Ecobank Employees Face Trial

At least six indicted employees of Ecobank Liberia are to be jointly prosecuted for allegedly stealing over US$375,000 from the bank in 2011.

The decision to prosecute them came after Criminal Court “C” denied two of the accused – Stanley Johnson and Zobon Gbanjah [Konakey] separate trials last Thursday.

Prosecution’s amended indictment includes defendants Stanley and Zobon, as well as co-defendants Glen Washington, David Yenego, Mandela Kaiser and Othello Smith, who had earlier been indicted on multiple crimes, ranging from theft, misapplication of entrusted property to criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy.

In May, June, August and November 2011, respectively, the enlisted defendants were accused of allegedly engaging in double transfer of cash, first to Ecobank’s customers, including City Builders and Bah Corporation, and then to a personal account, bearing account number 12910412742011 owned by one Ruth Sawmadal and opened 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.

Last week, defense counsels Attorneys Arthur T. Johnson and Swahilo Sesay representing Stanley and Zobon argued that the indictment did not state that co-defendant Zobon jointly conspired with the other co-defendants and that there was no cause to believe that he committed a crime.

As for co-defendant Stanley, counsels insisted that his 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, pointed out that jointly prosecuting Stanley and Zobon along with the other accused does not infringe on the rights of their (Stanley’s and Zobon’s) in that 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.

Further, prosecution wondered that the defense’s submission was contradictory on grounds that in one count, the defense 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.

At the end, 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.

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