegal and was intentional in the violation of the law of which she committed the crime, defrauding a secure creditor."

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