‘Effective Asset Recovery Requires a Specialized Court’

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Judge Richard S. Gebelein (left) in handshake with Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, president of the Liberian National Bar Association (middle)as staff of both LPAC and the LNBA look on.

-Says U.S. Retired Judge Gebelein

A visiting Superior Court Judge of the State of Delaware in the United States of America (USA) says for the government to be effective and efficient in its quest to recover stolen assets, there is a need for the creation of a specialized corruption court.

Judge Richard S. Gebelein said if the court is created it would help the government to recover stolen assets, particularly millions of United States dollars as have been done in the case of many countries that successfully uses the court to recover their stolen assets, emphasizing that Liberia should not be an exception.

Judge Gebelein came to Liberia under the auspices of the USAID funded Legal Professional Development and Anti-Corruption Program in Liberia (LPAC). In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer at the end of his two weeks visit to the country, Judge Gebelein said one of the major jurisdictions of the court is its ability to recover assets that were stolen from the state.

“If the court is successful in doing that there is a lot of money coming into to the country to support it and the government.”

He said the court should have exclusive jurisdiction to hear only corruption cases because, according to him, corruption cases take longer time to decide than ordinary cases.

By its nature, Judge Gebelein said, the court is about financial evidences that will involve expert witnesses and so,  it is preferable to have judges mending the court that are well-trained in that area.

Another aspect of the court, according to Gebelein, is that it usually requires for the establishment of a special group of prosecutors with special section within the Ministry of Justice or an independent agency that will be solely responsible for corruption cases.

On the issue of funding, the visiting judge said, the government does not need additional funds to operate the court, because it would be able to recover stolen assets from public officials of which the court can generate millions of United States dollars through the asset recovery.

Retired Judge Richard S. Gebelein

“The court, if successful, can recover millions of United States dollars to run its affairs,” Gebelein believes. However, he did not rule out the possibility of the government seeking funding from the international community to support the creation of the court.

According to Gebelein, his discussion with stakeholders in the justice sector, particularly judges, members of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) and the government, clearly gives him the impression that Liberia is now ready for the creation of the corruption court.

“I am impressed that there is a lot of support among professionals like the judges, the lawyers and public officials to have an independent corruption court,” the US retired judge stated, adding, “but we have to discuss about the format of that court that would fit into the Liberian justice system.”

About Judge Richard S. Gebelein

Judge Richard S. Gebelein is a senior judicial and prosecutorial expert with more than thirty five years of experience in the areas of prosecution, defense, judicial reform, anticorruption, sentencing policy, legal education, criminal law reform, ethics and professional and judicial discipline. Judge Gebelein is an experienced attorney, jurist, and international judicial reform expert who currently serves as Senior Counsel to The Bifferato Firm, where he specializes in mediation, arbitration and consults on complex litigation. He also served as a consultant to American University’s Office of Justice Programs.

Few highlights of Judge Gebelein’s career include: Serving as an International Judge on the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Economic, Organized Crime and Corruption, and War Crimes Chambers; Serving as Chief of Party for the USAID sponsored Justice Sector Development Project II in Bosnia and Herzegovina which project worked to improve the justice sector, strengthen the prosecution offices, and to encourage the participation of civil society in this sector; and Serving as a Superior Court Judge in Delaware for 21 years, where he presided over complex civil litigation including medical malpractice, insurance coverage and toxic tort cases as well as serious criminal cases, among others. He also served as “Rule of Law Officer” for Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan (2004-2005) where he coordinated law reform efforts of coalition forces with international organizations, US civilian agencies and Afghan agencies. In this role he developed and presented a program on appellate procedures for the new Supreme Court of Afghanistan.

Judge Gebelein is married and has three grown children.

Author

  • Anthony Kokoi is a young Liberian sports writer who has an ever-growing passion for the development of the game of football (soccer) and other sports. For the past few years, he has been passionately engaged in reporting the developments of the game in the country. He is an associate member of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL). He is a promoter of young talents. He also writes match reports and makes an analysis of Liberian Football.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, my honorable judge.

    There are many easy ways out to getting things done in Liberia but since most people are tainted, to do simple things becomes hurdles.
    We don’t need to be lectured in such processes but let’s see if Weah and team will accept the judge’s proposal since they too demolished and reconstruction their 4 houses into mansions in a single year.
    Sooner or later, there will be accountability in Liberia, come what may!

