26 June 2019

Liberia: Govt Mounts Protest

Prosecutors here are claiming that indicted Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officials are making mockery of the ongoing trial at Criminal Court "C" in reference to bonds filed by the defendants, while also demanding defense lawyers from Heritage Partners and Associates (HPA) to be removed from the case.

The prosecution alleges in a petition for certiorari filed before Justice - in - Chambers Joseph Nagbe that presiding Criminal Court "C" Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh has taken sides with the defendants in the case for allowing HPA's lawyer Cllr. AbrahimSillah to represent co-defendant Milton A. Weeks.

The State claims that the defendants chose "to make mockery of the entire process" when defendants Charles Sirleaf, DorborHagba, Richard Walker and Joseph Dennis deliberately filed US$60,000 bonds individually, while defendant Milton A. Weeks also filed a "purported property valuation bond" valued US$909,318.88.

The government is contending that each of the defendants is required to post a bail bond of US$3,306,250, or even more when the statute is applied by adding "one and half" of the amount they are charged for to raise the bail bond to US$4,959,375.00 each.

Former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf's son and Deputy CBL Governor Charles E. Sirleaf, former CBL Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks, DorborHagba, Richard A. Walker and Joseph Dennis are standing trial following two investigative reports over LD$2,645,000,000,000 and US$835,367.72 scandal.

The scandal is alleged to have occurred while Mr. Hagba worked as CBL's Director at the Finance Department, Joseph Dennis, Director for Operations and Joseph Dennis, Deputy Director for Internal Audit.

The financial scandal reports came following mass protest here in 2018 for government to account for alleged LD$16 billion printed by hired firm Crane Currency, AB and shipped to Liberia but could not be accounted for.

Following the investigations separately conducted by Kroll and the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT), it was discovered that while CBL reported that a total of LD$15,506,000,000 was printed and received between July 2016 and April 2018, the actual amount printed and shipped by Crane Currency was LD$18,151,000,000.The reports indicated a variance of LD$2,645,000,000 that is yet to be accounted for.

But the defendants have denied all charges of economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitations and they have tendered various bonds before the Criminal Court "C" to secure their release in the main time while the trial goes on.

However the prosecution filed the petition for certiorari before Chambers Justice Nagbe requesting him to correct alleged errors committed by Judge Gbeneweleh and his predecessor Judge Boima Kontoe.

The government has included Judge Boima Kontoe in its complaint to the Chambers Justice because he presided at Court "C" when the defendants submitted their bonds following their arrests early this year, and Judge Gbeneweleh is also included because he made the decision granting the bonds this court term.

Concerning the State's resistance against Cllr. Sillah's representation of defendant Weeks, the prosecution says it produced evidence in the form of contract showing that the HPA and in particular, Cllr. Sillah is on the payroll of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).

The State claims there is a question of conflict of interest involving HPA and Cllr. Sillah because he is allegedly undermining government's fight against corruption while he is in the employ of the LRA.

Judge Geneweleh and the rest of the parties concerned appeared for a conference before Chambers Justice Nagbe on Monday, 24 June based on the Justice's instruction to the Judge that came on 19 June.

Progress in the case at Court "C" will depend on what will be the outcome of the conference before the Chambers Justice.

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