Failure of Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission’s (LACC) key witness to show up to testify in the ongoing US$5.7million oil deal case against Aminata & Sons Inc. was enough yesterday for Judge Emery Paye of Criminal Court ‘C’ to suspend the trial.
Judge Paye said yesterday was the second time for the prosecution to ask for the suspension of the matter.
“Before the call of this case, prosecution and defense had earlier met and with consensus agreed in principle for today’s deliberation yet they have asked for another suspension,” he said
He added: “Since both defense and prosecution agreed for another postponement, the matter would be suspended and resume on Monday, October 3.”
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ), the prosecutorial arm of the government, had initially backed out of the case, advising the LACC not to proceed with the matter because there is no “convenience evidence” to convict the defendants.
That advice was supported by the dismissal of charges against one of the defendants, former Commerce Minister Miata Beysolow by the same court.
The court cited administrative errors on the part of the LACC as the basis for dropping the charges against her.
Siaka Turay, Aminata & Sons CEO, had earlier pleaded not guilty. That denial now rests on the LACC to produce evidence to convict Turay.
LACC’s lawyers who could not disclose the identity of their witness yesterday confessed that the witness’s absence was beyond their control.
“We agreed to reschedule the matter to today (yesterday), but we understand that our witness was on special assignment outside the country, and the witness is not in our employ making it difficult for us to have direct control over his movements,” Cllr. Othello Payman admitted.
Cllr. Payman added, “Up to the time we made the request we were not sure as to whether or not he would be back in the country, making it difficult for us to go on with the trial.”
Judge Paye did not say what decision he would take on Monday if the LACC’s key witness does not show up to testify.
Aminata & Sons Inc. was accused, along with former Director, Division of Price Analysis and Marketing/Focus Person of the Japanese Oil Grant at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Steve Flahnpaye; former Managing Director and Deputy Managing Director for Operations and Implementing Agent Person for the Japanese Oil Grant at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), T. Nelson Williams; and Aaron J. Wheagar.
Their charges included economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy and facilitation and violation of required Public Procurement and Concession Commission Act’s (PPCC) procedures and processes, of which Turay said he had no knowledge.
LACC, however, claimed that Turay was part of the syndicate that misrepresented and misled concessionary pricing for the distribution and sale of the non-profit petroleum products, and they chose not to reflect that the donated items were gifts from the government of Japan to Liberia.
For Aminata & Sons, Inc., the court records allege that the petroleum entity and LPRC in 2011 entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) where the company was to make a deduction from the pump price of US$0.90 per gallon of gasoline and US$0.96 per gallon of diesel.
It meant they were to sell a gallon of gasoline for US$3.47 and a gallon of diesel for US$3.59.
But the LACC claimed that Turay and the other defendants ignored the agreement and proceeded to sell a gallon of gasoline for US$4.40 and a gallon of diesel for US$4.55, which generated US$5,764,110.84.
The LACC claimed that Turay and his co-defendants deposited US$3,908,387.25 into the oil grant account at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), instead of the US$5,764,110.84, leaving a difference of US$1,806,811.14 unaccounted for.
The document further alleges that MOC and LPRC illegally selected Aminata & Sons as the sole distributor and seller of the products without going through a competitive bidding process and other procedures provided for under the PPCC Act.
LACC also alleged that the act was discovered during an investigation into the handling of the oil deal by MOC, LPRC and Aminata & Sons.