U.S. cars trial drags over custody
The suspended trial of alleged stolen seven U.S. cars did not resume on Tuesday, 4 July as anticipated, with some credible Court officials anonymously hinting the NewDawn that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has again been given up to Friday, 7 July to ensure that the United States Embassy submits the vehicles under Court “C” Custody.
The alleged stolen vehicles which are seen as material objects important to the trial were said to have been taken in custody by the U.S. Embassy after investigators here allegedly confirmed that they were stolen from the U.S.
On Thursday, 29 June, presiding Judge Yussif D. Kaba ordered his court clerk to inform the Foreign Ministry here to exert its efforts on the U.S. Embassy to have the vehicles submitted to Court and suspended trial for Tuesday, 4 July.
But in a follow up with the Ministry on Tuesday to ascertain if it has communicated with the U.S. Embassy what may have been the U.S. Diplomatic Mission’s response, Assistant Minister for Public Affair J. Wesley Washington told the NewDawn via mobile that once a matter is in Court the Ministry does not speak to it.
Earlier in a chart with an official knowledgeable on court proceedings, this paper was informed that should the diplomatic communication process fail to yield the desired result, the burden of providing the vehicles would still rest with the prosecution because the lower court has no authority over a diplomatic mission’s operating here but to only look up to the Supreme Court.
Last week, Judge Kaba instructed the Clerk of Court to insert in the communication to be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that it was the expectation of the Court that the vehicles be reported to the Court on or before Tuesday, 4 July to permit the Court to continue with the hearing of the case.
He was emphatic that it is a requirement under the Liberian law that object so situated as those vehicles be brought under the custody of the Court during the prosecution of a case involving such object.
“Pending the production of those vehicles therefore, this matter is hereby ordered continued (postponed) and reassign to Tuesday, the same being July 4, 2017, when the vehicles are expected to be brought under the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court”, Judge Kaba said.
Over claims of smuggling stolen cars belonging to individuals in the U.S. and understating their values at the Freeport of Monrovia, Liberia’s prosecutors have indicted four persons for theft of property, economic sabotage, smuggling, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation.
Two of the indictees including defendants Armstrong Tony Campbell and Sheak K. Brown are standing trial in the case, but government says the other two accused persons including Kandakai Sherman and U.S. – based Sheriff Lasuado will face separate trial upon being caught.
The defendants allegedly shipped to Liberia seven stolen cars without being authorized between July and October 2016, understated the value of the vehicles and paid into government revenue US$21,800.65 “when they should have paid US$92,233”.
The Court says it is information that the seven vehicles were placed under the custody of the U.S. Embassy here, noting that from the date of the commencement of the trial of the case, the “Court has ordered that the seven vehicles” be brought under the jurisdiction of the Court.
According to Judge Kaba had said the State requested the Court to have a subpoena issued through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and addressed to the U.S. Embassy, but the Court in its wisdom decides that rather than issue a subpoena, a communication will be addressed to the Ministry of Affairs to have it exert its influence.
The Court speaks of a precarious situation that it finds itself in concerning the successful disposition of the matter in the absence of those vehicles being brought under its jurisdiction.
By Winston W. Parley