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Treat them equal?

-Lawyer compares Milton Weeks & Charles Sirleaf over immunity

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Former Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks and CBL Board Members David Fahart, Elsie Dossen Bardio and Kollie Tamba’s fate lies in one man’s hands for now – and that’s Judge Yami Quiqui Gbeisay, lawyer representing Mr. Weeks said during his closing argument.

Cllr. Abrahim Sillah, then wonders why it’s good to set Charles Sirleaf free, but not Weeks too.

During final arguments from both state and defense lawyers Wednesday, 19 August at Criminal Court “C” in Monrovia, Cllr. Sillah argues that there was a modu operandi that Milton Weeks followed, contending that the law is blind and everyone is equal before the law.

Cllr. Sillah questions if Mr. Sirleaf’s release is because he is granted immunity. Mr. Charles E. Sirleaf, the son of former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf, was initially among several CBL officials indicted by the government here in 2019 for their alleged roles in the misapplication of billions of Liberian Dollars printed and shipped to Liberia to replace old local currency.

Their indictment in 2019 followed a series of mass protests that led local and international institutions to investigate a claim that the money had gone missing.

However, when prosecution drew its last version of the indictment based on which this case has been heard, Mr. Sirleaf who served as Deputy CBL Governor for Operations when the financial scandal emerged at the bank was not included because he was nolleprosequi with prejudice in May this year.

Besides Mr. Sirleaf, the prosecution here also entered a nolleprosequi (dropped charges) in favor of defendants Richard H. Walker, Dorbor M. Hagba and Joseph Dennis.

According to Sillah, the government said the LD$5bn which was first printed [during Sirleaf’s leadership] was justified, but not the LD$10bn [that was printed during Weeks’ leadership].

“Why is it good for Charles Sirleaf but it’s not good for Milton Weeks? Because there was a modu operandi that Milton Weeks followed. Oh, because Charles Sirleaf is granted immunity?” Cllr. Sillah argues.

The defense counsel insists that the Legislature’s communication to the CBL dated 19 July 2017 constitutes an authorization, but it’s not a resolution.

He proffers an argument as to why would the Legislature refer to Article 34 (d) when it is not the intent of the Legislature for the CBL to print currency, as suggested by the state.

Quizzed further by Judge Gbeisay if it was not a caveat in the Legislature’s 19 July 2017 communication that the CBL should revert to it (Legislature) before printing, Cllr. Sillah says this is not a caveat.

But the judge reminds Cllr. Sillah that the U.S. firm Kroll’s report indicated that the instruction for the CBL to revert to the Legislature was a caveat to the CBL.

Notwithstanding Cllr. Sillah insists that this 19 July 2017 letter granted full authority to the CBL to print. In his argument, Sillah attacks former House Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay for allegedly lying under oath to protect his job when he testified that he had no knowledge about the printing of the $10 billion Liberian Dollars banknotes.

Mr. Nuquay was still serving as head of the Liberia Aviation Authority (LAA) when he testified in the case on 16 July, but he left the post later.

Nuquaye who served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from October 2016 to January 2018 testified that the House of Representatives did not sign any Joint Resolution to print $10 billion Liberian Dollars, saying: “I have no knowledge about the printing of the 10billion Liberian Dollars banknotes.”

The government here indicted several CBL officials including the bank’s Board of Governors, accusing them of printing and shipping to Liberia L$13,004,750,000.00 without authorization, and allegedly understating the printed amount as L$10,359,750,000.00, giving a variance of L$2,645,000,000.00.

However the indictment accuses the CBL Board of mandating defendant Weeks to enter into a contract on 12 June 2019 with Crane Currency to print L$10,000,000,000 banknotes at the cost of US$10,121,689.20 before receiving the 19 July 2017 communication [from the Legislature].

At the time of selecting Crane Currency to print L$5,000,000,000, the indictment says the quantity of Liberian banknotes in circulation at the time was L$9.940 billion and that a significant number of the banknotes had worn out and mutilated, prompting the need to replace L$5,000,000,000 approved as the objective of legislative joint resolution.

Further, the indictment notes that defendants Weeks, Dorbor M. Hagba, Richard H. Walker and Joseph Dennis knew or had reasons to know that from packing lists reviewed by the investigation, the total amount printed was L$13,004,750,000 and not L$15,506,000,000, but “they maliciously and purposely concealed and understated the actual amount…” because they had criminally connived.

By Winston W. Parley

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