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Court grants CBL officials’ bond

The Criminal Court “C” in Monrovia has granted a bond posted by three former Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officials indicted for theft and economic sabotage of billions of Liberian dollars, ruling that the bond posted by the accused “whether sufficient or insufficient, [has] met the satisfaction of this court.”

“Their collective asset may be equivalent to the amount … as charged. They can never be a flight risk. The bond posted whether sufficient or insufficient, [has] met the satisfaction of this court,” Judge YamieQuiquiGbeisay ruled Wednesday, 24 June at the Temple of Justice.

The prosecution had rejected the defendants’ bond, requesting the court to set it aside and re-arrest Farhat, Badio and Tamba until their surety can remedy its defects, noting that the surety filed numerous bail bonds totaling US$1,805,433.18 in cases that are still pending before courts here.

But Judge Gbeisay says the justification, in the mind of the court, has sufficiently established the legal capacity of the surety Accident and Casualty Insurance Company Inc. (ACICO), and the sufficiency of the amount stated in the criminal appearance bond.

He granted defendants Fahart, Bardio and Tamba’s bond Wednesday prosecution notified the court earlier in the day that it had entered a nolleprosequi (dropped charges) in favor of defendants Richard H. Walker, Dorbor M. Hagba and Joseph Dennis.

With this new development, the prosecution is now holding to account for four defendants in the case including CBL’s former Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks who has been in all of the previous indictments for this case, and the new batch of indictees in persons of Fahart, Bardio and Tamba.

The fifth defendant Melisa A. Emeh is said to be out of the bailiwick of Liberia and has not been brought to court, therefore the court has granted prosecution’s request to grant her a separate trial so as to enable the four other defendants that are available to get speedy trial.

Weeks, Fahart, Bardio and Tamba have pleaded not guilty of the charges after being arraigned Wednesday, and said they did not need a jury trial.

On Monday, 8 June, the prosecution issued a new indictment against the CBL officials its Board of Governors for theft of property; economic sabotage; fraud on the internal revenue of Liberia; misuse of public money, property or record; theft or illegal disbursement of public money; criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation.

It did not include former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s son Charles E. Sirleaf who served as Deputy CBL Governor for Operations when the financial scandal emerged at the bank, because he was nolleprosequi with prejudice last month.

The government here indicted the officials in 2019 for their alleged roles in the misapplication of $16 billion Liberian Dollars printed and shipped to Liberia to replace old local currency after a series of mass protests led local and international institutions to investigate a claim that the money had gone missing.

The defendants are accused by prosecution of flagrantly violating Chapter 15, Section 15.51 of the New Penal Law of Liberia. According to the indictment, the CBL Board of Governors in exercising their corporate power and authority, passed a resolution dated 28 April 2016 for the purpose of selecting and subsequently selected Crane Currency as the vendor to print the Liberian banknotes.

Defendant Weeks and the Board of Governors including Farhat, Emeh, Badio and Tamba are accused of deliberately failing to revert to the Legislature in line with a communication that demanded that appropriate details of the amount or quantity and denominations of the replacing banknotes be submitted to the Legislature prior to the printing and minting of coins.

Additionally, the Board is accused of mandating defendant Weeks to enter into a contract on June 12, 2019 with Crane Currency to print L$10,000,000,000 banknotes at the cost of US$10,121,689.20 before receiving the July 19, 2017 communication [from the Legislature].

At the time of selecting Crane Currency to print L$5,000,000,000, the indictment says the quantity of Liberian banknotes in circulation at the time was L$9.940 billion and that a significant number of the banknotes had worn out and mutilated, prompting the need to replace L$5,000,000,000 approved as the objective of legislative joint resolution.

The indictment says it is demonstrably inconceivable for the CBL Board of Governors to have requested the printing of L$10,000,000,000 to replace all legacy notes when they knew that the total amount in circulation that should have been replaced was L$13.792 billion.

The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to willfully conceal the actual amount in circulation for the purpose of committing theft, depriving the Government of Liberia of its resources.

Further, the indictment notes that defendants Weeks, Hagba, Walker and Dennis knew or had reasons to know that from packing lists reviewed by the investigation, the total amount printed was L$13,004,750,000 and not L$15,506,000,000, but “they maliciously and purposely concealed and understated the actual amount…” because they had criminally connived.

By Winston W. Parley

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