The conduct of an associate magistrate at the Monrovia City Court hearing the US$10,000 “escaped bondsman” case involving Continental General Life Insurance Company and a Chinese businesswoman, has constrained prosecution to take the matter to the Supreme Court of Liberia.
The name of the Magistrate is being withheld for the present.
The threat on the Magistrate involves his failure to issue an arrest warrant against the insurance company’s executive, amid their alleged refusal to appear before the court on several occasions to produce their bondsman or pay said money as promised.
The company in early April secured a criminal apparance bond to release from the Monrovia Central Prison a senior officer of the Liberia National Police (LNP) accused of stealing US$10,000.
The officer, Mamadee Kelleh, chief of operation at the LNP’s Freeport Depot, was accused of pilfering said amount from a Chinese businesswoman, Lilly Lee, which he admitted when he appeared before the Court.
At a Tuesday, June 3rd hearing, the company again failed to appear in court, despite receiving a notice of assignment. This prompted prosectuion to allege that the conduct of the magistrate was “completely unbecoming,” as a presiding judcial officer.
The prosecution said they suspected irregularities in the trial and threatened to referre the case to the high court for review.
The state lawyer was heard stating in open court, “A delay of this magnitude is completely unacceptable,” and added that the Magistrate was not taking the matters seriously.
“Today is the last chance we are giving to him; if he fails to arrest the company’s executive, we are going to take the matter to the high court to order enforcement.”
Also speaking to reporters at the Temple of Justice, the victim, Madam Lee, who was in tears, wondered, “When will I get justice? The court does not want to ensure fair trial in the matter. He is still having the difficult task to deciding whether the company should pay my money,” she insisted. “This case needs to claim the attention of the high court. They need to know about it and to ensure that I get justice.”
She added, “I thought judges in Liberia should have the courage to discharge their responsibilities without fear and favor, but that seems not to be happening in my case.”
It all began when the magistrate ordered Kelleh, who had served a week of his jail sentence, be released from custody and placed in the hands of the Insurance Company.
After he was released on bond at one a Court hearing, the company’s executive director, George Dahn, informed the Magistrate that the police officer, whose bond they filed, had escaped the country, promising to pay the money within a month's period to the Chinese businesswoman.
Since their first appearance at the Court, the Magistrate on several occasions through communications has cited the Company to appear for the hearing, which they have failed to honor.
The Court, however, has also failed to take any action, such as issuing a contempt charge against them.