After throwing out a more than US$100K economic sabotage allegation brought against several former executives of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Judge Peter Gbeneweleh of Criminal Court ‘C’ has again dropped similar charges, this time in favor of Musa Bility, former board chair of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA).
Bility along with several executives of the LAA, including its former managing director Ellen Cockrum, was indicted in 2013 for their alleged involvement in siphoning over a million United States dollars from the coffers of the entity.
Justifying his action to drop the economic sabotage case against the LFA boss, last Friday, Judge Gbeneweleh said the Liberian government for two succeeding court terms had failed to proceed with the prosecution of Bility, who it indicted with multiple crimes, including economic sabotage since 2013.
Judge Gbeneweleh also authorized his clerk to give back money Bility’s lawyer paid to secure his bond while awaiting trial.
Judge Gbeneweleh put the blame on the prosecution, which he said refused to proceed with their case, despite being afforded sufficient time under the law to do so.
The Criminal Court ‘C’ Judge’s decision also came immediately after Bility’s legal team clearly took advantage of the prosecutor’s mistake to put Bility on trial for over a year, before asking Judge Gbeneweleh to dismiss the indictment.
It was that request which Judge Gbeneweleh granted, pointing out “government’s failure to prosecute Bility for two consecutive court terms as provided by law.”
After Judge Gbeneweleh’s decision on Friday, state lawyers announced their rejection of it and their intention to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Besides last Friday’s action, Judge Gbeneweleh initially upheld Bility’s request to try him separately from the other co-defendants, which the prosecutor vehemently opposed.
Further to the indictment, government claimed that Bility and Cockrum, who happened to be signatories to the account of the LAA maintained with the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), criminally conspired with co-defendant Diaspora Consulting represented by Dieng and defrauding the state by making unauthorized transfers of funds amounting to US$269,000 from the LAA account.
Government also claimed that the accused on diverse occasions remitted monies to the Bank of America account of Diaspora Consulting through the LBDI for services which were never rendered.
They further claimed that Bility even though he was aware that he was not authorized to sign any financial instruments, whether cheque or application for transfer, along with Cockrum as a signatory to the account, Bility according to the document, ignored the instructions of the board of directors to the LBDI and signed all checks and applications to transfer funds from October 2012 to February 2013.