Six indicted employees of Ecobank-Liberia accused of stealing over US$375,000.00 from the bank in 2011 have denied all claims levied in the indictment drawn against them before the Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.
Defendants Stanley Johnson, Zobon Gbanjah, alias Konakey and co-defendants Glen Washington, David Yenego, Mandela Kaiser and Othello Smith are jointly indicted on multiple crimes, ranging from theft, misapplication of entrusted property to criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy.
Following the defendants’ denial Monday, prosecuting lawyer Cllr. Theophilous T.C. Gould begged the court to order its sheriff to qualify jurors in the proceedings to face the defendants on the charges.
Though defense lawyers interposed no objection to prosecution’s request, the trial court suspended the jury selection process for Wednesday, August 22, 2012, while preparations are being made ahead of the jury sequestration or selection.
Last week, Court “C” denied defense lawyers’ request to separately prosecute Stanley Johnson and Zobon Gbanjah from the rest of the co-defendants, including Glen Washington, David Yenego, Mandela Kaiser and Othello Smith.
Prosecution’s amended indictment claims that in May, June, August and November 2011 respectively, the enlisted defendants allegedly engaged in double transfer of cash, first to Ecobank’s customers’ accounts including City Builders and Bah Corporation, and then to a personal account, bearing account number 12910412742011 owned by one Ruth Sawmadal, which was opened by the bank’s branch in Grand Bassa County.
The alleged transfer amounted to US$378,676.26 into Ruth’s account and was discovered by Ecobank during yearly reconciliation.
But defense counsels Attorneys Arthur T. Johnson and Swahilo Sesay, representing Stanley and Zobon contended that the indictment did not state co-defendant Zobon jointly conspired with the other co-defendants and that there was no cause to believe that he committed a crime.
The defense lawyers also insisted that co-defendant Stanley Johnson’s area of assignment and responsibilities were separate and far from the other defendants’ and that there was no evidence to link him to any ‘joint criminal emperor.’
In resisting the defense’s request, the prosecuting lawyers, comprising Cllr. Theophilus T.C. Gould and others representing Ecobank-Liberia, pointed out that jointly prosecuting Stanley and Zobon along with the other accused does not infringe on their rights (Stanley’s and Zobon’s) because they all jointly committed the crime, even if they did it at separate locations.
Prosecutors claimed that as head for Reconciliation at EcoBank, defendant Stanley harmonized all accounts and identified conflicts or shortages in reporting; therefore, he had to connive in consent with the other co-defendants for the perfection of their criminal plan.
Prosecution also wondered why the defense’s submission was contradictory on grounds that in one count, it wanted the amended indictment dismissed, and yet asking for separate trials in another count.
The state lawyers argued that a party desirous of a pre-trial motion should file same and serve other parties in not less than 24 hours before it is noticed to be heard, which was not done; therefore, the court should deny and ignore defense’s submission for separate trial.
Besides, the state lawyers said the amended indictment certainly has the names by application of law of co-defendants Stanley Johnson and Zobon Gbanjah [Konakey] as reflected in every count of the indictment.
However, Criminal Court “C” Judge Peter W. Gbenewleh denied defense submission, saying the counsels did not show how the rights and interests of their clients would be prejudiced in a joint trial.
Judge Gbenewleh recalled that prosecutors’ amended indictment alleges among other things that co-defendants Glen Washington, David Yenego, Mandela Kaiser and Othello Smith, Stanley Johnson and Zobon Gbanjah [Konakey] jointly committed the crime.