A court in Monrovia has ruled that a US$1.2m criminal appearance bond filed by indicted National Port Authority Managing Directress, Miss Matilda Parker, is valid, after weeks of being heavily contested against by prosecutors on grounds that the bond was “defective and grossly insufficient.”
Ms. Parker and her Comptroller at the port co-defendant Christiana K. Paelay were jointly indicted on multiple crimes of economic sabotage, theft of property and criminal conspiracy in the amount of US$837,950.00.
The accused were subsequently suspended by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Prosecution is claiming that the two indicted officials allegedly conspired and awarded two contracts to Mr. Deneah M. Flomo and his Denmar Enterprise, valuing US$500,000 and US$300,000 respectively. The indictment says one of the contracts awarded Flomo was aimed at removing wrecks from the Port of Greenville in Sinoe County, while the other was to provide security consultancy at the ports of Monrovia, Buchanan and Greenville on behalf of the NPA.
But Flomo and his Denmar Enterprise did not possess expertise in regards to the contracts, and that the required services were not rendered to the NPA under the contracts worth US$800,000, the prosecution claims.
The defendants secured the heavily contested US$1.2m bail bond from the Family Dollars Universal Insurance Service and filed it with the court; but prosecutors contended that the surety did not show any evidence from any legal authority that the company has assets in Liberia to cover the obligation undertaken.
In a ruling Wednesday at the Temple of Justice, 11 August, Presiding Criminal Court “C” Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh ruled that a careful perusal of the bond showed that it met the requirements to execute the criminal appearance bond in the case.
“The primary objective or purpose of the criminal appearance bond is to secure the appearance of the defendants before a court of competent jurisdiction. The surety, during the examination, answered in the affirmative that the defendants will appear before this Court whenever needed. The bond is therefore valid,” Judge Gbeneweleh ruled yesterday.
The court had earlier cited Section 13.2 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia (1973), which says the amount of bail in any criminal action in which restitution is required shall be equal to the amount of the maximum fine which may be imposed upon conviction of the offense charged.
If the offense charged is punishable by imprisonment, this law requires that “the maximum number of months of imprisonment which may be imposed shall be multiplied by twenty-five dollars to determine the amount of bail.”
But if the offense charged is punishable by both fine and imprisonment, the amount of bail shall be equal to total of such amounts, it says. Judge Gbeneweleh said while it may be true that the court may in its discretion fix bail, yet where the statute specifically states the amount of bail, the court has no discretion in the matter because it is bound by statute.
He observed that the particular on the amount of bail in criminal cases is plain and unambiguous, noting that in the case at bar, the bail is to be fixed at the maximum fine to be imposed upon conviction plus the amount of twenty-five dollars per month for the maximum period of imprisonment.
“The maximum fine is $10,000.00. The maximum period of imprisonment is seven years, which calculated at $25 per month, would amount to $12, 100,” he explained. By Winston W. Parley -Editing by Jonathan Browne