Drama unfolded last Wednesday at Criminal Court ‘C’ which led to the dismissal of a separate trial request of former Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), Managing Director Nelson Williams, one of several public officials accused of misapplying over US$5 million of the sale of the Japanese oil grant.
Williams, along with other former government officials, including former Minister of Commence Madam Miatta Beysolow, were charged with economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy and facilitation and violation of the required Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) procedure and processes.
Cllr. Stephen B. Dunbar, Williams’ lawyer, filed a motion to have a separate trial, a request prosecutors strongly resisted.
During the hearing of their request it was discovered that the Dunbar Law Firm is also the legal counsel of the LPRC, which Judge Emery Paye described as “conflict of interest.”
Before Judge Paye’s decision, Cllr. Dunbar admitted that his law firm was legally representing the LPRC, “but the government has not shown any interest in prosecuting this case.”
Further Cllr. Dunbar argued that the former LPRC Managing Director, being an individual, has obtained representation in his personal capacity, thereby asking the court to allow him to do his (Dunbar’s) legal work for the defendant, and to deny prosecutors resistance against his representation.
In his ruling, Judge Paye stated that he holds a strong opinion that Dunbar and Dunbar Law Firm should have defended LPRC in the ongoing case.
Justifying his statement, he said, “It is because defendant Williams had worked in the employ of government as managing director for the LPRC. We feel that the Dunbar and Dunbar Law Firm, is under obligation to defend LPRC against those alleged to have carried out criminal acts against LPRC.”
The judge added, “As such, it would not augur well for Dunbar and Dunbar Law Firm to represent any individual or individuals against the interest of LPRC.”
According to Judge Paye, “if the government does not have interest in prosecuting this case, it should not amount to say that Dunbar and Dunbar should represent anybody against LPRC.”
Judge Paye thereafter denied the Dunbar and Dunbar Law Firm the right to represent Mr. Williams.
“The defendant has the option to hire another counsel in instead of Dunbar and Dunbar to represent his interest. That goes to say the denial of Dunbar and Dunbar Law Firm is without any prejudice to the defendant,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the court yesterday heard final legal arguments about a request from co-defendant Miatta Beysolow’s legal team, asking Judge Paye to dismiss the indictment against her.
Her lawyers argued that the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission’s (LACC) investigation recommended for administrative action against their client but to their disbelief, the LACC contradicted its own recommendation and surrendered her for criminal trial.
Besides, Beysolow’s lawyers contended that because of the LACC’s contradiction the court should dismiss the complaint against her.
In counter argument, the LACC insisted that she actually participated in the alleged ploy that duped the government of the Japanese oil grant.
Ruling into the merit and demerit of the request was reserved by Judge Paye.