22 November 2017

Liberia: Govt Suffers Setback in U.S.$10.7 Million Vehicle Debt Case

Haddad's case was forced to be suspended when Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan denied state lawyers' contention that her court lacked legal jurisdiction over the case.

State lawyers yesterday failed to persuade the Commercial Court to postpone a hearing in the US$10.7 million lawsuit Prestige Motors and Alliance Motors brought against the government.

Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, Cllr. Augustine Fayiah, had sought the court's endorsement to have the matter postponed to enable him to study the file and consult with other lawyers assigned to the case.

Meanwhile, until yesterday, the matter had been with the court for three years.

Cllr. Fayiah's request comes just a week after the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved US$20.7 million for the government of Liberia to offset some of its domestic financial obligations.

The request also comes two months to the end of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's administration, and the government is expected to use the money to pay back companies it is indebted to.

Denying government's request, Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan said the court issued an assignment on November 17 scheduling the hearing for yesterday, November 21.

"The lawyers received and signed the assignment agreeing for the hearing. If for any reason there was any problem, they would have had enough time to notify the court," Judge Morgan said.

"Since that did not happen until now, the lawyer's request is hereby denied, and the matter will proceed for trial."

The chief judge ordered Cllr. Fayiah to ensure that both the ministries of Justice and Finance and Development Planning appear for the hearing on Friday, December 1.

Before denying government's request, Prestige and Alliance Motors' lead lawyer, Cllr. G. Moses Paegar argued that Cllr. Fayiah's attitude was a deliberate tactic employed by the government to defeat and frustrate the company's quest for justice in the matter.

Paegar also asked the court to deny the application, a request which was accepted.

"Since 2015, Fayiah alone has been signing documents as the only lawyer in this case; and now to say that he wants to consult with his other lawyers assigned to the matter, is a very bad precedent," Paegar said.

Besides, Paegar argued that Fayiah singlehandedly signed a motion requesting the court to dismiss the case on grounds that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter.

"Fayiah argued that the court was established in 2010, which means it does not give it any legal ground to hear and decide cases prior to its establishment," Paegar argued.

Prestige Motors and Alliance Motors earlier alleged that the government was indebted to them in the amount of US$10.7 million for vehicles and spare parts they supplied state actors from 2003 to March 2008, for which they are yet to receive any payment; a situation they are asking the court to enforce.

The companies are owned by Lebanese businessman George Haddad.

The case continues.

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