Liberia: Cephus on ‘Fishing Expedition’?

Solicitor General, Counselor Syrenius Cephus.

The Solicitor General, Counselor Syrenius Cephus, has simultaneously opened two criminal cases at the Criminal Court ‘C’ in Monrovia against two commercial banking institutions, Global Bank Liberia Limited and the Guaranty Trust (GT) Bank Liberia Limited, under the guise of retrieving millions of United States dollars allegedly stolen from the account of the Kailondo Petroleum Incorporated owned by Counselor George B. Kailondo.

In the first indictment, for which Kailondo is a key prosecution witness and has already taken the witness stand and testified in the matter, Cllr. Cephus alleged that the GT Bank illegally withdrew the amount of US$930,500 from Kailondo’s checking accounts lodged at the bank between 2014 and 2016.

In the second indictment, Cllr Cephus claimed that the Global Bank, without the consent of Kailondo, on numerous occasions unilaterally deducted commission and fees from the escrow and current account of the Kailondo Petroleum Incorporated, which amounted to both US$3,460,422.93, and L$6,245,800, from the deposit the company had made in its account.

In the case involving GT Bank, which is a commercial transaction that should have been handled by the Commercial Court, Cllr. Cephus chose to make it a criminal proceeding after the solicitor general’s intervention did not materialize, as the bank management refused to accept Cephus’ request to pay back the money to Kailondo.

The bank has so far denied the accusation, which denial means that Cllr Cephus has the burden of proof to show the evidence to convict the bank of the commission of multiple offenses that include misappropriation of entrusted property and theft of property, among others.

Interestingly, for Global Bank, the situation is different, because, the bank, on February 17, 2022 filed a lawsuit, a petition for Foreclosure of Mortgage against Kailondo Petroleum Incorporated and its executive officer, Cllr George Kailondo.

Unfortunately, while the lawsuit against Kailondo is still pending undecided before the Commercial Court, Cllr Cephus, on February 18, 2022 — just a day after the lawsuit was filed against Kailondo — went ahead to the Grand Jury for Montserrado County, which is housed at Criminal Court ‘A’ in Monrovia, and indicted the bank, which trial is also going on. 

In the lawsuit, the bank argued that Kailondo, in several communications, requested the bank for credit (loan) facilities.

Later, the bank claimed that it offered Kailondo the loan facilities to be paid as per the term specified in the facility letters. However, the bank claimed that upon Kailondo’s failure to pay the loan, Kailondo requested a restructure of the loan. 

“The request of Kailondo was granted and the loan was restructured. However, Kailondo failed, refused and neglected to pay the loan and the restructure,” the court records obtained from the Commercial Court said.

Besides the loan being restructured, the document claimed that Kailondo entered a mortgage deed agreement with the bank, and submitted copies of his deed as collateral for the loan.

Again, Kailondo allegedly executed several other agreements with the bank, obliging him to pay the loan or, alternatively, the properties that should have been a subject for the proceeding would be placed for public auction.

Therefore, the bank prayed that, “the petition for foreclosure will properly lie to recover the amount of US$3,573,678.16, as loan indebtedness to the bank.”

Maybe Cephus is trying to prevent Kailondo’s property from being auctioned by the court, that must have led to the indictment of the bank, at Criminal Court ‘A’ in Monrovia.

Cephus’ indictment claimed that the bank, without the consent of Kailondo, influenced or authorized the withdrawal, transfer, deduction of commission and fees from the accounts (escrow and current) in both currencies the amount of US$3,460,422.93, and L$6,245,800.

With the unfolding development now at the Criminal Court ‘C’ involving the Solicitor General Cephus, Counselor Kailondo on one side, and both GT Bank and Global Bank on a separate side, many legal practitioners are describing, Cephus’ criminal accusation against the two commercial banking institutions as a ‘fishing expedition’.