Former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s son Charles E. Sirleaf and former Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks have shown separate contentions in what was before now, a joint trial for alleged economic sabotage, prompting the court to separate Weeks from Sirleaf and the other defendants.
“In view of the fact, this court says it is a matter of formality and as such, the Motion for Severance Trial ought to be sustained and it is hereby granted. Henceforth, Charles Sirleaf et al, ordered separate and distinct from Co-defendant Milton Weeks,” Criminal Court “C” Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay ruled Tuesday morning, 12 May.
Mr. Sirleaf who was CBL’s Deputy Governor for Operations and his boss Mr. Weeks were jointly indicted along with CBL’s Director of Finance Department Dorbor M. Hagba and CBL’s Deputy Director for Internal Audit Joseph Dennis for economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, criminal solicitation and money laundering.
The defendants including Richard Walker were indicted on 4 March 2019 to give account for their alleged roles in Liberia’s alleged LD$16bn scandal that rocked the country throughout 2018 and sparked local and international investigation following protests here.
The court in August last year ordered the defendants to file LD$1,058,000,000 bonds each, which when combined totaled LD$5,290,000,000 after a new indictment for money laundering had been added to the previous charges.Judge Gbeisay recalls that after his colleague Judge Blamo Dixon recused himself from hearing the case, a writ of certiorari was filed before the Justice – in – Chambers at the Supreme Court.
Following a hearing into that motion, the case was referred back to the criminal court to continue with its proceeding.According to Judge Gbeisay, that mandate was forwarded to the Criminal Court “C,” ordering it to resume jurisdiction and proceed with the case.
At the last call of the case, the judge continues that lawyers representing defendant Sirleaf and others requested the court for severance trial, while the lawyers for defendant Weeks requested for continuance (suspension of the trial).
In the wisdom of the court, Judge Gbeisay notes that it reserved ruling and dismissed the representation announced by Weeks’ lawyers, because as far as the court is aware, the matter involving the latter was still pending before the Supreme Court of Liberia.
According to Judge Gbeisay, the mere fact that this matter before the Justice in Chambers, one of the parties took exception to the justice’s ruling and announced an appeal while the other parties conceded the same ruling and a mandate was sent down to Court “C”, that in itself “rendered the two Defendants and their contention separately.”
Meanwhile, Judge Gbeisay has ordered commencement of the trial involving defendant Sirleaf and the other defendants on Friday, 15 May at 9:00am.
Although the trail into the case involving former President Sirleaf’s son and others is expected to begin on Friday, as former governor Weeks awaits his appeals at the Supreme Court, what happened to the LD16 billion still remains a mystery. Kroll Associate, a US investigative firm hired by USAID in its report said the money arrived at the central bank but that there were failings at each stage of the process.
By Winston W. Parley