-Says Judge Blamo Dixon of Criminal Court ‘C’
Criminal Court ‘C’ in Monrovia on Friday, November 8, acquitted three suspended senior managers of the National Housing Authority (NHA), including its managing director, Duannah Siryon, of corruption charges on grounds that they did not solicit US$80,000 as bribe in exchange for granting the 50,000 housing units project to GELPAZ-IMMO, a Burkina Faso-owned company.
The company has been in the country to construct over 50,000 housing units along the Roberts International Airport (RIA)-Monrovia Highway.
In his acquittal judgment, Judge Blamo Dixon said there was insufficient proof of corruption to convict the defendants.
Dixon further ruled, “The evidence is not just weak, but it is completely empty, fabricated, sentimental, scanty, speculative, frivolous, flimsy, hypothetical, unsubstantiated, vague and indistinct.”
Siryon, together with Tugbeh C. Tugbeh, deputy manager director for administration, Isaac Roberts, deputy director for Technical Services (NHA), Ambassador Augustine Weah, a purported chief executive officer (CEO) of Guss Group of Companies, and Emmanuel Tapsoba, GELPAZ-IMMO Coordinator in Liberia, were charged with the crimes, Economic Sabotage, Bribery, Theft of Property, Misapplication of Entrusted Property, Criminal Conspiracy and Criminal Facilitation in awarding the contract.
Augustine Weah, also believed to be a relative of President George Weah, was among those acquitted.
In the indictment (charge), the prosecution claimed that to consummate the deal, Tapsoba departed Burkina Faso on September 15, 2018, and arrived in Monrovia on September 16, 2018, with the initial amount of US$50,000 for the project.
Further, the indictment alleged that Benao Bazonon, alias BAZ, believed to be a staff of the company also departed Burkina Faso on September 23, 2018 with the final amount of US$42,000, making the total of US$92,000 Tapsoba and Baz brought into the country for the project.
Out that US$92,000, the prosecution claimed, Tabsoba presented the amount of US$80,000 to co-defendant Siryon in the courtyard of the Royal Grand Hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia, for the purpose of liaising with other purported government officials to complete the contract.
They also claimed that BAZ turned over the US$42,000 to Tapsoba and he gave the money to co-defendant Augustine Weah in the presence of BAZ.
The prosecution also alleged that upon receipt of the US$80,000, Siryon called co-defendant Augustine Weah aside and gave him US$20,000 out of the US$80,000 to be delivered at Siryon’s office the next working day, and the remaining US$60,000 left with Siryon for onward distribution to other senior staffs.
However, Judge Dixon’s ruling said the indictment (charges) against the defendants is “fatally defective.”
“The prosecution did not prove the essential elements of the multiple crimes levied against the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt,” Judge Dixon said, therefore, “the court refused to hold the defendants, because there is no probable cause for them to be held for the alleged charges against them.”
Blamo further ruled, “It is the final verdict of this court that the defendants are hereby adjudged not guilty of the multiple crimes.”
“The said defendants are hereby acquitted, set free and discharged from further answering to the alleged multiple offenses levied against them. The indictment is hereby quashed, and the case is dismissed with prejudice against the state, as it relates only to the defendants,” the judge said in his ruling.
He added, “All of the constitutional and statutory rights of the defendants, and other privileges appertaining thereto are hereby restored.”
According to Dixon, prosecution cannot establish prima facie case against the defendants for the alleged multiple crimes in the absence of Baz, Tapsoba, Weah and including the president and chief executive officer of GELPAZ-IMMO Zinimanegre Alain Zoungrana.
Though, the prosecution claimed that they arrested Weah, they could not produce him during the trial on grounds that he had escaped the country, likewise Tapsoba, who the prosecution claimed fled the country.
However, Dixon’s ruling said the prosecution “woefully failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendants to convict them of the alleged commission of the multiple crimes.”
“There is no proof to the case, because co-defendants Weah and Tapsoba escaped the country when the case intensified,” according to Dixon.
He further explained that there is no evidence, and proof that Siryon received US$80,000 and gave US$20,000 to co-defendant Weah.
“Therefore,” Dixon said on September 16, 2018, co-defendant Emmanuel Tapsoba did not bring into the country US$80,000 or any of the executive of GELPAZ-IMMO.
“It was impracticable and impossible for defendant Siryon to receive an alleged bribe of US$80,000 that was not in the country,” Dixon emphasized.
“The million-dollar question is from which source the difference of US$30,000 was derived on September 16, 2018 to sum-up the alleged US$80,000 for it to be given to Emmanuel Tapsoba, who only brought US$50,000 into the country on September 16, 2018.
“The difference between US$92,000 and US$80,000 is US$12,000, and the court does not know to whom the US$12,000 was disbursed. Therefore, there is a doubt in the case, which also operates in favor of the defendants,” Dixon said as he dismissed the case to the delight of the accused individuals.