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Liberia news

T. Nelson Williams faces separate trial

The Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia has granted the former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company or L.P.R.C. Mr. T. Nelson Williams, a separate trial following his indictment along with the ex-Minister of Commerce Madam MiattaBeysolow and other officials for their involvement a Japanese Oil money saga. 

Judge Emery S. Paye said in a ruling on Thursday, 22 September that Mr. Williams did not have the same defenses with the other defendants, saying he was entitled “as a matter of right and law” to be granted separate trial.

The Court had earlier in July this year dismissed the indictment drawn against former Minister Beysolow in the same case, but the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission or LACC insisted that it would pursue the other indictees.

They were jointly indicted along with former L.P.R.C. deputy managing director for operations Mr. Aaron J. Wheagar and Commerce Ministry’s former director for division of price analysis and marketing Mr. Steve Flahn-Paye.

Prosecutors said they allegedly deprived government of US$5,764,110.84 which was a portion of US$13,083,350 from proceeds of Japanese Oil Grant to Liberia for the supply of an expected quantity of 15,000 metric tons of petroleum products for economic and social development effort.

They were indicted for economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy, criminal facilitation and violation of required Public Procurement and Concession Commission or PPCC’s procedures and processes. In the case with Mr. Williams, Judge Paye warned on Thursday that it must be noted “that the granting of a Severance does not amount to an acquittal.”

In the motion for severance, Mr. Williams told the court that in March 2011, the Japanese Government made a donation of petroleum products consigned to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to sell so that the proceeds would be utilized for economic and social development.

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He said the Commerce Ministry requested the L.P.R.C. to serve as an implementing agent for monetization of the petroleum products in accordance with specific obligations outlined and detailed in a Memorandum of Understanding dated 30 August 2011.

He said the MOU was prepared and delivered to L.P.R.C. to be executed [among] the Ministry of Commerce, L.P.R.C. and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with conclusion that he “fulfilled all of these obligations” contained in the MOU. 

.According to him, the Commerce Ministry also prepared and submitted to L.P.R.C. a bank account number into which proceeds from the Japanese oil sale should be deposited. Mr. Williams furthered that the Commerce Ministry prepared a cost benefit analysis, including the price per metric ton that the donated petroleum products were to be sold for and distributed.

He said the MOU tasked L.P.R.C. to ensure that the Liberian importers that took part in the monetization process had the capacity to move 500 metric tons at once in order to free the storage capacity and to hire independent surveyors to certify the quantity of the donated petroleum products discharged into L.P.R.C.’s storage tanks.

The MOU also called for payment of all local taxes, charges, levies, PCSI and storage fees by the Liberian importers and to submit all payment receipts to the Ministry of Commerce; and to ensure minimum threshold amount of deposit into the special government account at the Central Bank of Liberia or CBL not less than US$8,540,177.50.

He argued that the MOU mandated the payment of administrative costs by the Liberian importers in the amount not less than US$22,500. The Court said “More importantly,” Mr. Williams had said that the LACC in its final recommendation of its investigative report dated 19 August 2013 suggested that Mr. Williams be charged only for violating Section 138 of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission Act by awarding contract to AMINATA and SONS without conducting the required bidding process.

But prosecution had insisted that Mr. Williams had failed to show those defenses for which he should be granted separate trial, noting that his responsibility was to ensure delivery of the petroleum products consistent with the exchange notes between Liberia and Japan.

By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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