Prosecutors are strongly apprehensive that indicted House Speaker Alex Tyler, is a “Flight risk,” which appears to suggest that the Speaker could “likely leave the country before trial or bail hearing.”
Speaker Tyler and ruling Unity Party Chair Sen H. Varney G. Sherman, Ernest C.B. Jones and a Nigerian national Chris Onanuga were indicted recently by the Government following U.K.-based Global Witness report, linking them and several past and present officials to requesting and receiving over US$950,000 bribes from Britain’s Sable Mining Company to change laws in its favor.
On Wednesday, 8 June, prosecution asked the Criminal Court “C” at the Temple Justice in Monrovia to set aside a contested US$150,000 criminal appearance bond filed by Mr. Tyler, and to have him imprisoned for his absence in the courtroom until a sufficient bond is filed.
“Wherefore, prosecution prays court to set aside the defendant’s criminal appearance bond, order the defendant remanded for his conspicuous absence in this courtroom on the hearing of the exception to the defendant’s surety…,” Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson requested during verbal arguments.
The prosecution’s request to set Tyler’s bond aside and have him imprisoned took over Wednesday’s hearing where the defense was due to justify its US$150,000 bond, compelling the court to assign such hearing for Friday, 10 June at 9:00 A.M.
The prosecution argued there were additional instrument later attached to the original bond the defendant had initially filed after it was challenged, drawing a conclusion that it meant that the defense had conceded that their original bond was insufficient.
Cllr. Johnson was buttressed by Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould, who also contended that Speaker Tyler was a “flight risk,” noting that the indicted Speaker is presiding over the House of Representatives without a quorum because his colleagues are refusing to attend session or sit under his gavel with calls for him to recuse himself, pending outcome of the ongoing trial.
“Then he says the Speaker is not a flight risk. Yes! He is. When you are presiding over the House without a quorum, are you not a flight risk? Yes! He is. They know that the man is a flight risk that’s why they agree to file a bond. The man is over the House, his colleagues not coming,” Cllr. Gould argued.
But Speaker Tyler’s legal counsel countered that his client’s presence was not required at all at the hearing of any motion, telling the court that Liberia’s Constitution Article 21 (d) provides that all persons shall be bailable upon their personal reconnaissance or by sufficient surety depending upon the gravity of the charge.
The defense insists that unless for capital offense or grave offenses as defined by law, the Speaker should be released to his personal reconnaissance without posing a bond. “Movant defendant Alex Tyler says that he is the Speaker of the Honorable House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia and the third ranking officer within the Government of the Republic of Liberia. Accordingly, he is not a flight risk…,” the counsel contended.
According to him, Section 63.6 of the Civil Procedure Law which is applicable in criminal proceedings provides that the surety shall be present upon the hearing of such motion, “that is to say justification of surety to be examined under oath.”
“Movant Alex Tyler says that the motion for justification of surety only calls or requires the surety to appear to be examined and therefore, the presence of the defendant is not required,” the counsel added. He said assuming without admitting that the surety filed by Speaker Tyler has failed to justify, such failure would not set the bond aside, but it is the surety that would remain liable until another surety signs the bond.
“Movant Tyler says that assuming without admitting that the herein mentioned section was applicable to this instant case, movant Tyler submits that the original surety would still be liable or remain liable until the order for addition of new bond is complied with,” he concluded.
The defense’s argument was in reaction to prosecution’s contention that one of the commitments for a conditional relief like a bail is for day to day appearance of the defendant in court when the case is assigned, but that is being “breached” by defendant Tyler.
The court presided over by Judge Emery S. Paye however said “a resounding no” to prosecution’s submission that Speaker Tyler should have been present during the hearing and denied their request. Speaker Tyler and other indictees, including Sen. Sherman were before the Criminal Court “C” when another aspect of the case that has to do with a Criminal Court “A” judgment ordering Sen. Sherman’s bank statements to be subpoenaed from commercial banks forced the Senator to flee to the Supreme Court with an appeal notice.
Several other persons have appeared before an investigative taskforce appointed by President Ellen Sirleaf, but both Speaker Tyler and Sen. Sherman refused to submit to it, thus prompting their fast-track indictment.
By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne