A ruling as to whether or not former Commerce Minister Miatta Beysolow should be tried separately from her codefendants has been scheduled for next week.
The decision came after her lawyers and those of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), which seeks to prosecute her for allegedly misapplying over US$5 million from the sale of a Japanese Oil Grant, rested yesterday with their final legal argument into the matter.
Although Judge Emery Paye of Criminal Court ‘C’, where the case is expected to be heard, did not say exactly what day of next week, he was heard saying to the lawyers, “You know that I just took over this court from Judge Blamo Dixon and I need enough time to review the case file because it is bulky.”
If Judge Paye were to deny Beysolow’s request for a separate trial, she would join the other defendants to face her charges, which include economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy, criminal facilitation and violation of required Public Procurement and Concession Commission or PPCC procedures and processes.
Beysolow has denied these charges and is opting for a separate trial to adequately defend her own interest, because, according to her, the indictment failed to link her as one of the facilitators of the crimes.
Minister Beysolow, together with T. Nelson Williams, Jr., former managing director of Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC); Aaron Wheagar, former Managing Director for operations at the LPRC; Steve Flahn-Paye, Commerce Ministry’s Director for Price Analysis and Marketing; and Aminata and Sons, Inc., was jointly indicted by the LACC.
LACC also claims that the Minister in August 2011 personally executed the syndicate along with the codefendants where they handpicked Aminata and Sons. Inc., a wholesale and retail petrol dealer, without a competitive bid process to distribute and sell the Japanese petroleum products, in violation of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) Act, during which they misapplied over US $5million from the sale of the products.
Presenting their side of the argument yesterday, Beysolow’s lawyers described her trial as a “witch hunt.”
Further in their argument, Beysolow’s lawyers said, after conducting an investigation into the matter, the General Auditing Commission (GAC) cleared their client of participating in the sale of the oil grant.
Besides the GAC investigation, the lawyers alleged that LACC’s internal investigation also cleared Beysolow of any involvement in the arrangement and sale of the products.
According to the lawyers, both the LACC and GAC recommended President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to take administrative action against Minister Beysolow for not doing much to supervise the sale of the donated oil grant from the government of Japan for the social and economic development of Liberia.
“Our client is entitled to and should be granted a separate trial under the facts and circumstances of the case, because the persons so charged are separate and distinct individuals; the defenses of the accused are not the same, especially when she has not been singled out on crimes committed or conspired,” they claimed during the hearing.
Although the lawyers argued that Beysolow was serving as minister when the oil grant was donated to the government, she was not in the country when the other codefendants entered into an agreement with Aminata and Sons to determine the selling price of the product; for which the
LACC is claiming that the defendants did not reduce the price of the product by 21.19%, as was approved by the government.
Instead, the LACC claimed the defendants sold the products without the deducted price and pocketed the balance, which they said, amount to over US$5 million.