Chief Justice removes judge on CBL case
Liberia’s Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr., has removed Criminal Court “C” Judge A. Blamo Dixon as presiding judge in the trial of five Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officials indicted for allegedly printing and infusing billions of local currency into the economy without authorization.Chief Justice Korpor has instead assigned Judge Dixon to preside over the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Kru County, southeast Liberia.
Announcing his own transfer Thursday, 26 September based on a communication from the Chief Justice, Judge Dixon told parties in the case that he was “constrained” to recuse himself from the entire case “for reasons best known to men or myself, without prejudice to the State.”
Former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s son and Deputy CBL Governor Charles Sirleaf, former CBL Executive Governor Milton Weeks and other senior CBL officials – DorborHagba, Richard Walker and Joseph Dennis are standing trial for money laundering, economic sabotage, criminal facilitation and criminal solicitation.
Prosecution alleged that a “criminal syndicate commenced on the 17 of May 2017” at the CBL when a request was made through former President Sirleaf to the Legislature for the printing of LRD$5bn to replace mutilated legacy banknotes.
The State says additional printing of LRD$10bn was done, but it claims there were excesses in all of the two separate printings, thus holding the accused to account for their alleged unauthorized actions.The accused have denied all the charges levied by the prosecution.
Judge Dixon took over the case at the commencement of the August 2019 Term of Court from his predecessor Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh who had just been transferred to Grand Kru County after dealing with other issues in the same case including the bonds submitted by the defendants.According to the Chief Justice’s mandate to Judge Dixon as was read by the lower court’s clerk Thursday, Judge Dixon is instructed to forward his returns to the Chief Justice, indicating how he has implemented this mandate.
Following the reading of the mandate by the cler, Judge Dixon recalls that while he was on his way to Grand Kru County, he was chased with another mandate, recalling him to preside over the Criminal Court “C”.According to him, the Criminal Courts including “A”, “B”, “C”, “D” and “E” were officially opened for transaction of business for the August Term of Court A.D. 2019 on 12 August.
Judge Dixon details that the reason that he heard for his recall was that it was due to “financial constraints to sustain me in my own county,” Grand Kru.He asserts that let it be clear to all that only the Chief Justice of this land is vested with power to assign judges on a rotational basis.“Therefore, I do hereby recuse myself from the case without prejudice to the State,” Judge Dixon concludes.
Both the prosecution and defense lawyers have taken exception to Judge Dixon’s decision to recuse himself from the case.State lawyer Cllr. Arthur T. Johson says the State will take advantage of the laws controlling. Outside the court, he told this paper that “we are shocked” because it costs the prosecution lot of money to prosecute criminal cases.
The judge’s recusal from the case came Thursday when the government’s first witness Baba Boakai, an investigator from the Liberia Anti – Corruption Commission (LACC) was reportedly due to face cross examination with the defense team. As it stands, this case will await the assignment of a judge before the trial can continue. By Winston W. Parley