Credible information reaching the Daily Observer Newspaper has it that the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) will on today, April 6, release its investigative findings into allegations that Judge Eva Mappy Morgan of the Commercial Court authorized the illegal withdrawal of over US$3 million from the account of Ducor Petroleum Inc, while the matter was still pending undecided.
Wednesday’s scheduled release of the report comes after the matter has been pending before the JIC for a period of eight months, beginning August 2020, when both Judge Morgan and her accuser, Amos Brosius of Ducor Petroleum Inc, testified during the Investigation.
This latest development also comes barely a week after the US State Department on Human Rights released its 2020 reports, where it highlighted serious lapses of the JIC.
The report also claimed that the JIC lacked appropriate guidelines to deliver their mandates effectively and were perceived as non-transparent and subject to influence.
The JIC is an auxiliary group established within the Judicial Branch of the Government with the exclusive power and authority to receive and investigate compliants against judges for violation of any provision of the Judicial Cannon.
The report noted, “while the Supreme Court made provision through the establishment of the Grievance and Ethics Committee for the review of unethical conduct of lawyers and suspended some lawyers from legal practice for up to five years, the public brought few cases. Both the Grievance and Ethics Committee and the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) lacked appropriate guidelines to deliver their mandates effectively and were perceived as non transparent and subject to influence.”
The report also made reference to the case, Judge Morgan vs. Amos Brosius, that has been with the JIC for the period of eight months undecided.
The State Department Human Rights report said, Eva Mappy Morgan, chief judge of the Commercial Court and President of the National Trial Judges of Liberia was the subject of an investigation for alleged malpractice.
Judge Morgan was linked to a 2013 communication in which it was alleged the Commercial Court authorized the withdrawal, without the consent of one of the litigating parties of an amount of us$3.4 million at the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), which was being held in escrow pending final determination of the commercial dispute between Ducor Petroleum Inc and the Monrovia Oil Trading Company.
The report stated that the court unilaterally ordered the withdrawal of more than three million dollars from the bank.
“The Judicial Inquiry Commission Investigation of the case continues at year’s end,” the report noted.
Prior to the US State Department Human Rights report, Associate Justice Yussif Kaba, chairman of the JIC, had admitted about the slow pace of his commission’s Investigation.
Justice Kaba, however, highlighted the issue of financial constraints faced by the commission to speedily investigate compliants against judges and magistrates.
According to Kaba, by then, his commission had hundreds of undecided compliants against judges and magistrates, many of which came from the rural part of the country, where the commission had found it difficult to contact the complainants.
The case grew when lawyers representing Amos Brosius, who by then was in a legal battle with two Belgian businessmen over the ownership of Ducor Petroleum, filed a complaint to the Commercial Court, accusing his former partners of ignoring the court’s order.
The Court, in June 2013, ordered the parties not to do any business in the name of Ducor until it had established the legitimate owner of the company, Ducor Petroleum.
But the lawyers, in a “Bill of Information” among other things, alleged that with the matter of ownership still pending, and up to the filing of their request, Charles Carron and Krisman Leeman have been in complete control of Ducor Petroleum, accusing Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan, a member of the court’s three-judge panel, of ‘being behind the action.’
Carron and Leeman are also joint owners of the Monrovia Oil Trading Company (MOTC).
Knowing that the law establishing the Commercial Court prevents a single judge from deciding a case over a million United States dollars, Judge Morgan alone went ahead and decided the matter, which ruling was overturned by her colleagues, according to the Bill of Information.
Then in July 2013, Judge Morgan gave authority to MOTC to take over Ducor’s Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) account in the amount of US$393,490.54 and the company’s total trade receivables as of July 2013, in the respective amounts of US$1,998,322.35 and US$3,489,078.65, the Bill of Information said.
Reversing her ruling, the unidentified two other judges said, “Now that the full panel had ruled that a single judge of the panel was without jurisdiction to take such action, it will be undermining the ruling of the court for said action to be in full force and effect.”
They added, “The preliminary injunction as ordered by the Chief Judge is void… and of no legal effect consistent with law. Where a Judge acts without jurisdiction, his judgment is a nullity and cannot be enforced.”
The decision to reverse the ruling came after Brosius’ lawyer filed a petition to review the ruling of Judge Morgan.
In their request, Brosius’ lawyers contended that the October 2014 judgment of the court to restore their client to take over the management of Ducor has not happened.
“In disregard to the authority of the full panels’ decision on the petition for Judicial Review, MOTC continues to be in possession of the properties of Ducor Petroleum Inc, still acting under the void judgment of the chief judge contrary to law, “the lawyers noted.
They further added that it is highly contemptuous for MOTC to continue to control the management and financial resources of Ducor based on a decision of the Chief Judge, when in fact the panel judges had ruled that the matter was without jurisdiction of the Chief Judge, but within the jurisdiction of the three-judge panel.
The lawyers also requested that the MOTC should refrain from using the name of Ducor Petroleum Inc., a business entity over which it has no management control or authority to act on its behalf, including the use of Ducor’s stationery, logo, and contact to transact business.