In her determination to exonerate herself from the sale of the Japanese Oil Grant, in which the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) claimed government lost over US$5million, former Commerce Minister, Miatta Beysolow’s request for separate trial was granted yesterday by Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice.
Beysolow and other defendants including former Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) Managing Director, T. Nelson Williams; former Deputy Managing Director for Operations at the LPRC, Aaron Wheagar; Commerce Ministry Director for Price Analysis and Marketing, Steve Flahn-Paye; and Aminata and Sons Inc, were jointly indicted by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
Their charges include economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy, criminal facilitation and violation of Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) procedures and processes.
They are indicted for the roles each of them allegedly played while using Aminata & Sons to sell oil that was presented to Liberia by the Japanese government to augment its economy.
Former Minister Beysolow’s legal team contended that if their client is tried along with the other defendants, it would deny her right to a free, fair and impartial trial as guaranteed by the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.
They strongly argued that Beysolow did not at any time facilitate or conspire with the other co-defendants to commit the acts mentioned in the indictment.
However, the LACC claimed that she was part of the group that fraudulently set a significant lower concessionary price at which the donated petroleum products were sold, at a great financial loss to the government.
Therefore, she should not be granted a separate trial.
Denying LACC’s contention, Judge Paye openly said, “It would be improper and prejudicial to prosecute codefendant Miatta Beysolow along with the other defendants.”
Justifying his action, the Criminal Court Judge said testimonies and the LACC’s Final Investigative Report failed to establish that she facilitated and conspired with the other defendants, as the LACC claimed in the indictment.
Judge Paye went on saying: “Therefore, it is the ruling of the court that the request for separate trial (severance) being supported by law must be, and same is hereby granted,” adding, “Miatta Beysolow will be tried separately, and the resistance to her request is hereby denied.”
The Criminal Court judge said his decision is consistent with Chapter 16, Section 16.10 of the Criminal Law.
He cited the provision as saying, “If it appears that a defendant or the government is prejudiced by a joiner of offences or a defendant in an indictment or by a joiner for trial together, the court may order an election or separate trial of courts, or grant a severance of defendant or provide whatever other relief justice requires.”
Strangely, lawyers of the LACC failed to show up for the court’s ruling yesterday.
Despite their absence, Judge Paye appointed Atty. Edward Z. Fahnbullah of the Henries and Heneris Law Firm to receive the ruling for the LACC.
Before appointing Atty. Fahnbullah, Judge Paye said, “This ruling was assigned today (yesterday) in the presence of lawyers of the LACC.
“This court wonders why they are not here when the time has exceeded after thirty minutes. Due to their absence, this court will appoint counsel to take the ruling for and on behalf of the LACC.”