The Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) has lost its first major power theft case following over two years of court proceedings.
The Corporation filed criminal charges, including power theft and theft of property against Victor S. Yowo, one of its employees in the security department. However, after more than two years of litigation, a jury found Yowo not guilty of the charges brought against him by LEC.
The verdict, delivered by the jury at Criminal Court ‘C’, was issued on August 15, 2022.
“The Two (2) unanimous Not Guilty Verdicts brought down by the Trial Jury to whom the Case of alleged Power Theft and alleged Theft of Property are assigned and are hereby confirmed and affirmed and the said Two (2) Unanimous Not Guilty Verdicts are hereby incorporated into the minutes of the court to form a cogent and an integral part of the case. The Indictment drawn up against the Defendant is hereby quashed and denied and the case is hereby dismissed with prejudice against the State,” the court said in its final judgment.
The court then ordered that a clearance be issued in favor of defendant Yowo, declaring him not guilty of all charges and commanded LEC to return all items said to have been collected from the residence of defendant Yowo.
The clearance was issued to Yowo on August 18, 2022.
However, following all the proceedings, LEC’s legal team took exception to the ruling, which was also noted in the court’s final judgment. And while the entity has not stated in clear terms its next course of action, as a state-owned enterprise, it has no right to appeal the matter before the Supreme Court. Yet, LEC categorically noted that it is not in agreement with the ruling by Criminal Court ‘C’ and will act appropriately.
In his reaction to the ruling, Victor S. Yowo said he is thankful that justice has been served and he will do all he can to ensure his just benefits, including salary arrears for two years, as well as the present months elapsing, are given him.
“I am a victim of an effort to help defeat the rampant power theft across Monrovia and many other places. I was punished wrongly for two consecutive years. I have spent most of the months of the two years behind the rusty prison bars of the Monrovia Central Prison; but thank God, Cllr. Norris Tweah stood up for me and pleaded my case, even though I had no money to give him,” Yowo said.
According to Yowo, LEC’s punishment of him was intended to silence him from exposing what he referred to as “a syndicate of robbery of State funds through electricity supply and other related services.”
He alleged that hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars worth of lawful revenue from electricity supply are being pocketed by individuals working within the employ of LEC; thereby contributing to the strangulation of the entity, bleeding it of the earnings needed to run its day-to-day activities.
“I was employed by LEC on February 7, 2016. I have been in the system for so long as a trained security personnel. I rose from the rank of a cadet to a supervisor of security for Bushroad Island and Mount Coffee Hydro, the main source of power supply. I was trusted and even allowed to accompany the power theft team on a number of their missions,” he said, adding that his exposure to the activities of the power theft team allowed him access to know about how LEC is defrauded on a daily basis.
“I got to know about how they bypass someone’s meter from a payable point to a non-payable point. They go back to those they do such connections for and collect huge sums of money. If the person is to pay let’s say US$50,000, he or she pays as low as US$25,000 or a little more to those guys. I was against it and that led to the exposure of some big businessmen who were arrested for colluding with thieves within the system of LEC in order to pay far less or nothing for electricity supply to their businesses,” Yowo disclosed.
He alleged that due to his robustness in exposing and helping in the fight against corruption at the LEC, he became a victim rather than hailed by management for his good and brave efforts directed at helping the country.
“I am sick of the way this country is proceeding. People who do good are condemned and punished while those who do the wrong, mainly stealing from the State, are hailed and celebrated,” he said.
He explained that the reason many government employees at LEC earn little money but are building luxurious homes and driving exotic vehicles, is because they benefit a lot more from the spoils and are ever ready to protect the wrongdoing by chasing out anyone who attempts to expose them.
Yowo said at no point did LEC ever investigate him for any wrong doing relative to his job, nor was he ever served a letter of suspension or dismissal. Therefore, he said, he will not renege in pursuing under the rule of law his legitimate entitlements.
He said he was innocent of all the charges against him, having not taken part in any alleged illegal mass disconnection of homes, nor did he take control of anyone’s electrical materials as reported.
When asked as to what is his next course of action, he said he will consult with his lawyer on the way forward.
Verity Sonkarly, a team member from the LEC communications and public affairs office, said LEC suspects that something wrong occurred during the litigation.“We took Victor to Court and we have given out and still have in our possession the preponderance of evidence proving that he did something wrong as charged by the Police and tried by the Court,” Sonkarly said via a phone interview with the Daily Observer.