Liberia: No Date to Try CBL Officials in 'Missing L$16b' Case

As a matter of procedure, Judge Nancy Sammy's court cannot assign a case unless a party such as the prosecution, led by Solicitor General Syrenius Cephus , asks the judge to assign the case.

A week after Judge Nancy Sammy of Criminal Court 'C' vowed to resist any political interference with her judgment over the corruption case of the alleged missing US$835,367.72, and L$2,645,000,000 that involved current and past senior officials Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), the Court is yet to set a special date to try the case.

This is likely due to the prosecution's reluctance to ask Judge Sammy to announce a date for the commencement of the CBL case, weeks after she replaced then Judge Blamo Dixon, who had recused himself from the matter that is widely believed to have been based on "political pressure."

It can be recalled that CBL executives, including former executive governor Milton A. Weeks, former deputy governor Charles E. Sirleaf, director for operations Richard Walker, deputy director for internal audit Joseph Dennis and director of finance Dorbor Hagba, were arrested following the release of the USAID-backed Kroll report, and the report by the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT), which uncovered a wide-range of discrepancies in the printing of new Liberian dollar banknotes worth billions, and the controversial infusion of US$25 million into the economy at the time to curb the rising exchange rate between the Liberian and US dollars.

When the report was made public, it was greeted with mass protest, as Liberians in their numbers demanded prosecution of those that were allegedly connected to the 'missing money'.

This is the very case which government lawyers are finding it difficult to ask Judge Sammy, to assign for hearing. Judge Sammy happens to be the first female judge to take over the Criminal Court 'C'.

As a matter of procedure, the court cannot assign a case unless the parties ask the judge to assign the case.

Besides handling the case with Judge Sammy, the government lawyers filed another lawsuit at the Civil Law Court, where they asked then Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisaye to freeze the accounts and other assets of the defendants.

However, after hearing arguments by state lawyers, Judge Gbeisaye denied prosecution's motion, thus putting the matter (currently) before Associate Justice Yussif Kaba, a Supreme Court's chamber justice.

Most of the high-profiled corruption cases, such as the ones in question, are heard by Criminal Court 'C'.

When Judge Dixon was initially assigned to the case, it took just a day for government lawyers to ask for assignment, a situation which, in the case of Judge Sammy, the lawyers have failed to do up to present.

It is not clear what is causing the government lawyers to delay moving forward with the case. However, a judicial source confided in the Daily Observer that the prosecution is hesitant to move forward with Judge Sammy presiding over the matter.

Judge Sammy has repeatedly said that, "Some politicians might try to use our courts as a platform to promote themselves by interfering in a judicial decision; and so you have to take judicial notice of that fact."

Besides, since Judge Sammy delivered her charge on Monday, November 11, the Daily Observer has through the office of the Clerk of court, failed to ascertain whether there is a date set for the hearing which, up to the publication of this story, was yet to produce any document from government lawyers as to the assignment of the case.

"This is strange to us to see government lawyers not showing interest in prosecuting defendants to the case, nor asking for assignment of the case," a source said.

Other sources added, "When Judge Dixon was assigned to preside over our court, it took just a day to do so after the opening of the August (2019) Term of Court to ask for the case to be assigned."

But Judge Sammy reminded her colleagues that they should not allow themselves to be pressured, coerced, or to let their courts to be used as a platform by politicians to promote themselves, stressing, "Please do not allow any politician to interfere in judicial decisions you will make in this case or any case before the Court."

Judge Sammy then told her audience that they are aware that the judiciary is an independent branch of the government and, as such, she said: "We are not answerable to any member of other branches of the government besides our bosses at the Supreme Court."

More importantly, she said that the judicial decisions are only subject to judicial review by superior courts, and nobody else, noting that judges and magistrates are not politicians, rather dispensers of justice.

By this, she said, they are under legal duty and or obligation to always ensure that justice prevails in every case that is brought before them.

To achieve this, she told her audience, "We must at all times exhibit cold neutrality in the cases we handle; and we must always remember that we are never parties to any suit."

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