Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister, Julia Duncan Cassell, has been ordered arrested by the Commercial Court for her continued, deliberate refusal to settle a judgment debt against her and the ministry in the amount of US$93,805.72 .
At the Temple of Justice in Monrovia yesterday, Associate Judge Chan-Chan Peagar, one of the Commercial Court’s three-judge-panel, ordered the execution of the warrant of arrest for Minister Duncan.
“I hereby order the arrest of Minister Duncan; and therefore, she should be detained at a common prison pending payment of the judgment debt against her, and that she is also fined US$150 for defying the court’s order,” Paegar instructed.
He said Minister Duncan’s action has brought the court and the entire judiciary to public disrepute, “because she has failed to show up for the past five months, which demonstrates her unwillingness to pay the judgment rendered against her on July 14, 2017.”
In early 2017, the court ruled against Cassell, and subsequently ordered her to pay US$93,805.72 to Smart Tech Incorporated for ITT Infrastructure services provided to her ministry in 2016.
The contract was intended for Smart Tech to provide internet connectivity to the ministry, which work the company completed within the time frame of 60 days as stipulated.
Before issuing the arrest order yesterday, the court held Minister Cassell in contempt, of which she was charged and expected to have provided her defense yesterday, but she did not attend, thus prompting the court’s decision against her.
Earlier, Minister Duncan’s lawyer, Dallamah Sulonteh, pleaded with the court not to issue the arrest warrant, because she was attending an official duty outside the country, but that request was rejected by Paegar.
“I want to assure the court that upon Minister Cassell’s return by the end of this week, the court will make effort for her to settle the full amount of US$93,805.72 as judgment debt,” Sulonteh promised.
“I beg this court to kindly temper justice with mercy, because we will make the necessary effort with the ministry to make the full settlement of the money to flush out the contempt against the minister.”
In counter argument, Smart Tech Incorporated’s lawyer, Cooper Kruah, asked the court to deny Sulonteh’s application for mercy and to pursue the contempt charge against his client on grounds that they have written several communications requesting her to pay the money, requests which he said the minister continues to ignore.
“The request is designed to frustrate us from receiving our money until the end of this administration which is just 18 days away,” Kruah noted.
He argued that the absence of Minister Cassell is not a proper excuse, because she did not travel with any of the ministry’s check books; so to say she is outside of the country does not provide any legal basis to halt the payment of the court’s judgment.
Kruah added: “To allow Minister Cassel not to pay the money, it means that this court will be placing hardship on my client, because the money was borrowed from a bank, and the time for the loan payment has since expired.”