    • The good judge from America is assuming that legal professionals in Liberia are honest, they’re not. It’s hard to fix anything in Liberia because Liberians are too dishonest.

  2. WHAT IS THIS RETIRED JUDGE TALKING ABOUT, RECOVER ASSETS FROM WHERE? DID ANYONE TRY AT LEAST TO GIVE THIS GUY A HINT ABOUT THE HISTORY OF RAMPANT CORRUPTIONS IN LIBERIA? APPARENTLY, THIS RETIRED JUDGE IS NOT AWARE OR HE HAS NO IDEA RAMPANT CORRUPTION IS NOT A CRIME IN LIBERIA AT ALL. PROBABLY, HE FORGOT TO KNOW HE WAS NOT SPEAKING TO AMERICANS. CORRUPTION IS A VERY SERIOUS CRIME IN AMERICA NOT IN LIBERIA.
    SOMEONE NEEDS TO BE HONEST WITH THE RETIRED JUDGE, TELL THE RETIRED JUDGE CORRUPTION IS ACTUALLY IN OUR DNA IN LIBERIA, THEREFORE, NO AMOUNT OF IDEAS, TRAINING, SUGGESTION ABOUT HAVING SEPARATE COURT FOR ASSETS RECOVERY WILL STOP US FROM BEING CORRUPT. I THANK THE RETIRED JUDGE FOR HIS VISIT ANYWAY.

  3. The Judge Gebelein’s statements re-confirm a remark I made few days ago during a conversation with a fellow Liberian when I mentioned that Liberia has money that could enable her to tackle many of her pressing issues. However, in the face of realpolitik as it relates to the current events unfolding in the country, this proposition appears nearly impossible under an extremely corrupt and venal President Weah.

    The president’s morals and professional misconduct therefore trickles down to many of his lieutenants. As the saying goes, “One rotten apple has the potential of destroying the whole bunch.” And yet still another saying, which I like more as it relates to leadership is, “When the head is burnt, don’t ask for the beard because it is a part of the head.”

    So, there it is. The country’s growth has stagnated for several reasons. The president does not have time to concentrate on the purpose for which he came to power and to deliver on the promises of his Pro-Poor Agenda. This is happening because he has diverted billions of US and Liberian dollars out of the treasury to the building of his personal empire! Consequently, he has become the nation’s Globe-trotter-in-chief flying with large entourages from countries to countries begging their sovereigns to commence the tasks of rebuilding his country, the country for which he had sworn before his own citizens that he will rebuild.

    Amongst other issues, it is unimaginable to note that just yesterday Weah was out there stomping along with his CDC supporters, calling himself by one of the longest tribal names ever concocted in Liberia’s history of political campaigns (George Oppong Gbekkugbeh Manneh Weah). He used this as a ploy to alienate and denigrate other citizens, whose names sounded either European or partially Liberian. And for many of those, whose minds were inflexible or were only voting along tribal lines and care nothing about the big picture, they felt convinced by it.

    Finally, what has the down-to-earth country boy with the longest name from the downtrodden of Gibraltar become? What has the down-to-earth country boy whose name is synonymous with true devotion and love for one’s country become? Has he become blinded by the entrapping of money and wealth to the extent that he can no longer see the hardships of regular folks?

    Yes, I agreed with Judge Gebelein when he states that setting up of such a court will have to fit in Liberia’s justice system. Nevertheless, with the exception of some outside intervention to bring pressure to bear, the setting up of such a court cannot work in Liberia under the current government.

    • We are yet to see brother.
      Liberians have voted based on tribal lines or nepotism. We are doomed for 6 years. Don’t develop pressure like me

  4. Interesting how and in spite of all the deference in respect to the honorable visiting judge, not a single word was mentioned or ascribed to Cllr. Gongloe, as president of the LNB and one of the host institutions of this visitor? And yet this news story is emblazoned with a bigger-than-life picture of Cllr Gongloe. Either on purpose or out of ignorance. Either way Abednego Davis, the so-called reporter of this story owes Cllr. Gongloe and the LNBA an explanation, if not an apology. Such calculated “oversight!”

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