Prosecutors and defense clashed Tuesday, 2 October in a bid to convince the court for and against the use of old testimonies and evidences provided during the previous trial of Ms. Matilda Parker and Mrs. Christiana Kpabar – Pailey in the ongoing retrial.
Criminal Court “C” Judge Boima Kontoe has reserved ruling pending notice of assignment, after listening to arguments from both parties.The first trial in the alleged economic sabotage case against former National Port Authority (NPA) Managing Director Ms. Parker and her former comptroller Mrs. Pailey was disrupted by prosecution’s claims of jury tampering.
In the ongoing retrial, the case is being heard before a new judge without jurors based on the defense’s request.But prosecutors are saying the court has the backing of the law to accept the introduction of witnesses’ testimonies, evidences and exhibits provided during the previous trial of the defendants between 2015 and 2016.
According to Solicitor General Cllr. Darku Mulbah, the indictees are being represented in this new trial by one of the counsels who was part of their defense team during the first trial in the person of Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson.Cllr. Mulbah argues that the purpose of trial is for parties to proffer evidences, witnesses, and for them to be examined or cross – examined.
After the defendants pleaded not guilty at the start of the new trial, Cllr. Mulbah says prosecution told the court that it had one or three of its witnesses that cannot be reached now, but their testimonies from the past trial are before the court.According to him, the State does not have the time to get back to those witnesses.
Another contention from the prosecution is that even if the witnesses are subpoenaed to court, no court can compel them to utter a word if they are unwilling to comply and provide testimonies.Cllr. Mulbah says it is the right of the witnesses to speak or remain silent because the Constitution protects their rights to remain silent.
He says, the Supreme Court has already given a clue on things to be done to meet up with speedy trial, adding that the superior court has ruled that testimonies of witnesses who have appeared in past trial, testified and cross – examined by the accused’s lawyer, those testimonies can be allowed to form part of the new trial.
He concludes with a plea for the court to grant the application for the testimonies and exhibits referenced in the application to be made to form part of the proceedings and order a continuance of the trial.But Cllr. Johnson disagrees with the prosecution’s points, informing the court that if a subpoenaed witness fails to comply, they could be held in contempt and punished by the court.
Cllr. Johnson is concerned that in this new trial the prosecution is seeking to produce no witness that shall appear before Judge Kontoe.Beside, Cllr. Johnson indicates that the prosecution did not rest with the production of witnesses during the first trial when the case [was disrupted].
According to Cllr. Johnson, the defense did not cross examine State witness Deneah Flomo.The two officials were indicted during the regime of former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf following the awarding of two contracts for the dredging and removal of wrecks from the Port of Greenville, Sinoe County.
They face charges of theft of property, economic sabotage and criminal conspiracy for allegedly defrauding government of US$837,950.00 between July 2011 and December 2012.They are being accused of allegedly designing awarding two “sole source” contracts to co-defendant Deneah Martins Flomo and his Denmar Enterprise.
The State says the contracts were allegedly awarded without the approval of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC).Under the Liberian law any public contract above US10,000 should be put up for a bidding process and not through single sourcing. Single sourcing are only applicable in extreme cases and based on an official request from the awarding entity based on the urgency of the needed service.
Under the contracts, the State says defendant Flomo and his Denmar Enterprise had obligation to remove wrecks from the Port of Greenville and provide security consultancy at the ports of Monrovia, Buchanan and Greenville on behalf of the NPA.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah