Grand Kru County Senator Albert T. Chie, will face trial separately from nine other co-defendants, because Criminal Court “C” Judge Peter W. Gbenewelleh says, it will be “unfair and unjust” to jointly prosecute him and the co-defendants, who made statements over the alleged payment of US$120,000 to the 52nd Legislature as lobby fees.
Prosecutors in February 2015 indicted Senator Chie and several former officials and Board members of the National Oil Company of Liberia on multiple crimes of economic sabotage, bribery and criminal conspiracy for allegedly bribing legislators US$120,400 to ratify several oil contracts entered between NOCAL and several companies.
Co-indictees include former NOCAL Board Chair, Clemenceau Urey; Cllr. Stephen Dumbar, Jr; Peter B. Jallah, former Education Minister, DR. D. Evelyn Kandakai; former NOCAL President and 2014 defeated Grand Cape Mount County senatorial candidate, Dr. Fodee Kromah, and NOCAL Comptroller Fulton Reeves.
The rest include former NOCAL Senior Accountant, Timothy G. Wiaplah; 52nd Legislative member Alomiza Ennos Barr and Senate Secretary Nanborlor F. Singbeh.
Handing ruling into a motion for severance trial at the Temple of Justice on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, Judge Gbenewelleh said, the defenses of Senator Chie as proxy for [his former boss- Lands and Mines Minister, Dr. Eugene Shannon, are separate and distinct under the fact and circumstances in the case.
The court cited Section 16.10 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia, which provides that “if it appears that a Defendant or the Government is prejudiced by a joinder of offenses or of Defendants in an Indictment or by a joinder for trial together, the court may order an election or separate trials counts, grant a severance of Defendants, or provide whatever other relief justice requires.”
The court took note of allegations in count eight of prosecutors’ indictment that the indictees individually or collectively claimed the payment of US$120,400 to the 52nd Legislature as lobbying fees, but the sum of US$76,900 was not accounted for.
But the court said defendant Senator Chie was never cited to make a statement before the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission or LACC as proxy [for Minister Shannon, who was his boss at the time].
The court was clear that a careful perusal of the records shows that other co-defendants made statements before the LACC; but defendant Chie was never cited by the commission to make statement as a proxy.
The Court found however that defendant Chie’s principal, Dr. Shannon, former Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy to whom he was a proxy, was invited and made statement that he did not sign or authorize the payment of US$118,400 as lobbying fees to the 52nd Legislature.
By Winston W. Parley