The Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia says it cannot grant Mr. Clemenceau Urey and Cllr. Stephen Dumbar’s motion to dismiss an indictment charging them with economic sabotage, bribery and criminal conspiracy along with eight other former officials when the two defendants have not been granted separate trial from their colleagues.
Prosecutors in February 2015 indicted at least 10 former government officials on the Board of the lucrative National Oil Company of Liberia, a former lawmaker and legislative staff on multiple crimes for allegedly defrauding government of US$120,400 between May 2006 and May 2007 in bribery, among others, for the alleged purpose of ratifying oil contracts entered into by NOCAL and several oil companies by the 52nd Legislature.
The formal NOCAL Board Chair Mr. Urey and Cllr. Dumbar separately asked the court to dismiss the indictment on grounds that their prosecution was barred by statute of limitations since the State allegedly failed to commence prosecuting them within five years as mandated by Section 4.2(a) of the Criminal Procedure Law.
But Presiding Criminal Court “C” Judge, Peter W. Gbenewelleh, ruled Monday, March 23, 2015 that determining the issue of statute of limitation raised by the defendants would definitely impact on the other eight defendants since 10 of them were jointly indicted.
The other co-defendants include Peter Jallah, Jr.; former Education Minister Dr. D. Evelyn Kandakai, incumbent Grand Kru County Senator Albert T. Chie; 2014 defeated Grand Cape Mount County senatorial candidate Dr. Fodee Kromah; Mr. Fulton Reeves; Mr. Timothy Wiaplah; 52nd Lawmaker Alomiza Ennos and Senate Secretary Nanborlor F. Singbeh.
The lawyers for the two defendants had argued that Cllr. Dumbar terminated his membership with NOCAL Board in 2007; while in February 2012, the former NOCAL Board Chair Mr. Urey ended his chairmanship.
They claimed that it has been more than two years since either of them held public office after the five years period of statute of limitation contemplated by Section 4.4 and therefore, it was not applicable.
But prosecutors counter-argued that Section 4.2(a) of the Statute as cited by the defendants was not applicable because of the nature of the crime which had to do with fraud, breach of fiduciary obligation and misconduct by public officials and the fact that the accused were public officials or employees at the time the crimes were committed.
The state lawyers relied upon Sections 4.3 and 4.4 as applicable provisions, which they saw to be instructive for the purpose of determining the period of limitation [because they] ascribed to the specific category of crimes and persons charged.
They emphasized that prosecution for a felony must be commenced within five years after it is committed; and that Sections 4.2 and 4.3 were exceptions to Section 4.2 (a).
The State said it completed criminal investigation in the case in December 2014 after the General Auditing Commission released its audit report in 2011, accusing some officials of corruption.
The prosecutors finally told the court that Section 4.4 was very clear on the prosecution of public officials even after the five years period of limitation has expired, at any time while the defendant is in public office; though it also mandates that the extension shall not be more than five years after the period of limitation has expired.
The court however said it was in agreement with the prosecution that it could not determine the issue of statute of limitations raised by the two defendants when they have not been granted severance or separate trial form the rest.
Already, Prosecutors are expected today to officially respond to a motion for separate trial filed with the court by indicted Grand Kru County Senator Albert T. Chie. But legal minds have said dismissal of the indictment as requested by Mr. Urey and Cllr. Dumbar would not just be a matter of whether one is granted severance, but whether the person meets the statutory requirement.
By Winston W. Parley