Counsels representing indicted U.K. -based Sable Mining and prosecutors got locked down in legal arguments over whether or not Criminal Court “C” has jurisdiction over the mining firm and its indicted officials, including Mr. Andrew Groves, as the government presses for the extradition of the defendants.
Sable Mining and Mr. Groves got indicted here in Liberia, following a Global Witness report alleging that the company gave out bribes in the tune of over US$950,000 to Liberian Government officials to pass mining laws in favor of the U.K.-based company, through a non-competitive bidding process.
As House Speaker Alex Tyler, ruling Unity Party or UP Chairman- emeritus H. Varney Sherman and Nigerian national, Chris Onanuga are battling against the indictment; Sable Mining and Mr. Groves’ Lawyer Cllr. Syrenius Cephus is pushing for the dismissal of the indictment on grounds that it is faulty and citing extraterritorial jurisdictional concerns.
Cllr. Cephus repeatedly questioned prosecution’s claims that Liberia and Great Britain signed extradition treaty in the 1800s; while also arguing that the indictment did not state the exact time the act for which they were indicted was committed and completed.
Her argued that there was no treaty before the court as the basis upon which the defendants can be extradited to Liberia to face prosecution. Cllr. Cephus added that the indictment was time bar on grounds that prosecutors alleged that the crimes were committed and completed in 2010, meaning that the government should have tried the case within five years, but argued that prosecution is being done in the sixth year.
He concluded that the court cannot assume jurisdiction over the defendants, noting that they had not link with Liberian officials and that they were not part of the Legislature to pass laws.
But in a counter argument, Montserrado County Attorney Cllr. Darku Mulbah said Sable Mining and Mr. Groves had not yet been brought under the jurisdiction of the court after being indicted, and thereby dismissing defense counsels’ action to have gone as far as filing a motion to dismiss the indictment.
Under the Liberian laws, Cllr. Mulbah said a person not resident of Liberia can be tried through a court that has legal instruments such as warrant of arrest and indictment served through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
But he wondered that when the person had not been brought under the jurisdiction of the court, “can one come to file motion to dismiss indictment?,” saying “no,” as the court’s action will not be binding on the defendant.
“So, to come and say the people are not Liberian citizens so they can’t commit crime and be tried in Liberia, we say no. For us to have jurisdiction over them, we must extradite them,” he argued.
He also made reference to a Mutual Legal Assistance Protocol formulated to curb crimes rate in the world to which he says Liberia acceded enacted here into law in 2012, in addition to an 1892 Extradition Treaty that he said was signed between Liberia and Great Britain in making a case to dismiss the defendant’s motion.
Regarding the issue of statute of limitation raised by the defendants, Cllr. Mulbah said they had not been indicted until 2016 when Global Witness made its report, saying it was when the crimes were discovered.
Citing sections of the Criminal Procedure Law as reliance, Cllr. Mulbah said the prosecution may commenced within two years after the discovery of the offense by the injured person, in this case, the Republic of Liberia; even though the five-year prescribed in Section 4.2 had expired. The court suspended its ruling, but it has given the lawyers a time to submit Legal Memorandum.
By Winston W. Parley