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Syrenius Cephus snatches defendant from court

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Liberia’s Solicitor General Cllr. Saymah Syrenius Cephus snatched away from court’s custody a foreign national, Elizabeth Shelley who stands accused by a female Liberian business official, Mrs. Wilhemina Mulbah- Siaway for allegedly doctoring an audit report, inserting unauthorized information in it to justify her claim of corruption against the complainant.

Madam Mulbah – Siaway, General Manager for Mulbah Rubber Estate (MRE) and president of the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia, complains of being suppressed by her business partner defendant Shelley, head of Grow Liberia International, to the extent that her business has been unable to operate.

A writ of arrest dated 21 January issued by the Monrovia City Court, brought defendant Shelley under its jurisdiction Tuesday, 26 January with multiple charges including forgery, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation levied against the accused.

But Mulbah – Siaway told judicial reporters Tuesday that Solicitor General Cephus snatched the defendant out of court without the matter being heard on grounds that he must be consulted before all criminal writs are issued.

The court had issued the writ based on Madam Mulbah – Siaway’s complaint reportedly to the Office of the County Attorney for Montserrado County, alleging that she had been accused by defendant Shelley of using US$18,000 of a project fund to purchase a vehicle for her husband.

According to the writ, when an audit was conducted, it found no evidence and did not implicate Madam Mulbah – Siaway.

Yet, the court document says defendant Shelley went ahead to alter the audit report and implicate Madam Mulbah -Siaway of misapplication of US$18,000. Madam Mulbah -Siaway recalls that she entered into a partnership agreement with Grow Liberia International in June 2017 to enable her to build her capacity in terms of aiding her to erect an RSS Plant.

But she narrates that following some work on the project, Grow Liberia in 2019 demanded her to confess that she had confiscated US$18,000 from the project money, despite going to her farms’ operational funds to facilitate the construction of the RSS Plant.

She says this project was officially budgeted on US$150,000, out of which Grow Liberia promised her the grant amount of US$50,000.

Along the way she says the project cost was raised beyond the initial cost of US$150,000 due to construction issues, at which time she says the bank released to her US$120,000 after presenting her properties as collateral, while Grow Liberia brought in US$50,000.

Madam Mulbah – Siaway’s lawyer, Liberia’s former Solicitor General Cllr. J. Darku Mulbah told reporters via phone Tuesday that Grow Liberia had sanctioned an audit that was conducted by Baker Tilly Liberia after his client had denied the claim of using project money in the tune of US$18,000 to purchase a vehicle.

But he says when the audit was released to Grow Liberia, defendant Shelley changed its original version and gave a doctored report to his client, in which Shelley claimed that the auditors found evidence that Siaway stole the US$18,000.

Following Siaway’s response to Baker Tilly Liberia’s report, Cllr. Mulbah says the auditors indicated that they never implicated her in their report, and subsequently gave his client a copy of their report for the first time.

On that basis, Cllr. Mulbah says he and his client, through the Office of the County Attorney, presented the matter. “The County Attorney, seeing merit into it and seeing probable cause that crime had been committed, sent us down to the Monrovia City Court to the City Solicitor for the issuance of the writ,” Cllr. Mulbah says.

He expresses doubt that Cllr. Cephus had released Shelley from court, saying he hoped the information was not true. In a phone interview with Cllr. Cephus regarding his release of defendant Shelley from court on Tuesday, 26 January, he told reporters via mobile phone that he is the one who has the right to issue writ in criminal matters.

“My side is that I [am] the one got the right to issue writ on criminal matters. That’s my side,” Cllr. Cephus says. He notes that all criminal writs are issued by the Republic of Liberia, noting that nobody in this Republic can issue writ that does not meet the approval of the Solicitor General or the County Attorney in the county in which the action is taken.

According to Cllr. Cephus, Madam Mulbah – Siaway’s action is a civil action owing to the fact that she says that the audit report had exonerated her of the claim of corruption levied against her by defendant Shelley.

Besides, Cllr. Cephus argues that the person that Madam Mulbah – Siaway arrested, defendant Shelley is an expatriate and has some level of diplomatic immunity, therefore she cannot be subjected to Liberian court action. “So as Solicitor General if I were consulted, I would have taken a decision on a way forward,” he adds. By Winston W. Parley

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