The Criminal Court in Monrovia has quashed and dismissed a writ of ne exeat republica used by prosecutors to prevent former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s son Charles E. Sirleaf and other Central Bank officials from leaving Liberia in granting government’s request to drop charges against four of the officials.
In the ruling Tuesday, 19 May, Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay also ordered that the criminal appearance bonds filed by defendants Sirleaf, Dorbor M. Hagba, Joseph Dennis and Richard Walker be returned to them with immediate effect.
The Court in August last year ordered the officials and their former boss, Central of Liberia (CBL) former Executive Governor Milton Weeks 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.
All five were indicted on 4 March 2019 for economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, criminal solicitation and money laundering 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 billions Liberian dollars scandal emerged at the CBL when Mr. Weeks was CBL’s Executive Governor; Mr. Sirleaf, CBL’s Deputy Governor for Operations; Dorbor M. Hagba, Director of Finance Department and Joseph Dennis was CBL’s Deputy Director for Internal Audit. However, prosecutors last week nolle prosequi (drop charges against) Mr. Sirleaf “with prejudice,” and nolle prosequi Hagba, Walker and Dennis “without prejudice,” but what happened to $16 billion local currency which prompted the defendants’ indictment still remains a mystery.
In dismissing the indictment, Judge Gbeisay says the prosecution which charged and indicted the defendants, having elected to nolle prosequi them, the court is left with no other alternative but to grant the request of the State.
“While this Court [realizes] that this case is public interest, the alleged millions of dollars [involved] is for the Liberian People, and as such they are eager to see its outcome, this court cannot produce evidence for the State even if it were glaring,” Judge Gbeisay rules.
In a related development, Liberia’s Supreme Court has sent down a mandate to the Criminal Court “C,” ordering the lower court to resume jurisdiction over defendant Milton Weeks’ case and proceed in keeping with law.
The Supreme Court’s mandate follows Mr. Weeks’ withdrawal of his appeal filed before the full bench of the Supreme Court, indicating that he now accepts a ruling made by Associate Justice Yussif D. Kaba from the hearing of a petition filed by all five defendants for a writ of certiorari.
The five defendants had gone to Chambers Justice Kaba following the recusal from the case by Judge A. Blamo Dixon then presiding over Criminal Court “C.” The outcome from the hearing before the Chambers Justice did not please Weeks as Judge Dixon’s recusal was not overturned.
Mr. Weeks subsequently broke away from the rest of the defendants who accepted the Justice’s decision and fled to the full bench of the Supreme Court while Sirleaf, Hagba, Walker and Dennis returned to the lower court to continue with their trial under the next assigned judge.
Having seen his compatriots walked as free men, the Supreme Court notes that Mr. Weeks, through his lawyer, filed a joint stipulation of withdrawal and abatement in which he agreed to withdraw the appeal announced to the court and accepts Justice Kaba’s ruling in the certiorari proceedings.
“He therefore requested this Court to issue the necessary order (s) leading to the formal withdrawal of this case in keeping with the Rules of the Supreme Court. To this submission, the counsel for appellee petitioner interposed no objection,” the Supreme Court says.
Having reviewed the Joint Stipulation of Withdrawal and Abatement filed by Mr. Weeks’ counsel, the Supreme Court says the appeal announced by the defendant “is hereby ordered withdrawn.”
“The Clerk of this Court is ordered to strike the said appeal from the docket of this Court, issue a Certificate of Withdrawal in favor of any of the parties requesting same, and send a mandate to the judge presiding in the court below to resume jurisdiction over this case and proceed in keeping with law,” the Supreme Court rules.
By Winston W. Parley