Angry Sand Miners Besiege Judges

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Angry employees of Chinese sand mining company, LICHI Inc. last Thursday stormed the Commercial Court – leaving staff and judges to seek refuge in their offices – as security officers prevented them from entering the courtroom.

However, no one was physically attacked and no property damaged during the hours-long protest, security officers said.

Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan intervened and pleaded for a conference with the group on Tuesday, January 12.

The uproar occurred after the court released a bulldozer and two vehicles belonging to LICHI Inc.

The court seized the equipment after LICHI failed to honor its ruling of 2015 to the tune of US$76,892, including a 6% statutory interest, in favor of the employees.

The items were confiscated after Associate Judge Richard S. Klah held the Chinese company liable after the company failed to settle with the employees.

The employees had supplied 4,586 loads of river sand to the company on credit for the cost of US$100,892 – at the rate of US$22 per load – under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The angry employees and their legal team were expected to receive the money from LICHI’s management last Thursday, but to their surprise when they appeared at the Temple of Justice the bulldozer and the two vehicles were nowhere to be found. They also did not get the expected money from the court.

With this development, the employees and their lawyers proceeded to the office of Judge Klah to ascertain why the bulldozer and the vehicles were not at the Temple of Justice.

They were informed by Judge Klah that the company’s management, through its legal team, had raised legal issues which needed to be discussed.

As a result the employees decided to vent their anger against the judge’s decision. Some of them were heard saying: “they (the judges) have colluded with the company to deny us our money, but that will not happen, even if it were to cause our death.”

Others were heard saying, “There is no justice in Liberia… we will ensure that we force our own justice,” while some threatened to go to the office of Chief Justice Francis Korkpor for redress.

Though Judge Klah had decided the matter by ex-parte, following the company’s lawyers’ absence from the case despite repeated summons, he went ahead to accept the company’s request asking for proper accountability.

An ex-parte decision is one decided by a judge without requiring all of the parties to the controversy to be present.

The case started in 2012 when Atty. Massaquoi filed an Action of Debt by Attachment against Hua Lee and LICHI, contending that both companies were indebted to their employees to the tune of US$100, 892.

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