The indicted former board chair of the lucrative National Oil Company of Liberia, Mr. Clemenceau Urey, and co-indictee Cllr. Stephen B. Dumbar, Jr. are seeking the dismissal of government’s indictment that has listed them and several ex-officials for allegedly defrauding the State of US$120,400 while working at NOCAL between May 2006 and May 2007, respectively.
Mr. Urey, a two times defeated senatorial candidate of the ruling Unity Party, and Cllr. Dumbar were jointly indicted along with former NOCAL President, Dr. Fodee Kromah; former Education Minister, Dr. D. Evelyn Kandakai; Peter B. Jallah Jr; former comptroller, Fulton Reeves; former Senior Accountant, Mr. Timothy G. Wiaplah, 52nd Legislative member Alomiza Innos-Bar and legislative staff Mr. J. Nanborlor Sengbeh, Sr. for alleged economic sabotage, bribery and conspiracy.
But Urey and Dumbar are just two of the indicted ex-officials known so far to be demanding the dismissal of the indictment, as their lawyers and prosecutors extensively engaged in debate Thursday, March 12 before the Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice over a statutory provision on whether or not, to dismiss it in regards to ‘time limit.’
Mr. Urey was said to have left office at NOCAL in 2012, while Cllr. Dumbar reportedly left office earlier in 2007.
Based on Section 4.2 of the Criminal Procedure Law here, the defense team for Mr. Urey and Cllr. Dumbar argued that the indictment should be dismissed because prosecution of their clients should have commenced within five years after the offense was committed.
But citing Section 4.3 of the Criminal Procedure Law, trial for an offense, a material element of which is either fraud or breach of fiduciary obligation may be commenced within two years after the discovery of the offense by the injured person or his legal representative even though the period provided in section 4.2 has expired.
They however told the court that in no case shall the provision extend the period of limitation otherwise applicable by more than five years.
Additionally citing Section 4.4, which the State sees as key in their argument, they asked the court to deny the defendants’ motion to dismiss the indictment because the law provides here that prosecution for an offense based on misconduct in office by a public official or employee may be commenced at any time while the defendant is in public office within two years thereafter, even though the period provided in section 4.2 has expired.
However, they were clear that the statute says in no case shall this provision extend the period of limitation otherwise applicable by more than five years.
The defense maintained that the State could not benefit from “extension of time” as provided in section 4.4 because prosecutors discovered the offense in April 2011 while still in the five years period provided.
The defense therefore argued that prosecutors should have begun trial of the accused following an audit report, which was submitted to the government and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission by the General Auditing Commission.
This argument was countered by the prosecutors, with allegations that the accused officials did not comply with the LACC’s investigation, which needed to do more detailed criminal investigation to establish whether government could prosecute.
Liberia’s Solicitor General, Madam Betty Lamin Blamon, said the GAC report was not conclusive to be used in court; thus, the State did an extensive investigation, which unearthed more actors in the conspiracy, including Dr. Kandakai, Urey, among others.
She said when LACC began criminal investigation, it had to run to the Criminal Court “C” to beg the court to compel NOCAL at the time to submit to investigators, documents that were being hidden by officials, and NOCAL allegedly failed to honor the court’s order to the extent that a bail of information had to be filled with the court.
The court is expected to rule in this argument on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 2pm.
By Winston W. Parley