Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage authorized by Criminal Court ‘C’ yesterday to be viewed by jurors has revealed defendants Joseph Weeks and Linda Sumowood, as persons receiving US$500 as a bribe from one Varney Johnson.
Johnson is believed to be a customs broker for businessman Abraham Gumbaja Sinayoko.
Weeks and Sumowood were both assigned at the Customs Business Office at the Free Port of Monrovia. They are charged with multiple crimes, including economic sabotage, bribery and criminal facilitation.
They were said to have demanded and received the money from Sinayoko, who had shipped into the country a container of assorted commodities, with the pretense that Sinayoko owed government additional duties amounting to US$2,352.91, for which they needed the US$500 to cancel.
In his testimony as prosecution’s second witness, Sumo Kalaplee said he viewed the footage, but said he was not at the Free Port when the pair allegedly received the money.
He further testified that the footage presented in court was the same that he had previously viewed when a copy was made from the surveillance system’s server immediately after the incident.
Kalaplee’s testimony appeared to be very similar to the one that prosecution’s first witness, LNP officer Albert Peters had provided.
Officer Peters testified that before arresting the two customs officers, he spotted Weeks receiving money from Varney Johnson, believed to be Sinayoko’s broker.
The incident prompted Peters to ask Weeks to step out from behind his counter, but while leaving the counter, the defendant also allegedly dropped the money on Sumowood’s counter, who later took possession of it.
Further to Kalaplee’s testimony, Peters claimed that while he was on one of his daily routines, he received information that two of his employees and a police officer, identified as Albert Peters, were engaged in a serious confusion over a bribery allegation.
Weeks and Sumowood had initially argued that Peters falsely accused them of receiving an envelope that contained US$500 from Varney Johnson, of which they claimed they had no knowledge.
“I hurriedly arrived at the port and was briefed by the parties, so I suggested that since this was an allegation on somebody receiving money, we all should allow everybody to view the CCTV to see what went wrong,” Kalaplee explained.
“The parties and myself proceeded into the chief collector’s office, and we started to play the CCTV footage in which we came to a point where it clearly identified defendant Weeks, through the window of his assigned desk, receiving an envelope from one Varney Johnson,” the witness alleged.
Kalaplee alleged that when Weeks received the envelope he immediately opened it and checked the content, clearly seen on the footage, before putting it in his pocket.
The witness claimed that after officer Peters spotted Weeks in the footage, it was then that he asked him to step out from behind his desk.
“Sumowood, being aware that a criminal investigation was being carried out by officer Peters, folded the US$500 and walked away with the intention to frustrate the investigation,” the state witness claimed.
The case continues.