Strangely, yesterday lawyers of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), the prosecuting arm of the government declined to coordinate with the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to prosecute former Minister of Commence Miatta Beyslow, along with four other former senior public officials.
The drama ensured at Criminal Court ‘C’, where the defendants are expected to be tried for their individual roles played in the alleged disappearance of over US$5 million from the sale of a Japanese Oil Grant , when the LACC’s legal team asked the court to include names of some lawyers of the MOJ on their team.
They were arguing over the merit and demerit of the defendants’ US$2 million criminal appearance bond posted by the Accident and Casualty Insurance Company (ACICO).
When the name of Atty. Bobby Livingstone, who had earlier participated in the case during the argument about justification of the defendants’ criminal appearance bond posted by the ACCICO, was mentioned , he was openly heard telling Judge Blamo Dixon, “Your honor, please I am not part of this case anymore.”
He was not given the opportunity to explain reasons behind his abrupt withdrawal, but sat in the courtroom listening to representatives of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and the ACCICO authenticating the validity of the bond, which the LACC had asked the court to deny.
Another MOJ lawyer, Atty. Oretha Davis, declined to join the LACC team when she was also approached by the LACC.
Atty. Davis also did not make any comment yesterday; instead she sat along with Atty. Livingstone in the courtroom.
Besides Attorneys Davis and Livingstone, the County Attorney for Montserrado County, Cllr. Daku Mulbah, who is one of the government’s lawyers was nowhere around the courtroom, as he did in previous corruption cases like the one with former Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA) Matilda Parker.
However, a legal expert hinted the Daily Observer that the MOJ initially advised the LACC not to proceed with the case on grounds that they lacked sufficient evidence, an opinion the LACC rejected.
The 2007 Act creating the LACC states, among others, that “The prosecution of cases of corruption shall be carried out by the Ministry of Justice in coordination with the Commission.”
In the event, the Act says, an investigation report by the Commission “finds that there is substantial evidence of corruption and recommends that the person(s) or entity(ies) involved be formally charged and prosecuted, the case and the records thereof shall be forwarded to the Ministry of Justice along with a written request signed by the Executive Chairperson requesting that the case be prosecuted.
“The Commission shall prepare and maintain a register of all cases forwarded to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution along with details indicating those accepted for prosecution, those not accepted for prosecution, and those actually prosecuted.
“The Ministry of Justice may decline to prosecute a case of corruption recommended for prosecution if it determines that the evidence adduced by the Commission is manifestly inadequate. In such case, the Commission shall be given the opportunity to augment the evidence or to show that the evidence is in fact adequate. In considering the adequacy of evidence, due regard shall be given to the special competence of the Commission in matters of corruption and the law thereof,” the document noted.
Notwithstanding, the Act says the Commission may, without the necessity of any reference to the Ministry of Justice or the prior consent of the Ministry, directly prosecute acts or cases of corruption if:
“The accused is an elected official, a member of cabinet, a head or a senior official of a public agency, commission or corporation, or a senior official of the Ministry of Justice…”
The legal expert concluded that the LACC relied on the Act to prosecute the defendants without the intervention of the MOJ.
Beyslow and her alleged accomplices, including former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), T. Nelson Williams, Jr., are being prosecuted by the LACC for the commission of the crimes of economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy and facilitation and violation of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) procedures and process.
They were said to have connived with Aminata & Sons, a petroleum firm to allegedly dupe government of over US$5 million from the sale of the Japanese Oil Grant.
Hearing into the bond continues.