Liberia: Justice Korkpor Backs Gbeneweleh in L$16 Billion Case

Chief Justice Francis Korkpor's reassignment of Judge Peter Gbeneweleh to Criminal Court 'C' has set the stage for him (Gbeneweleh) to preside over the alleged missing US$835,367.72 and L$2,645,000,000 involving the current and past Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) senior officials.

Government's lawyers had prayed for a decision by Judge Gbeneweleh to set aside the bail bond filed to release the defendants and have them (defendants) rearrested, and subsequently detained at the Monrovia Central Prison until a proper bond is secured.

Milton A. Weeks, former CBL executive governor, filed a property evaluation bond to the amount of US$909,319.88 to secure his release from pre-trial detention while the Accident and Casualty Insurance Company (ACICO) secured the bond for Charles E. Sirleaf, deputy governor in the amount of US$60,000. The company also secured a US$60,000 bond for Richard Walker, director for operations, Joseph Dennis, deputy director for internal audit and Dorbor Hagba, director of finance.

However, Judge Gbeneweleh's dismissal of the prosecution's motion prompted their appeal to Justice in-chambers, Joseph Nagbe charging that Judge Gbeneweleh had displayed bias against their client in his handling of the case.

To their utmost surprise, however, Justice Korkpor, on Tuesday, August 6, communicated with Judge Gbeneweleh, instructing him to dispose of business before his court including the reading of Chambers Justice Nagbe's ruling, denying the prosecution's demand for Judge Gbeneweleh to recuse himself from hearing and determining the matter.

Chief Justice Korkpor's action is backed by the Judiciary Law Title 17, Liberian Code of Laws Revised Title 17, Section 3.9, entitled: "Assignment of Judges to Circuits".

That law provides that "each Circuit Judge, except the judges commissioned as relieving judges, shall preside as resident judge over the Circuit Court of the circuit for which he/she was appointed."

It continues, "The Chief Justice shall assign, on a rotating system, a circuit judge to each quarterly session of the various circuits, and if all business before a circuit court is disposed of before the expiration of a quarterly session, the chief justice shall have the power to reassign the circuit judge assigned thereto, to sit for the remaining time of the quarterly session in any other circuit in addition to the circuit judge currently assigned there, if he deems such reassignment will aid the prompt disposition of judicial business."

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