Liberia: Senate Secretary Slams Court Summon in US$20M Libel Case

Senate Secretary Nanborlor Singbeh.

There is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen in the US$20 million damages lawsuit filed against the Secretary of the Liberian Senate, Nanborlor Singbeh, following his refusal to accept the summons which would have notified him that he has been sued.

A summons is a court form that notifies the defendant that they have been sued and lists the day the defendant needs to appear in court. Singbeh summons was issued by Judge Nancy Sammy of the Civil Law Court ‘A’ on August 17.

But the summon is yet to be served on Singbeh despite the Court giving him ten days to respond. The grace period ended on  August 27 since it was issued on  August 17. According to the court officers, they have not been able to reach Singbeh at his Capitol Building offices to have him served.

With this account, it remains to be seen whether Sammy will communicate with Senate President Pro-Tempore Albert  Chie to surrender Singbeh. In recent times, Sammy ordered the arrest of the Inspector General of the Liberian National Police (LNP), Col. Patrick Sudu, after he refused to attend her court summons. 

Interestingly, the following day Suede honored the summon and appeared before Sammy. It is not clear whether similar action will be taken against Singbeh if he were to continue to ignore her court summons.

Singbeh was sued by the Cllr. Amara Sheriff of the Liberia Law Group based on a complaint filed by Hans Armstrong a British investor, who claimed to have suffered from emotional trauma and public humiliation based on a publication in the Heritage Newspaper allegedly authored by Singbeh.

The lawsuit, Action of Damages for Defamation-Libel by Attachment, sought US$20, as general damages.

What is most interesting is that the court has no power to hear the US$ 20 million libel lawsuit against Singbeh until he is served the summons and complaint. And, it appears that he has not been able to hire a lawyer to make any submission to defend him.

When quizzed,  the court officers said, since they received the summon on August 17, they have gone to Singbeh's office to serve him, but each time, “they go there, they are informed by his staff, including the deputy Senate Secretary that he is always busy with the legislative session”.

"What you expect us to do, they have their own rules on this matter, and so we cannot go in their session to serve him with the summon," the officers claimed.

According to the court officer, they have gone to the Capitol Building on five different occasions to implement the court order, but they have failed to succeed.

"One time we went to the Capitol Building and the deputy Senate Secretary told us to wait until after the session to serve. We waited until 6 pm, and Singbeh did not show up at his office. And, so we left without seeing him, by then the session was over," the officers recounted.

"We cannot do anything now, since the date on the summon has expired. But it is the lawyer that can ask for a resummon, which is attached with a cost, then maybe we could this time go to search for him at his house," they added.

It can be recalled that Chie prevented the court officers from the Kakata Magisterial Court, in  Margibi County from arresting Singbeh, who was then charged with theft of property.

Senator Chie did not stop there, he wrote on his business card to Magistrate Victoria Duncan, where he justified his action, and informed the magistrate that he was going to allow Singbeh to attend the trial, and later Singbeh showed up after two months of waiting.

Armstrong alleges that the November 24, 2020 edition of the Heritage Newspaper carried a caption that “Senate Secretary Singbeh Complaint Judge Willie of unethical behavior — writes Chief Justice Korkpor.”

In the article, the suit contends that Judge Willie of the Criminal Court 'A' illegally obtained Singbeh's cell number 0886511308 from the management of Lonestar GSM  Company and issued it to Armstrong, who is using it to hack his account.

Further to the lawsuit, the publication alleges that Armstrong, a Syrian/Norwegian fugitive on Interpol Red Alert and Self-acclaimed British national, is wanted by Norway for crimes allegedly committed against children in that country. 

“Singbeh’s sole intent is for the publication to have Armstrong lynching, erode his business career and for his reputation to be damaged and has been damaged, all to the injury and detriment of the plaintiff,” the suit said.

“The conduct of the defendant Singbeh was intended to present Armstrong in a defamatory manner to the Liberian people and the international community, the business community, to the effect that plaintiff is fugitive and on the red alert list,” the suit said. 

Furthermore, the lawsuit said: “the content and tenor written to the chief justice shows that the defendant has other reasons for demonizing and tarnishing the image of the plaintiff, which has a damaging effect on the integrity of the plaintiff.” 

“The defendant’s actions are designed to bring harm and injury to the plaintiff, especially the defendant being fully aware of the effect of such false and malicious publication for such unwarranted acts, damages will lie against the defendant,” the suit claims.

The lawsuit also alleges that the defendant of the letter to Heritage Newspaper maligned/damaged the character and reputation of the plaintiff to the effect that it has indicated that the plaintiff has been associated with criminal activities without any proof and is a fugitive and on Interpol red alert.

“That because the defendant’s publication was made with malice, hatred and ill will towards the plaintiff and with the desire to injure plaintiff,” the suit contends.

“The defendant’s letter and its content publication were reckless and deliberate without investigating or verifying the facts, total disregard for the truth, thereby bringing plaintiff into public disrepute, which acts on the part of the defendant is reckless and in total disregard for plaintiff’s fundamental rights under the Liberian Constitution,” the suit added.