Liberia: Court Clears Matilda Parker, Others of Criminal Charges
.... “The submission by the prosecution for the arraignment of defendants is denied, while the application of defendants’ counsel for the dismissal of the indictment is hereby granted,” the judge ruled.
The Resident Circuit Judge of Criminal Court ‘C’, Blamo A. Dixon, has dropped all criminal charges against Matilda W. Parker, the former National Port Authority Managing Director, who was charged with economic sabotage, theft of property, and criminal conspiracy.
Parker and her co-defendants, Christina K. Paelay, former Comptroller of the National Port Authority (NPA), were indicted for the alleged afore-mentioned crimes by the Government of Liberia on July 20, 2015, during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The two defendants were being tried for years on allegations of corruption in awarding contracts without the approval of the Public Procurement and Concession Commissions (PPCC) on behalf of the NPA for wreck removal projects at the ports of Monrovia, Buchanan, and Greenville.
The cases, which are currently at the Criminal Court ‘C’ in Monrovia, are based on a 2015 investigative report by the LACC.
The prosecution claimed that the contract was awarded to a company called “Denmar Enterprise”, which was charged under the contract with the responsibility of providing security consultancy services in the amount of over US$800,000, of which the former MD Parker made fraudulent payments to co-defendant Deneah M. Flomo, owner of Denmar Enterprise, who did not perform the task stipulated in the contract agreement.
Since then, the case has been pending before the First Judicial Circuit, Criminal Court ‘C’ for Montserrado County, for reasons unknown.
However, according to the court document in possession of the Daily Observer noted that Dixon’s decision to dismiss the indictment came days after the Government of Liberia filed a motion to drop all charges against the defendants on November 10.
Dixon in his court order noted that the indictment and the charges contained therein are accordingly dismissed without prejudice to the state, “that is to say, pending the full conclusion of the criminal charges against Madam Parker and co-defendants in the First Judicial Circuit Court in Montserrado County.”
“The submission by the prosecution for the arraignment of defendants is denied, while the application of defendants’ counsel for the dismissal of the indictment is hereby granted,” the judge ruled.
Dixon also acquitted, discharged, and set free the defendants from further answering to the charges levied against them, and their criminal appearance bond was ordered to be returned to them.
“The clerk of this court is hereby ordered to prepare a release in favor of all of the defendants in these proceedings, thereby restoring their rights as guaranteed under the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia,” Dixon instructed.
The said motion was signed by Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh, Assistant Minister of Justice for Litigation, and the case was finally dismissed on November 17, during the November 2022 term of court in Montserrado County.
In October 2018, during the trial of the two former NPA officials at the Temple of Justice, the prosecution lawyer and Solicitor General, Daku Mulbah, requested the court accept the testimonies of six witnesses who had earlier testified in the case when it first resumed at the same court in 2015.
Mulbah then told the court that his request was based on the fact that some of the witnesses who had earlier testified in the case were out of the country, and those in the country were not willing to come out to testify again.
Therefore, he prayed for the court to accept the testimony from the previous trial, as it is acceptable under the law.
However, defense lawyer Cllr. Arthur Johnson then rejected the request and asked the court to deny and dismiss the request because accepting it meant that the two former officials would not get a free and fair trial as the current case before the court was being handed over to a new judge.
Despite the plea of the defense counsel, Johnson, the judge of the court, Boima Kontoe, ruled and granted the prosecution’s request, stating that the Supreme Court opinion cited by the prosecution in support of their argument in the case called for the acceptance of a witness’s testimony who could not be available when the same case has resumed for the second time.
His ruling to accept the prosecution’s request was again rejected by the defense counsel, who filed a writ of certiorari before Supreme Court Justice-in-Chief Sie Nyene Youh, now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
A writ of certiorari is typically filed by defense counsel with the Supreme Court to correct a decision made by lower court judges that a party believes is incorrect.
On November 20, 2018, during the hearing of the writ of certiorari by Youh, prosecution lawyer Cllr. Jerry Garlawolo called on the high court to announce that the state was withdrawing its response to the petition from the defense counsel so that the defendants could get a speedy trial in line with Article 21(h) of the 1986 Constitution, which calls for a speedy trial of an accused person.