Liberia: Judge Dixon Takes Issue With Sirleaf, Weeks in CBL's L$16 Billion Case

Criminal Court 'C' Judge Blamo Dixon.

On Thursday, August 15, 2019, Criminal Court 'C' Judge, Blamo Dixon during court session took exception to the absence from the courtroom of former Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Executive Governor, Milton A. Weeks, and Charles E. Sirleaf, deputy governor for operations, from court.

Judge Dixon commented on the matter in open court shortly after he was assigned to preside over Criminal Court 'C', at which time he had the opportunity to read the mandate of Supreme Court Chambers Justice Joseph Nagbe on a government request to have some of CBL's current and past senior officials rearrested and be made to post new bail.

The trio were charged in connection with the missing US$835,367.72 and L$2,645,000,000 involving current and past CBL senior officials. Judge Dixon, however added, "Weeks and Sirleaf's absence is a complete defiance to this court," the irritated Judge Dixon was heard telling lawyers representing the pair.

"The court acknowledged the presence of only three of the defendants, namely: Dorbor M. Hagba, director of finance, Richard H. Walker, director for operations and Joseph Dennis, deputy director, internal audit, and the absence of the other two defendants in persons of Milton A. Weeks and Charles E. Sirleaf," Judge Dixon said.

The Judge stressed the importance of Thursday's hearing, which he said was mainly the result of a mandate from the Supreme Court, which every lawyer, including those representing Weeks and Sirleaf, must respect. "This Court", he said, "will not tolerate the absence of Weeks and Sirleaf without a written excuse when the case is assigned for hearing," Judge Dixon warned.

Shortly afterwards, he (Judge Dixon) ordered the clerk of court to read Justice Nagbe's mandate, which was done immediately. The mandate, signed by Attorney Sam Mambolu, clerk of the Supreme Court, arose from a petition for a Writ of Certiorari, which government lawyers filed against Judges Boima Kontoe and Peter W. Gbeneweleh, both of whom have refused to accept the prosecution request to rearrest the defendants.

Former CBL Executive Governor Milton Weeks, Deputy Governor Charles Sirleaf and Director of Banking Dorbor Hagba, are the first to be arrested, among many others pending, as named in the Presidential Investigation Team's (PIT) report.

A Petition for Writ of Certiorari, (informally called "Cert Petition") is a document, which a losing party files with the Supreme Court asking for the revision of the decision of a lower court.

Judges Gbeneweleh and Kontoe had both refused to set aside the bail bond filed to release the defendants that include Weeks and Sirleaf, and have them rearrested, and subsequently detained at the Monrovia Central Prison until a proper bond was secured.

Nagbe's denial letter reads: "You are hereby mandated to resume jurisdiction and proceed in accordance with law as the Justice has declined to issue the writ as prayed for by the government."

After reading Justice Nagbe's mandate, Judge Dixon informed the lawyers that since the defendants bonds have been duly approved and justified by their respective sureties, the court is now inclined to acquaint them with other rights that they have under the law.

"It is mandatory that all of the defendants must be present in the court at any stage of the hearing," Dixon said.

The defendants, however, are also entitled to severance (separate) trial, a decision which lies with the discretion of the court. "The defendants are also entitled to file a motion to recuse if they do not want the sitting judge to hear their case."

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.

The Grand Jury of Montserrado County had indicted the men for multiple crimes, including economic sabotage and misappropriation of public funds following released reports of two separate investigations into the missing L$16 billion.

The CBL executives were arrested following the release of USAID-backed Kroll report, and the report by the Special Presidential Investigation Team (PIT), which uncovered a wide-range of discrepancies in the printing of new Liberia banknotes worth billions of LRD, and the controversial disbursement of US$25 million intended to be infused into the economy to curb the rising exchange rate between the Liberian and US dollars.

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