Liberia: Judge Carey Releases a US$135K Convict for US$500

Judge Ciapha Carey of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Bomi County


.... Leaves the Judgment creditor in limbo

The 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Bomi County has released from prison a convicted Ghanaian national,  Abdul Razak Kawarnu, for US$500 even though he was convicted for a US$135K   "theft of property" case. 

Kawarnu was convicted in 2022 by then Judge Peter Gbeneweneh for "scrapping a D-8 earth moving equipment " which was valued at US$280K and  belonged to Hans Armstrong, a British national and owner of the  Horizon Company based in Monrovia. 

In his ruling, the judge reduced the equipment value  to US$135K and ordered Kawarnu to pay 25% of the judgment amount, which represents US$33,750.

Gbeneweneh, however, suspended Kawarnu's prison time on grounds of poor health but with a mandate that the convicted  Ghanaian criminal should not be free until the 25% upfront payment. Kawarnu who was jailed at the Tubmanburg Central Prison was then freed by Judge Ciapha Carey after he took over assignments from  Gbeneweneh in July 2023.

According to Cllr. Jumah Karnley, Bomi County Attorney, Kawarnu was released in the same month Carey took over the Court. 

Karnley, who was a witness to the transaction, noted that Kawarnu was freed immediately after his relatives, James G. Foday and Paulina Karpeh, made a payment of  US$500 to Carey's in his Chamber. The discussion that led to Kawarnu's release, Karnley said, was very "brief" and directly to the point.

" I am aware of the discussion to release Kawarnu to his relatives due to poor health,  and I know that there was payment made to Judge Carey, " Karnley said, while responding to a phone call placed to him by the Daily Observer.

"I only heard from the court clerk that the sureties for Kawarnu paid US$500 towards the 25% payment. Instead of the 25%, that is US$333,750," Karnley further maintained.

He noted that his only regret "as one of the prosecutors in the case was" not to inform Armstrong about the discussion that led to Kawarnu release from prison. 

Kawarnu revelation is backed by a promissory note whose authentication the Daily Observer has confirmed and is  dated July 2023, and contained the name and  signature of Carey, along with Foday and Karpeh.

"Knowing all men that are represented, we the undersigned,  in persons of James G.Foday and Paulina Karpeh, do hereby stand as sureties for defendant Abdul Razak Kawarnu,  so as to enable him undergo medical treatment," promissory note reads.

"And,  we also promise to ensure that the defendant complies with the court's ruling as to the payment of the 25% of the total judgment due to the plaintiff within the period from July 2023 to December 2023. 

"We do hereby also promise to produce the defendant's living body before the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Bomi County,  Republic of Liberia, wherever the court demands his appearance."

Meanwhile, Armstrong, whose equipment  Kawarnu was convicted for stealing, has noted that neither  he nor his lawyer   Attorney Abubarkar M. Kiawu, "was never contacted about the decision which is a complete violation of his right as a party to the case."

Armstrong noted that "as it stands" he does not know the whereabouts of the "Kawarnu" and those who signed off on  his release."

"Since 2022 when he was convicted with a condition to pay 25%,   I have never received any information from the case regarding payment, until this September 2023, when I decided to contact the court,  before I was informed about Kawarnu's release and that a US$500 was paid, which I have not received," Armstrong said

The British national noted that he planned to seek redress from Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh and Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean.