Lawyers defending indicted Grand Kru County Senator Albert T. Chie, in the US$120,400 National Oil Company of Liberia bribery case are shifting blames on former NOCAL Board Chair, Mr. Clemenceau Urey, for single-handedly paying bribery to lawmakers before allegedly apologizing to his colleagues on the Board.
The defense team insists that there is no resolution to authorize money payment signed by their client and the rest of the Board members at the meeting; and that there is no evidence to show that their client and the other indictees acted unanimously in paying the bribe and therefore, requested that Mr. Urey be held liable alone because he allegedly went public on the action.
Facts into how the indictment arrived at the alleged US$120,400 bribery to lawmakers by NOCAL Board is something that may be narrated during trial of the case after all of the formalities have been settled, but defense team claims to have seen US$50,000 as amount demanded by the lawmakers in bribery as per a purported NOCAL Board meeting minutes they read in court on Wednesday, March 25, 2015.
In February this year, prosecutors jointly indicted Senator Chie along with co-defendants Urey, former NOCAL Board Chair; Cllr. Stephen Dumbar; Mr. Peter Jallah, Jr.; former Education Minister Dr. D. Evelyn Kandakai; 2014 defeated Grand Cape Mount County senatorial candidate Dr. Fodee Kromah; Mr. Fulton Reeves; Mr. Timothy Wiaplah; 52ndLawmaker Alomiza Ennos and Senate Secretary Nanborlor F. Singbeh for defrauding government in bribery to lawmakers to ratify oil contracts.
Owing to arguments that he was never an appointed NOCAL Board member and that he faced no prior investigation at the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission over charges that led to the indictment, Senator Chie is resisting joint trial with the rest of the accused, who his lawyers said, were invited at the LACC and made statements to investigators.
Defense Lawyer Cllr. Nyanti Tuan claimed that defendant Chie was a proxy of former Lands and Mines Minister, Dr. Eugene Shannon, as a private person and not as Minister of Lands and Mines, on claims that Dr. Shannon himself, whom defendant Chie represented, was allegedly on NOCAL Board in his private capacity and not as a minister.
The defense insists that the NOCAL Act does not state any statutory Board members indicating the Ministry of Lands and Mines; therefore, those on the Board are there in their private capacities.
The indicted Senator’s lawyer additionally said they want separate trial because he is direct opposite to defendant Dr. Fodee Kromah and others, who allegedly made statements before LACC investigators.
But prosecuting lawyer from the LACC Cllr. Othello S. Paymah has argued that the fact that it was not a ground for severance trial, claims by Senator Chie’s counsels that the LACC did not invited him for investigation.
He told the court that the LACC’s investigation involves surveillance and as such, a suspect may be indicted without investigators coming in physical contact with them to talk to them, once the commission sees the evidence sufficient to indict such suspect.
Cllr. Paymah said it was not simply based on the sufficiency of evidence gathered from other defendants’ statement that led to the indictment of Senator Chie; instead, he argued that the commission had documentary evidence to indict him.
He told the court further that the Minister of Lands and Mines, Dr. Shannon, who was named as NOCAL Board member, had designated defendant Chie to represent him at the Board meeting.
But under the laws, the counsel said criminal conducts are not transferable, especially emphasizing that the defendant should be held liable for claims that he went contrary to the scope of authority by voting for the payment of the bribe, while serving as proxy for Minister Shannon.
According to him, the LACC invited the principal, Dr. Shannon and he made statement that he never authorized bribery of $118,000 to the legislature.
“If the agent acts outside of his scope of authority, he must be held liable. He was not instructed to go and pay bribe to honorable senators,” Cllr. Paymah claimed, adding that the LACC obtained statement from Dr. Shannon, who according to him is not an indictee.
Presiding Criminal Court “C” Judge Peter W. Gbenewelleh, tried to find out from prosecution [if it was their judgment that] the principal’s [Dr. Shannon’s testimony] was conclusive, as defense claimed that the LACC did not go further to invite defendant Chie, who was the proxy for the minister.
Though Cllr. Paymah said the LACC invited concerned parties, he however added that the commission needed not to invite defendant Chie before indicting him because the law did not obligate the commission to invite anybody before they can be indicted.
Finally, he said there is nothing in the Board’s meeting minutes to indicate that defendant Chie dissented on the Board’s decision to pay the money therefore, he must not be granted separate trial.
The court has reserved ruling for Monday March 30, 2015 at 2pm.
By Winston W. Parley