Liberia: Supreme Court Descends on Gracious Ride

Gives Taxi Company a 5-day ultimatum to provide Board Resolution

The Supreme Court has issued a five-day ultimatum to Gracious Ride Transport Service to provide evidence of ownership amidst a case involving the seizure of the company’s vehicles by President Boakai’s Assets Recovery Taskforce.

The company’s vehicles, predominantly taxis, were recently seized by President Boakai’s Assets Recovery Task Force on grounds that they were acquired through fraudulent means by a former top government official.

However, the company’s manager Francis T Blama argued that the task force is in error over the ownership of the vehicles as he is the actual owner of the company.

He therefore filed for a Writ of Prohibition to prevent the task force from confiscating the taxis, claiming ownership.

The request was partly accepted by Associate Justice Yussif Kaba, currently presiding in Chambers of the Supreme Court, who imposed a temporary suspension on the working of the task force and subsequently instructed returns of all the vehicles seized during its operations, until the conclusion of Monday’s conference.

During a closed-door conference convened by the High Court on Monday, April 1, it was revealed that Blama lacked the necessary authorization from a board resolution or legal standing to initiate the lawsuit on behalf of the company.

The court noted that the lawsuit was solely based on Blama’s authority as a manager, without proper documentation empowering him to act on behalf of the company.

“While perusing the complaint, it was realized that Blama, in his capacity as manager of the plaintiff company, had authorized himself to sign, verify, and file the present suit,” the court said.

Apart from the letter of authorization, the plaintiff company has not filed on record any board resolution authorizing Blama to sign, verify, and institute the present suit. 

The plaintiff has also not filed on record its memorandum/articles to show that Blama had been vested with the powers or had been given a general power of attorney on behalf of the company to sign, verify, and institute the suit on behalf of the company. 

The present suit, therefore, has been filed merely on the strength of Blama, who had no legal standing to do so.

“He is only a manager …and alone he has no power, except such as may be delegated to him by the Board of Directors or given to him by the articles of association of a company,” a source quoted Kaba.

In the case at hand, Kaba observed that the complaint for the writ was filed by one of the managers and, as already stated by Blama, who had initially complained to the Supreme Court that the subject vehicles were illegally seized by the task force and without any resolution of the company or any authorization from the Board of Directors.

This was after Gracious Ride, the taxi company’s manager Francis T Blama, prayed for the High Court to call the task force to order by stopping its seizure action against the company’s vehicles.

The taxi company, according to members of the task force, is owned by former President George Weah’s Chief of Protocol, Finda Bundoo.

Blama, through his legal team, told the court that the vehicles were illegally seized by the task force on grounds that they were acquired through fraudulent means by a top government official, whom the task force is mistaking to be the owner — though he owns the vehicles.

Besides, the task force was subsequently ordered to release all the vehicles seized during its recent operation to the owners pending yesterday’s conference.

Fighting corruption and recovering stolen state assets and property were some of Boakai’s key 2023 campaign promises. On 5 March, he issued an executive order establishing the Office of Assets Recovery. This was followed by the announcement of a task force to crack down on corruption and try to retrieve stolen funds.

The Assets Recovery and Property Retrieval Core Team is mandated to ensure processes leading to the location, recovery, and retrieval — through criminal prosecutions and civil litigations — of public resources and properties that have been illegally acquired or converted to private use by officials of past administrations.

In the executive order, Boakai said: “It is paramount that public assets that were illegally obtained and converted to private use are retrieved and returned to the Liberian people and the perpetrators are brought to justice in accordance with appropriate laws that provide for confiscation through criminal investigation and legal prosecution.”

Meanwhile, the case between the Taskforce and Gracious Ride underscores the importance of valid representation and authorization when initiating legal actions. As the legal proceedings continue, clarity regarding ownership and authority within Gracious Ride Transport Service will likely be crucial in resolving the dispute.