-Justice Minister returns prosecutorial power
The prosecution of indicted officials in the Global Witness corruption report is being tossed here and there by the state, as the Ministry of Justice which recently took over responsibility from the special investigative taskforce to try the accused has rescinded its decision.
The ministry has returned to trial to the taskforce headed by the Minister of State Without Portfolio, Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, a decision that seems to indicate the process is being stage-managed by President Sirleaf, a fear expressed earlier by some of the indictees, specifically Senator Varney G. Sherman and Speaker Alex Tyler, who had refused to appear before the taskforce except in court.
Taskforce chair Cllr. Koffa recently turned over the investigation to the Ministry of Justice, saying that it was instead, going after officials indicted in audit reports produced by the General Auditing Commission, GAC.
A press statement issued by Justice Minister and attorney General Cllr. Frederick D. Cheru Thursday, 9 June reads: “Following thorough consultations, and for the purpose of ensuring speedy trial as well as public confidence and considering the time it will take the new Minister of Justice and Attorney General to review and abreast himself with all the pieces of evidences before adequately prosecuting said matter, it is the settled view of the authorities of the Ministry that the taskforce continues on the trajectory of prosecution.”
The ministry says it has issued a Letter Patent to the taskforce chair and Minister of State Without Portfolio Cllr. Koffa, giving him prosecutorial authority and responsibility over the case. “In addition, the constitution of the prosecutorial team rests within the sole discretion and authority of the head of the taskforce”, the statement added.
Members of the taskforce include the Ministry of Justice, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Ministry of State Without Portfolio headed by Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa. “We believe that the taskforce is uniquely positioned to prosecute this case given the fact that it has been involved with the gathering of evidence and conducting interviews of potential witnesses, and other suspect.”
Addressing a press conference Thursday at the Ministry of Information on Capitol Hill, Cllr. Koffa said when President spoke of Liberia being open for business, the President did not mean the state is for sale where people will cease opportunity to exploit the natural resources of Liberia at the detriment of its citizenry.
Cllr. Koffa said all those indicted were going through legal proceeding, and disclosed two additional persons have been indicted from Sable Mining, a British company that reportedly offered over US$950,000 thru its Liberian Lawyer, Senator Varney Sherman. He said the two indictees will be brought to Liberia through Inter-Pol for trial.
“We were constituted to carry out a piece of job, and the agencies that are responsible for prosecution will also carry out their functions as well so there is no internal wrinkling”, he clarified. Giving an update on the first set of indictees, Cllr. Koffa and Montserrado County Attorney, Cllr. Darku Mulbah said the indictment of two officials of Sable Mining demonstrates the government’s commitment and seriousness to fight corruption, saying “We are doing all we can to carry this case to its logical conclusion, and this is something that is causing the case to last for long but we doing all we can to get to the bottom, and this is a fight that we must win.”
By Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne