Monrovia — Criminal Court 'C' has dismissed the criminal indictment against six officials of GT Bank, Liberia Limited, without prejudice to the State.
Businessman George Kailondo and the prosecutors in July this year indicted six top employees of GT Bank on charges of "Theft of Property and Criminal conspiracy. They include the Managing director, Ikenna Anekwe, operation manager, Olush Alioh, the head of finance, Faruq Okonila, and three other senior employees for allegedly withdrawing the US$930,500 from Kailondo's checking accounts; lodged at the bank between 2014 and 2016.
In his ruling, Judge Ousman Feika granted the defendants' appeal to dismiss the case on grounds that there are only employees of the bank the prosecution is claiming committed the crime, and as such, it is the bank that should be sued.
Judge Feika said his decision is based on several defects within government lawyers' criminal indictment against the financial institution officials, citing Chapter 2, Section 2.5 of Association Law of Liberia and other provisions of the law as his legal reliance.
On September 2, the Bank's legal team filed an eleven count motion, seeking to dismiss the criminal indictment on grounds that the manner and form the prosecution instituted the action against them was based on defects, saying that the indictment should have been on GT Bank and not its officers who are agents.
But resisting their motion to dismiss, Kailondo Petroleum Incorporated's legal team, contended that the naming of GT-Bank in the caption of the indictment is not the ground for dismissal, adding that GT Bank was indicted through its top officers.
In July of this year, the Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank Liberia Limited was summoned by Criminal Court 'C' to answer to a missing US$930,500 from the account of Liberians businessman George Kailondo.
The MoJ Indictment came about after the bank's management refused to heed to Mr. Kailondo's request for unhindered access to the proceeds of two transactions and the bank's unwillingness to accept other unspecified demands from Kailondo and the office of the Solicitor General, according to a senior staff of the ministry.
All of these happened when the Solicitor General Cephus' mediation role broke down between the parties, the bank and Kailondo, which necessitated the MoJ Indictment.
To ensure that the payment of the US$930,500 is made to Kailondo, the prosecutors arrested the defendants, seized their individual passports, and subsequently placed a Ne Exeat Republica (travel ban) that restricted their movement, though, while under such conditions, the defendants were still providing banking services to the citizens, foreigners, as well as, Kailondo and the government lawyers, themselves.
However, in his judgement, Judge Feika said, "the defendants' motion to dismiss the Indictment is granted without prejudice to the state, while the resistance thereto is denied and dismissed."
Furthermore, Feika instructed," the writ of Ne Exeat Republica issued by the court restraining the movement of the defendants in these proceedings is ordered quashed along with the the corresponding arrest ordered."
Judge Feika warned," the passports of the defendants are also ordered to be returned as well as their bail bond."
He added, " the clerk of court is further ordered to prepare a release in favor of the defendants, thereby restoring their rights and privileges as guaranteed under the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia."
Before Judge Feika's could rule, the defendants' legal team had asked the judge to dismiss the Indictment that contained the charges, which includes theft of property and criminal conspiracy.
In their arguments, the defense lawyers said, because there is defects in the Indictment due to the manner and form the prosecutors instituted it (Indictment) against the defendants.
They further argued that the defendants were corporate employees of the GTBank, and the law does not provide for lawsuit or Indictment against corporate officers or designated corporate officers for act allegedly committed by the corporation.
The defense lawyers argued, "Hence the improper parties are before the court for act allegedly committed by their employer, the GT Bank."
In a counter argument, the prosecutors said, it is not naming of GT Bank in the captioned of the Indictment that should be a ground for it (Indictment) dismissals, as being the contention of the defense lawyers.
The prosecutors admitting to their errors, they said, "even though, GT Bank is not named in the captioned of the indictment, the averments contained in its (Indictment) body indicate that it is the bank that was indicted by and thru its top officers."
According to Kailondo's lawyers, not naming GT Bank before its corporate officers, as being argued by the defense lawyers, is a harmless error which has no bearing on the substantive issues of the criminal acts contained in the Indictment.
And, that the naming of the corporate officers of the GT Bank does not absolve them, because the Indictment seek to prosecute their employer.
Dispelling the prosecutors' contention, Judge Feika explained that the Indictment appear to name the corporate officers of the GT Bank, who are merely agents of the bank, and acting in an agency role as their principal.
"To have these officers named in the Indictment without stating the wrongful or criminal conduct of each of them in it (Indictment) as required under our law leaves much to be desired," said Judge Feika.
According to Feika, the prosecutors had admitted that it is GT Bank that was indicted and not its corporate officers, they have named in it.
It can be recalled that the former Managing Director of GT Bank (Dan Orogun), who was a very close associate of Mr. Kailondo, met his untimely demise while on a boat ride with the businessman. Based on the questionable nature of the former Bank Managing Director's death due to the absence of basic safety equipment like life jacket on board the boat, Mr. Kailondo was charged with Negligent Homicide and recklessly endangering another person in October 2016 but the State has reneged on its obligation to pursue the case.
According to the indictment, Kailondo opened checking accounts; both United States Dollars and Liberian Dollars with the account number #0112605/002/0001/00 and 0113150/002/00 for the purpose of trust and confident in GT Bank Liberia Limited.
Kailondo opened the accounts, and the defendants having knowledge of these accounts, and Kailondo being the only signatory regarding transactions which include deposit and withdrawals, GT Bank criminally opened an escrow account bearing number# 0112605/002/5020/000 closed to Kailondo account with sole intend to commit the act
During that time, the court document claimed, the defendants with criminal minds and intent conspired, connived colluded with one accord, designed and developed a scheme and made authorized and deceptive withdrawals from said amount.
The document further claimed that on December 12, 2014, the defendants debited Kailondo USD account #001126050020001000 with the amount US$50,000,00. "On April 12, 2015, the defendants again debited Kailondo with account number 01126050025020000 which is an escrow account, and there they transferred USD$150,000 without the knowledge and consent of Kailondo," according to the document.
Again, the record alleges, "On April 23, 2015, similarly debited Kailondo USD ount#01126050025020000 with the amount of US$3,469,352.26 with narration A/C Tfr to settle Mature LC IFO Kailondo Petroleum."
"The Bank reflected that only US$3.3 million was transferred as the actual cost of the LC. Which led to the withdrawal of US$168,352.26," according to the Indictment.
They also claimed that on January 8, 2016 up to March 28, 2016, GT Bank deducted US$50,000 on what they described as "reverse due to RTN CHK-Ecobank, without Kailondo knowledge.
"More to that, entered his account debited a transaction of US$40,000 exercising authorized controlled over Kailondo money and deprive him of the gainful use of his property, " the court document claimed.