Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay has set free four former Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officials held to account for alleged excess LD$2 billion plus because there is no scintilla of evidence that it ended up in their pockets, but he says they are guilty of unauthorized printing of LD$10 Billion.
“Addressing the first part of this question, that is to say whether or not the State established and [proved] that the defendants therein are guilty of unauthorized printing of 10 Billion Liberian Dollars? The Court [answers] yes,” Judge Gbeisay ruled Tuesday, 25 August in Monrovia.
Judge Gbeisay sets free all four defendants in persons of former CBL Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks, former CBL Board Members David Fahart, Elsie Dossen Bardio and Kollie Tamba, saying there is no scintilla of evidence that the money printed ended up in any of the defendants’ pockets.
He reiterates that the defendants collectively ignored and disobeyed the caveat of the legislature, abrogated onto themselves legislative duty/ function and wrongfully printed 10 Billion including the excess of 359,759,000.00 and shipped it to Liberia, received by the CBL and logged it into the various vaults of the CBL.
But on the question as to whether or not the unauthorized printing of the LD$10bn by the CBL is a criminal offense, Judge Gbeisay rules that “The obvious answer is NO.”
At some points of this ruling the court was interrupted with cheers and claps from the audience mixed with families, friends, supporters and sympathizers of the defendants as they saw the ruling heading positively in favor of the accused, but the state lawyers, mainly Solicitor General SaymahSyreniusCephus could not see comfort anylonger in his seat.
Cheers are not permitted in the courtroom during hearing and court officers try to maintain silence as the judge reads on, but this is what happens sometimes here in cases of high profile interest to the public.
In his ruling, Judge Gbeisay says the government itself has acquiesced in the wrongful printing of the enhanced notes and benefited substantially, the fact that the banknotes were printed, shipped to Liberia and … infused into the economy openly and notoriously and are being used by the Government of Liberia.
“Under the principle of acquiesce, when one benefit from an illegal act, he or she is estopped from repudiating his own act. The government of Liberia is no exception to this rule, because in the court of justice, the government and any [individual] citizen are equal,” the court says.
In other words, the judge says, the action of the government in receiving the money and infusing same in the economy, it ratified the wrongful act of the central bank Executive Governor and the Board of Governors, thereby erasing criminality, if any.
“To constitute sabotage there must be a negative impact. On the contrary, the economy was [saved] by the printing of the 10 billion LRD. The burden [remains] on the State to prove that the printing has negative impact on the Liberian Economy,” he rules.
The government here indicted the former CBL officials including the bank’s Board of Governors, accusing them of printing and shipping to Liberia L$13,004,750,000.00 without authorization, and allegedly understating the printed amount as L$10,359,750,000.00, giving a variance of L$2,645,000,000.00.
Mr. Charles E. Sirleaf, the son of former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf, was initially among several CBL officials indicted by the government here in 2019 for their alleged roles in the misapplication of billions of Liberian Dollars printed and shipped to Liberia to replace old local currency.
Their indictment in 2019 followed a series of mass protests that led local and international institutions to investigate a claim that the money had gone missing.
However, when prosecution drew its last version of the indictment based on which this case has now ended, Mr. Sirleaf who served as Deputy CBL Governor for Operations when the financial scandal emerged at the bank was not included because he was nolleprosequi with prejudice in May this year.
Besides Mr. Sirleaf, the prosecution here also entered a nolleprosequi (dropped charges) in favor of defendants Richard H. Walker, Dorbor M. Hagba and Joseph Dennis.
However the court rules that from the analysis of these quantum of evidence, it is of the considered and informed opinion that the presidential investigative team’s (PIT’s) report was in error with reference to the mathematical calculation and its limitation to the parking list only.
Judge Gbeisay says when the variance or shortfall in the LD$20 banknotes representing a face value of LD$15,000,000.00 is deducted from the overproduction of LD$374,750,000,000.00 in denominations of LD$5, 10, 50, 100 and 500, you will derive at the actual amount printed in excess of the LD$10 billion, which is LD$359,750,000.00.
He continues that when you add the amount printed in the tune of LD$9,985,000,000 plus, the overproduction of LD$374,750,000,000, you will derive at the total amount printed by Crane Currency and delivered to the CBL which is LD$10,359,750,000.00.
He answers in the negative to questions whether or not the prosecution established and proved beyond a reasonable doubt that LD$13 Billion plus was printed by Crane Currency, shipped to Liberia and that LD$2.6 Billion is missing or not accounted for.
This answer dismisses prosecution’s assertions in the indictment that the defendants claimed to have printed 10,359,750, 000.00, but in actuality they printed 13,004,750,000.00 and criminally conceded 2.6 Billion, thereby committing the crimes of illegal disbursement of public money, criminal conspiracy and theft of property.
Reacting to the ruling outside the Criminal Court “C”, prosecution lawyer Cllr. Jerry D. K. Garlawolo says the fact that the judge has ruled against “us,” whatever way he rules, the State’s intent is to ensure that the facts come out.
Cllr. Garlawolo insists that the prosecution did establish the fact that there was a variance in terms of the amount of money brought into the country, but it’s the judge’s decision that the prosecution didn’t prove this.
Mr. Milton Weeks for his part says, his vindication by the court proves that Liberia’s judicial system, “despite whatever political pressures there may be,” can still stand up and do the right thing.
“I was not sad, I have always been serious. If somebody kept you for two years, harass you, put you in jail two times in handcuffs, what you think you will, how you think you will feel? How you think you will feel? Two years of my life, two years of my life after giving service to the country, two years. How you think I will feel?” he says in response to this writer’s question.
Weeks says, he is happy that he has been vindicated, and he intends to work in the private sector but he has no planned action against the government for this case. Mr. Weeks laments that so many false allegations have been made against him, and that two years of his life have been spent trying to prove his innocence.
“But God is in control and he has proven and vindicated me,” he says, adding that his purpose was not to get involved into politics but to prove his innocence and he has done.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah