Prosecutors in Monrovia have petitioned the Supreme Court, asking for the rearrests of five indicted Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officials, ahead of a lower court’s decision that is pending following the defendants’ justification of bonds proffered for their release.
Former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s son and bank deputy governor Charles E. Sirleaf, former CBL Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks are on trial for alleged economic sabotage along with Dorbor Hagba, Richard Walker and Joseph Dennis.
Following two investigative reports into Liberia’s $16 billion local currency scandal, the five bank officials were indicted for an alleged LRD$2,645,000,000 plus US$835,367.72.
The government says each of the defendants is required to post a bond of US$3,306,250.00, but defendant Weeks only posted a property valuation bond of a little over 900,319 while each of the four other defendants posted US$60,000 bail bonds.
Judge J. Boima Kontoe was presiding at Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice when the defendants filed these bonds early this year and got released from the Monrovia Central Prison, pending justification of the bonds filed.
However the process of justifying these bonds commenced under the court term when Judge Peter Gbenewelleh is presiding at Court “C” during which sureties defended their bonds in open court followed by final arguments by both government and defense lawyers.
However based on the Supreme Court’s mandate on Monday, 3 June, Judge Gbenewelleh could not proceed further to deliver a ruling on the justification of the bonds and other issues heard over the past weeks, including government’s challenge against Heritage Partners and Associates (HPA) law firm’s presence on the defense team.
In its petition, the prosecution accuses Judge Kontoe of acting in error when he signed the defendants’ bail bond without taking into consideration the statutory requirement.
Additionally, the government contends that Judge Kontoe’s conduct was a judicial act that cannot be overturned by [his peer] Judge Gbenewelleh on grounds that it will also amount to a review of the decision of his (Judge Gbenewelleh’s) predecessor.
While Judge Gbenewelleh’s ruling is yet to be given, the prosecution also tells the Supreme Court in advance that where the judge “is to set aside the bond for being inadequate,” his action would be illegal because he has no authority to undo his colleague’s action.
Based on the prosecution’s petition for writ of prohibition, Chambers Justice Joseph Nagbe has directed Judge Gbenewelleh to appear for a conference on Tuesday, 4 June at 12.00 noon.The Chambers Justice also places a stay order on all further proceedings in the case pending the outcome of the conference.By Winston W. Parley