Monrovia City Court Judge Jonah Jallah on Tuesday reserved ruling into the travel ban (case)filed against businessman Musa Bility, Liberia Bank for Development and Investment or LBDI and others following arguments and counter arguments between the state and defense lawyers.The case is an offshoot of the economic sabotage case against former Liberia Airport Authority or LAA Managing Director Ellen Corkrum and others.
On Thursday, February 6, the Government of Liberia through its Solicitor General Cllr. SaymahCyreniusCephus filed a writ of Ne exeatrepublica at the Criminal Court ‘A’ against Ms. Corkrum and 28 individual-including Mr.Bility, LBDI president John B. S. Davies IIIand others.
The writ came days after, Cllr. Cephus a former defense lawyer for Ms. Corkrum dropped charges against her just to order her re-arrest following public outcry.
However, Mr. Bility, John B. S. Davies President of LBDI and others recently filed a counter writ before the Civil Law Court challenging the legality of the government’s travel ban order.
On Tuesday February 18, both the Solicitor General and Montserrado County Attorney Edward K. Martins failed to show up in court because both men served as defense counsels in the case before ascending to state power.
Nonetheless, the government appointed a City Solicitor to argue in its stead after Wesseh A. Wesseh, the Assistant Minister Justice declined to represent the government due to his closed connection with one of the defendants- according to close sources.
However, during the arguments lawyers representing the defendants argued that for there to be a case of Ne eeatrepublica there has to be a case pending. The defense lawyers further argued, assuming there is no pending case but an ongoing investigation, their claims were never served.
Moreover, the defendants who had separate lawyers for instance in the case of Musa Bility, argued that when the writ was issued Bility was in London and yet still ignored the fear of the writ and came that alone proves that he is not a flight risk.
In the case of LBDI President Mr. Davies, his lawyers argued that LBDI is an institution that had been indicted and not Mr. Davies as an individual. They further argued that LBDI as an entity and can be sued. Therefore Mr. Davies could not be held personally liable.
The lawyers described the process as abuse of power and bogus.
They further argued though that assuming there was an indictment, the case in point has passed the statute of limitation since the alleged crime was committed.
They claimed that Cllr. Cephus being a defense counsel for Ms. Corkrum is only retaliating because the previous government were able to have these individuals and institutions entered plea bargains to testify against his client Ms. Corkrum.
The original case
In 2013, Ellen Corkrum, then Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority was indicted along with businessman Musa Bility then Board Chair of the LAA by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County on charges of economic sabotage, criminal facilitation, conspiracy to defraud the government, and making unauthorized transfers of funds from government accounts.
Others indicted were the Monrovia Diaspora Consulting, LLC, through MomarDieng, a U.S. citizen; LBDI and the First International Bank; and all authorized representatives of the authority.
The First International Bank was indicted for allegedly conspiring with co-defendants Corkrum, Melvin Johnson & Associates, to make an unauthorized transfer of funds in the amount of US$56,750 from the account of the Liberia Airport Authority when Corkrum was the Managing Director.
Corkrum was also accused of transferring US$269,000 to a fictitious company, Diaspora Consulting, LLC and its CEO, MomarDieng, through whom she reportedly attended the Kennedy Business School, Harvard University.
In 2015, efforts were made to secure Corkrum’s extradition to Liberia. The Solicitor General at the time, Cllr. Betty L. Blamo, hire the service of a legal frim in the US to get Ms. Corkrum extradited to Liberia but failed.