Criminal Court C Judge Yamie Gbeisay ruled that the state lawyers from the Ministry of Justice did not prove beyond all reasonable doubts that the defendants printed excess Liberian dollar banknotes without the authorization of the Legislature
Criminal Court C Judge Yamie Gbeisay has found former Milton Weeks and other ex-officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) not guilty on charges of economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, and criminal facilitation relating to the printing of the L$10 billion banknotes.
Ex-CBL Governor, Weeks along with three board members of the CBL, Elsie Dossen Badio, Kollie Gamba, and David Farhat, were on trial for the illegal printing of the banknotes in question after being indicted by the grand jury of Montserrado County.
‘Persecutors Fail to Present Enough Evidence’
However, Judge Gbeisay in his ruling said the state lawyers from the Ministry of Justice did not prove beyond all reasonable doubts that the defendants printed excess Liberian dollar banknotes without the authorization of the Legislature.
Judge Gbeisay’s ruling, which comes as a blow to President Weah quest to root out corruption, said the amount of Liberian dollars banknotes printed and sent to Liberia was double-checked and that the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) did a poor job by erroneously concluding that L$2.645 billion –- a conclusion which resulted into the state charging the defendants for printing L$13 billion-plus, instead of L$ 10 billion as contracted.
Judge Gbeisay also added that the amount of Liberian dollars banknotes printed and sent to Liberia were double-checked and that the actual amount of banknotes printed and sent to the country was over L$15,506 billion. He added that the court could not find the defendants guilty of the printing of L$2.645 billion because the unauthorized printing by CBL is not a specific crime under the Liberian criminal law.
Ruling further, he said: “The defendants, having being found not guilty of the printing of L$2.645 billion, and the court has established that the unauthorized printing by CBL is not a specific crime under the Liberian criminal law; the charges of economic sabotage, fraud on the internal revenue, misuse of public money, prop or records, theft/illegal disbursement of public money, criminal conspiracy, criminal facilitation theft of property not being proven, the defendants are hereby adjudged not guilty; with the provision that they may be reprimanded under the Code of Conduct or the Legislature for the abuses of their offices. The defendants are hereby set at liberty and the Criminal appearance Bond ordered returned. The Writ of Ne Exeat Republica is hereby ordered revoked.”
Judge Gbeisay, in whose court the government has lost a number of cases for failure to produce enough evidence during cases, said there is no evidence that any of the monies was pocketed by any of the defendants.
“It is a well-calculated opinion of this court that from the analysis of evidence adduced at trial before this court, it is L$10 billion that was printed under the 2017 contract with an excess of 374,750,000, making a grand total of 10,345,750,000.00; and that there was no printing of an extra L$2.645 billion and that no such L$ 2.645 billion existed to be missing and or not accounted for, this court hereby declares.”
‘Gov’t participate in wrongful printing’
Judge Gbeisay further added that the government itself has acquiesced (complied) in the wrongful printing of the controversial L$10 billion dollars banknotes, and benefited substantially, thereby dropping the multiple charges against other previously accused ex-officials of the CBL, including Charles Sirleaf, former Deputy Governor of CBL.
Judge Gbeisay added that it is a known fact that the Liberian banknotes were printed, shipped to Liberia, and received by CBL and placed in official vaults of the bank before being infused into the economy openly and notoriously.
In the mind of the court, Gbeisay noted, the government itself has acquiesced in the wrongful printing of the enhanced notes and benefited substantially.
“Under the principle of acquiescing, when one benefits from an illegal act, he or she is stopped from repudiating his own act,” the criminal court judge said. “The government of Liberia is no exception to this rule because, in the court of justice, the government and any individual citizen are equal. In other words, the action of the government in receiving the money and infusing it in the economy, the government has ratified the wrongful act of the central bank Executive Governor and the Board of Governors, thereby erasing criminality, if any.”
According to Judge Gbeisay, in contract law, the need for ratification can arise in two ways: if the agent attempts to bind the principle despite lacking authority to do so; or if the principal authorizes the agent to make an agreement, but reserves the right to approve it.
In the instant case, the CBL, as an agent of the Government of Liberia, elected to authorize printing of Liberian banknotes and have it infused in the economy, which is being utilized today by the government.
“The said notes were brought to Liberia in billions openly in a clear view of the Executive and Legislative branches of the government and infused into the economy; which money is being utilized today by the government. In the considered opinion of the court and by law, the government action has ratified the wrongful or illegal printing of the Liberian dollars banknotes and, as such, it will be unfair, illegal, and not prudent to criminally punish those who printed the money,” he ruled.
Judge Gbeisay further added that the state should have reprimanded the ex-CBL officials by utilizing Section 15.1 of the code of conduct which, among other things, calls for seizure and forfeiture to the state of any property acquired from abuse of office.
Section 15.1 of the code of conduct state that: “sanctions for any breach of this code of conduct shall be those prescribed by the standing orders of the civil service or any other laws governing the public service; notwithstanding, depending on the gravity of the offense or misconduct, one or more of the following penalties may apply: a) dismissal; b) removal from office in public interest; c) reprimand; d) fine or making good of the loss or damage of public property/assets; e) demotion/reduction in rank; (f)seizure and forfeiture to the state of any property acquired from abuse of office; and g) interdiction/suspension from duty with half pay.”
”We reiterate that the CBL authority, including the Executive Governor and the board of governors, could be reprimanded civilly under the code of conduct for abusing their offices in the form of malfeasance or nonfeasance, since the prosecution sufficiently established and proved their guilt,” Judge Gbeisay ruled.