Liberia: Court Sees Mockery in CBL Case

Criminal Court “C” Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay has blasted prosecutors over their behavior he described as “making mockery of the Court and the Justice System.” The judge anger was predicated upon a request by prosecutors to suspend former Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Executive Governor Milton Weeks’ trial for three weeks to permit ongoing mitigation between the state and the accused.

Mr. Weeks remains the lone defendant in the LRD$16 billion economic sabotage trial after prosecutors nolleprosequi (drop charges against) his alleged accomplices including former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf's son Charles E. Sirleaf, Dorbor Hagba, Richard Walker and Joseph Dennis while he challenged a previous decision at the Supreme Court.

Ruling Tuesday, 26 May on prosecution's motion for continuance which was filed earlier on Monday, 25 May, Judge Gbeisay wondered why the State had filed the motion for continuance "for another three weeks" to seek an out - of - court resolution ... after nearly a year since the indictment was released.

"The behavior of the State's Lawyers in which the defense has agreed, seems to be making mockery to the Court and the Justice System. Let the record [show] that this Judge was recalled to preside over this case, because the resident judge of this court had earlier recused himself from this case and another judge has been objected to by the State from presiding over the case," he said.

While the judge appears unhappy with the prosecutors' action, he however, granted their motion for continuance with modification, instructing them to revert to the court in seven days, failure upon which, the court will proceed to dismiss the case under Section 18.2 and pay attention to other matters.

Judge Gbeisay further stated that the case being a sensitive "so - called high profiled case," these consistent and continuous requests for postponements speak volume and give different impression of the court and the judge presiding to the public and tend to erode public confidence in the judiciary.

He warned that the court cannot be held hostage by the prosecution until it is ready, noting that the court also reserves the right to dismiss the case under Section 18.2 of the Criminal Procedure Law for unnecessary delay as in the instant case.

He explained that in this jurisdiction, indictments are based on oral and documentary evidences introduced before a grand inquest, meaning that before the indictment is released, the State had gathered enough evidence against a defendant.

When the case was called during the last term of court, Judge Gbeisay recalls that the State prayed for three weeks continuance, adding that it was granted and the three weeks extended beyond six weeks.At the call of the case on 13 May 2020, Judge Gbeisay noted that the State also informed the court that it had filed a motion to nolleprosequi Sirleaf, Walker, Hagba and Dennis, excluding defendant Weeks.

He further noted that the State gave the impression that it had cogent and material evidence against defendant Weeks. But instead the State has again filed a motion for continuance when the case was called on 25 May 2020, asking for another three weeks to seek an out - of - court resolution.

In the motion filed on 25 May, prosecutors said they were in consultation with defendant Weeks to find a common ground in resolving his trial for his alleged role in the LRD$16 billion scandal

"Movant submits that the burden of providing the indictment drawn against the within named respondent rests on the Movant and where both the Movant and Respondent are endearing to find a common ground on the way forward in resolving the matter to save time, energy and resources, it is proper for an application of this sort to be made so that the parties can have ample time to discuss and reach a peaceful agreement before proceeding," the State said.

State lawyers also argued that the practice and procedure in this jurisdiction instruct that where the parties at their own volition have initiated the process of opening windows of opportunity to hear each other's concerns and advance suggestions on how to resolve a triable issue gear at finding an amicable solution ... , a motion for continuance is the proper remedy at law to invoke.

The prosecution notes that its request for continuance is not made in bad faith, nor is it intended to baffle or prolong the proceedings, requesting the court to grant them further relief as the court deem just and equitable in the proceedings.

Mr. Weeks and four other defendants were all indicted on 4 March 2019 for economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, criminal solicitation and money laundering for their alleged roles in Liberia's alleged LD$16bn scandal that rocked the country throughout 2018 and sparked local and international investigation following protests here.

The Court in August last year ordered the officials and their former boss, Mr. Weeks to file LD$1,058,000,000 bonds each, which when combined totaled LD$5,290,000,000 after a new indictment for money laundering had been added to the previous charges.

At the request of the Government of Liberia, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a tender to contract independent forensic investigation firm Kroll Associates to conduct a scoping report engagement to ascertain the basic facts of the alleged disappearance of the new banknotes, and to determine to what extent a broader investigation would be required into the matter to help achieve a clearer understanding of the currency situation.

Kroll's independent review of the situation was in part prompted by Liberian and international media reports covering the alleged disappearance of the new banknotes, which included allegations that a container of new banknotes shipped by Crane AB to Liberia and subsequently delivered from either the Freeport of Liberia or Roberts International Airport to the CBL was missing.

It reported that the actual value of new banknotes printed by Crane AB to Liberia totaled LRD 15.506 billion, therefore new banknotes totaling LRD 0.506 billion were printed by Crane AB above the initial contractual amount of LRD 15.0 billion. Of the new banknotes printed and shipped by Crane AB totaling LRD 15.506 billion, Kroll said the CBL had injected new banknotes totaling LRD 10.146 billion into the Liberian economy without removing from circulation (and destroying) the equivalent quantity/value of legacy banknotes.

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