Defense lawyers for the indicted Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officials pushed Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musa Dean unsuccessfully to testify in the billions dollars economic sabotage case, as their efforts were frustrated by Criminal Court “C” to avoid him testifying against the state.
It all started Tuesday, 28 July as Cllr. Dean, who had been subpoenaed based on defense’s request, responded in the negative when asked by defense lawyers if he had in his possession a number of documents he had been subpoenaed to produce relative to the printing of Liberian dollars banknotes.
Cllr. Dean, who faced pressure by defense lawyers to testify in the case, has been Liberia’s Justice Minister since March 2018, a position he had been serving when the government indicted the officials including the bank’s Board of Governors for printing and shipping to Liberia L$13,004,750,000.00 without authorization.
The officials allegedly understated the printed amount as L$10,359,750,000.00, giving a variance of L$2,645,000,000.00, according to prosecutors here. Judge Gbeisay says he reasoned with the prosecution in part and granted its request to prevent Minister Dean from giving testimony in the trial because by “doing so, the Minister will be testifying against the State.”
All the defendants on trial including former CBL Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks, David Fahart, Elsie DossenBardio and KollieTamba have pleaded not guilty for charges of theft of property; economic sabotage; fraud on the internal revenue of Liberia; misuse of public money, property or record; theft or illegal disbursement of public money; criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation.
While Judge YamieQuiquiGbeisay sustained some of the prosecution’s objections to certain questions being posed by the defense seeking to extract statements from Justice Minister Dean, the defense team pushed further, this time asking the court to declare the Liberian Attorney General a hostile witness.
Judge Gbeisay disagrees with the defense on this request, saying their reliance on the cross certainly cannot be supported by the law they relied on.
“That law is a wrong interpretation. Counsel submission to declare the witness hostile is hereby denied,” Judge Gbeisay rules. The judge says Justice Minister Dean was subpoenaed to produce documents and testify to them, but notes that the court had earlier ruled that Cllr. Dean would be allowed to produce the required document only.
“The first question posed to the witness as to whether he brought … those documents, he answered no. [In] the mind of the court the witness has performed his duty,” he says. However, Judge Gbeisay granted the defense’s request for Minister Dean to produce a document allegedly produced under his (Dean’s) signature which is relevant and material for the defense.
According to Judge Gbeisay, the court reasons that Minister Dean, having been subpoenaed to produce instruments, has no testimony to be inconsistent, adding that the section [law] relied on by the defendants was not relevant to the witness.
Meanwhile in a twist of events, the judge granted defense lawyers’ request with modification, handing Justice Minster Dean a suspended contempt and mandating him to produce the requested documents on Wednesday, 29 July at 9:00 A.M or be held in contempt if he failed to do so.
The CBL officials including former Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks, David Fahart, Elsie DossenBardio and KollieTamba were indicted for the alleged theft of billions of local currency printed and shipped to Liberia following a series of mass protests that prompted local and international investigation into claims that the money went missing.
The fifth defendant Melisa A. Emeh is said to be out of the bailiwick of Liberia and has not been brought to court, therefore the court has granted prosecution’s request to grant her a separate trial so as to enable the four other defendants that are available to get speedy trial.
This third indictment in the case did not include former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s son Charles E. Sirleaf who served as Deputy CBL Governor for Operations when the financial scandal emerged at the bank, because he was nolleprosequi with prejudice in May this year.
Besides Mr. Sirleaf, the prosecution here also entered a nolleprosequi (dropped charges) in favor of defendants Richard H. Walker, Dorbor M. Hagba and Joseph Dennis.
By Winston W. Parley