‘Congo, Country’ Justice in Court?
Jurors handed a unanimous guilty verdict on the US$250 Million Dollar charge against defendant Alfred G. Togbah and the Movement for the Defense of the Down-trodden (MDD) last Thursday for libel in favor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) at the Civil Law Court in Monrovia. But defendant Togbah said, following the verdict he will file an appeal before the Supreme Court of Liberia if the court denies his motion for retrial today.
Final arguments in the CBL-“the civil society group” case was characterized by claims of segregation in rendering justice on the basis of Congo-Native sentiments by defense lawyers, while state lawyers on the other hand, blamed most international partners of doing more harm than good to Liberia by sponsoring Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), including MDD with finances to undermine the state under the pretense of being whistleblowers.
Last December, the CBL sued the MDD and defendant Togbah for damages after the civil society group wrote the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) calling for investigation into alleged corruption and how the CBL’s building completion contract was awarded to CESAF.
During final arguments Thursday at the Temple of Justice, defense lawyer Attorney Mamee S. W. Gongbah insisted that there was nothing to prove any injury or harm caused on the CBL and Executive Governor Mills Jones because they were still being investigated by the LACC.
Attorney Gongbah argued that Dr. Jones was never suspended or dismissed from job to face trial for corruption allegations and unfair bidding process, neither has the LACC concluded its probe and exonerated him and the CBL.
He further argued that had it been a ‘Yarkpawolo’ (suggesting a native Liberian), he would have been brought to court long time to answer to charges of corruption levied against him.
“But Mills Jones who is claiming injuries is still sitting comfortably under his air conditioner in his office with all his benefits and international contacts in tight. The LACC confirmed that CBL was being investigated, and yet they came here to hide behind court, while the case has not been decided at the LACC,” said Atty. Gongbah.
The lawyer pleaded for a non-guilty verdict in favor of defendant Togbah and his MDD, because he believed that the purpose of the trial was to silent young Liberians on corruption matters, while their officials ate the country’s money.
He told the court and jury that the MDD wrote the LACC, calling for investigation because the CBL failed to disclose the specific document-requested for by the defendants relating to the bid process, but gave a volume of documents for their perusal, which they refused.
But Plaintiff lawyer Counsel CannieWesso argued that there was a motive behind defendant Alfred G. Togbah and his colleagues’ refusal to peruse a few papers they referred to as being voluminous.
Cllr. Wesso claimed that the defendants wanted money from the bank, but not necessarily the bid document which they alleged was too much to read at the CBL office. He furthered that the defendants went after Dr. Mills Jones because they said he is a Congo man. “Then let the MDD pass a law so that all the Congo people can be taken out of Liberia,” said Cllr. Wesso.
The lawyer alleged that the MDD was being supported by somebody, insinuating that some of the international partners do more harm than good to Liberia by supporting all kinds of NGOs in order to destabilize the state.
“All because they don’t want to see Liberia go forward, they come and support all kinds of NGOs like the MDD. These are the causes of war in African countries,” said Cllr. Wesso.
Following arguments from both defense and prosecution lawyers, Civil Law Court Judge Yusif D. Kaba charged the jurors that verdict in libel per se trial in civil matter is based on preponderance (majority) of evidence, unlike criminal trial which requires jurors to be convinced beyond reasonable doubts.