More separate trials are being granted in the course of several weeks of formalities to commence hearing charges against nine indicted former officials and board members of the lucrative National Oil Company of Liberia or NOCAL.
Former NOCAL Board Chair Clemenceau Urey, former board members and other personalities, including Cllr. Stephen B. Dunbar, Jr.; Peter B. Jallah, Jr and Dr. D. Evelyn Kandakai, were indicted jointly for economic sabotage, bribery and criminal conspiracy.
Also indicted are Senator Albert T. Chie, Dr. Fodee Kromah; Fulton Reeves; Timothy G. Wiaplah and former 52nd Legislative member Alomiza Ennos Barr and Senate Secretary J. Nanborlor F. Singbeh, Sr. on the same charges.
Prosecutors in February 2015 indicted the defendants for allegedly bribing legislators US$120,400 to ratify several oil contracts entered between NOCAL and several companies between May 2006 and May 2007.
Roughly two weeks after Grand Kru County Senator Albert T. Chie, was granted separate trial in the same case, the latest of such separate trial was granted to co-defendant Cllr. Stephen B. Dunbar, Jr. on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.
Presiding Criminal Court “C” Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh determined yesterday that it would be prejudicial to jointly try co-defendant Dunbar with the other defendants whose defenses are separate and distinct from those of defendant Dunbar’s.
In filling a motion for separate trial, co-defendant Dunbar raised issues of statute of limitations, contending that prosecution would have commenced within five years as of May 2007, “that is to say, not later than May 2012.”
He told the court that he ceased to be member of the Board of Directors of NOCAL in 2007, and that he will be prejudiced by a joint trial with the other nine defendants because his defenses are different from them.
Prosecutors had contended that Section 4.2 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Law was not applicable under the given circumstance and facts that the defendant was a public official or employee answerable under Section 4.4.
Prosecutors unsuccessfully argued that Count Five of defendant Dunbar’s motion was “an admission” that he was a member of NOCAL Board at the time of the commission of the felonies “as clearly stated in the indictment,” further suggesting that they must be jointly tried.
But the court said the issue of statute of limitation raised by the defendant was a “defense” to be determined when severance is granted. Judge Peter Gbeneweleh said further that it will be prejudicial to jointly try defendant Dunbar with the others whose defenses, he maintains, are separate.
By Winston W. Parley