A legal argument as to whether or not a case in which US$247,000 was allegedly confiscated from a group of Korean nationals by officers of the National Security Agency (NSA) should be transferred from Monrovia, in Montserrado County, to another county for hearing will be decided on Friday by Judge Yussif Kaba of the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice.
Judge Kaba’s decision to reserve ruling on the change of venue for the case came immediately after he listened to the lawyers pushing their respective arguments to convince him.
In 2014, the NSA confiscated from a group of Korean businessmen, Messrs Jung Dal Park, Chae Dae Byoung, Chold Jung Woo, Cha Kwang Woon and Aleck Gold, without a court order, the amount of US$247,000. The NSA claimed the cash was ‘counterfeit banknotes,’ and placed it in an escrow account. The remaining US$37,000 was unaccounted for.
The Korean investors denied the claim and are seeking legal redress to get their money back from the NSA.
At yesterday’s proceedings, state lawyer Cllr. Augustine Fayiah argued that should the matter be decided in Monrovia, there would be no justice for the state on grounds that the issue had been heard on various media outlets on several occasions. According to Cllr. Fayiah, public perception could influence the jury’s decision.
They also argued that if they were to hear the matter in Monrovia, prospective jurors already have their minds made up that the allegation was true; and as such, they would not have a fair trial.
On the other hand, lawyers for the Koreans argued that if the matter were to go to another county, their clients would be burdened by huge expenses such as hotel bills, food, and transport, among others.
Judge Kaba is expected to decide on these arguments on Friday.
In their complaint, the Korean businessmen alleged that they withdrew US$284,000 on bank slips from the International Bank (IB) on July 8, 2014.
They alleged that while they were going through a business transaction for gold with Nasser Ally, a Lebanese businessman who had invited them to Liberia, the NSA agents, who claimed that the US bills were ‘counterfeit bank notes,’ confiscated their money.
They believed that somebody at the IB Bank alerted Fumbah Sirleaf, head of the NSA, who reportedly sent his agents to seize the money.
“Further,” they claimed in their complaint, “our clients have presented to us emails which were exchanged with Mr. Ally prior to their visit to Liberia and were shocked that after they were jointly arrested along with Mr. Ally while transacting business, Fumba Sirleaf allegedly instructed his boys to remove Mr. Ally from the midst of the Koreans to an unknown area. After a while, the plain-clothes security returned and confiscated the money claiming it was counterfeit US banknotes.
“Of course, Ally from that moment, was seen as ‘cooperating’ with the investigators and was never seen again.
“What is mind-boggling is that none of our clients or a third party was present when US$49,300 of the US$284,000 was declared as ‘counterfeit notes’ by the same arresting officers who confiscated our clients’ money.”