The premises of Criminal Court ‘C’ on Thursday, March 7, 2019 was a scene of drama when two lawyers representing several current and former senior officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) in connection to the unaccounted for L$2,645 billion, walked out of the courtroom apparently disappointed following a brief closed-door meeting with Judge Boima Kontoe.
Cllr. Abraham Sillah of the Heritage and Partners Law Firm and Cllr. Johnny Momoh, of the Momoh and Associates Law Firm, had gone to the court, to inquire whether Judge Kontoe had reviewed and submitted the defendants’ bond filed before him on Monday, March 4 to the prosecutors for argument, if any.
Under the law, this process is meant to assure a defendant’s future appearance in court.
Legally, a judge can take up to 48 hours to review a bond and forward it to the prosecutors to either accept or challenge its eligibility which has taken 192 hours, since it was filed before Judge Kontoe on Monday, March 4, 2019.
Deputy Governor Charles E. Sirleaf and Director of Banking, Dorbor Hagba were arrested on the night of Thursday, February 28, 2019, at different locations, while former Executive Governor Milton Weeks surrendered to the Liberia National Police (LNP) the following morning.
Joseph Dennis, deputy director, internal audit and Richard H. Walker, director of finance were both arrested on Tuesday, March 6, 2019.
They have been charged with multiple criminal offenses that include economic sabotage, misuse of public money, property or records and illegal disbursement and expenditure of public money as well as criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation.
The drama started when both Cllrs. Sillah and Momoh were spotted whispering in the ears of Kontoe, who was by then in court presiding over a jury trial involving the criminal conveyance of land.
Sillah and Momoh had already waited in the courtroom for over two hours, when Kontoe noticed their presence; he granted the lawyers permission to approach him on his bench.
After ten minutes of discussion Judge Kontoe reminded the defense’s lawyers that he was still reviewing the substance of the bond.
Besides, Judge Kontoe is said to have assured the lawyers that by today, Friday, March 8, 2019, he would have completed his review of the bond.
Both Judge Kontoe and the defense lawyers yesterday did not disclose the monetary value of the bond, despite expressed concerns by reporters to know the actual cost of the bond.
That they could not disclose the value of the bond annoyed both Cllrs. Momoh and Sillah, who were heard openly in the courtroom, saying: “This is too much and we are not going to accept anymore.”
“Judge Kontoe may be waiting for approval from upstairs of the Supreme Court to make the decision,” another lawyer that is not part of the case, said.
“The accused have absolute right to have a hearing bond, regarding their pre-trial release,” Sillah said. “They have not had that opportunity yet.”
“I’m shocked,” Momoh said. “I cannot understand why would a judge delay the review of a bond that was filed before him over four days ago.”