George Abi Jaoudi omitted from list of “persons of interest”
By William Q. Harmon and Alvin Worzi
With the establishment of a Special Presidential Committee to probe the mysterious disappearance of L$16 billion from the vault of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), the Monrovia City Court yesterday, September 27, restricted the movement of 35 employees of the bank pending the outcome of the investigation.
The involvement of the court was triggered by a Writ of Ne-Exeat Republica prayed for by authorities at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to restrain persons of interest from leaving the jurisdiction of the court pending an action.
Legal sources confided in the Daily Observer that some of those restricted from leaving the country were expected to appear before Magistrate Kennedy Peabody yesterday at the Temple of Justice to hear the reading of their respective charges, if there were any. It was not clear why the Court decided to summon the employees to appear before it on today, because no one has been charged in connection to the ongoing investigation, this newspaper has gathered.
The move comes as the government prepares itself to launch a “thorough investigation” into reports of the missing L$16 billion for which, the government of Liberia has barred 32 CBL employees from leaving the country.
Those barred are classified as “persons of interest,” and it is anticipated that they would help investigators unravel the circumstances leading to the alleged disappearance of the money.
This move, according to a Ministry of Information release, keeps those people on the ground as a way of helping solve the mystery surrounding the money.
According to the release, the court order is meant to ensure that those named do not travel out of Liberia until the investigation is “comprehensively completed.”
This is in addition to the two top persons of interest associated with the CBL — former Governor Milton A. Weeks and Deputy Governor Charles Sirleaf — who were initially barred by the government from leaving the country.
It is also observed that George Abi Jaoudi, who was one of the three persons initially barred by the government from leaving the country, has been omitted from the updated list.
Those whose names appear on the latest list are: former Governor Milton Weeks, Deputy Governor Charles Sirleaf, Deputy Governor Mounir Siaplay, Dorbor Hagba, Richard H. Walker, Adolphus Forkpah, and Cyrus Badio, head of public affairs and Maria E. Grigsby-Toe, who reportedly led the team that took the container out of the Free Port.
Others are Amie N. Rogers, Michael B. Ogun, James Wilfred, Joseph K. Jallah, Supuwood T. Tarpeh, Mussa A. Kamara, Mustapha E. Sherman, Sylvia Tarkpah, Joyce J. Dolo, George Wilson, Miatta Oberly Kuteh, Musulyn R. B. Jackson, Maaka Amnlard, Prince Bull, Solomon Jaykpah, Theodoria B. Jreh, Oldada Deshield, and Ophelia Nyenpan Barquolleh.
The rest are Gabriel Zinnah, Davison Lillie Ballah, Andrew Pabai, Edwina Edet, William Dargbeh, Stephen Nyema, David M. Wilson, and Lawrence Sirleaf.
In an earlier move that legal pundits termed as unconstitutional, the Weah administration banned only former Governor Milton A. Weeks and Deputy Governor Charles Sirleaf, a son of the former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, from traveling outside the country until pending investigation in the money matter were settled.
“Government was reportedly in violation of the law when it initially barred these top officials without a writ from the court,” one lawyer told this newspaper yesterday.
According to legal sources, if a court agrees that an individual has information “material” to a criminal proceeding, and will likely flee if subpoenaed, the witness can be locked up but, in theory, only for as long as is necessary to have the accused testify or be deposed of after the testimony.
Some of those named in the new list have confirmed that they have not received any formal notice from the court barring them from leaving the country.
“The government’s action was also in violation of the organic law of the state — the Constitution,” the lawyer said.
According to Article 13, “Every person lawfully within the Republic shall have the right to move freely throughout Liberia, to reside in any part thereof and to leave therefrom, subject however to the safeguarding of public security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others.”
It also states, “Every Liberian Citizen shall have the right to leave and to enter Liberia at any time. Liberian citizens and non-Liberian residents may be extradited to foreign country for prosecution of a criminal offense in accordance with the provisions of an extradition treaty or other reciprocal international agreements in force. Non-Liberian residents may be expelled from the Republic of Liberia for cause.”
However, legal pundits believe that the government’s latest action seeking the intervention of the Court is meant to right the wrong of initially barring ex-governor Weeks and Mr. Sirleaf from leaving the country.
“The rule of law itself suffers when a law is used as a pretext to sidestep longstanding checks on the arbitrary exercise of executive power,” another lawyer said.
In its Press release Thursday, the Ministry of Information cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), by an executive mandate, ordered all security agencies, particularly officers of the Liberia Immigration Service and the Liberia National Police to ensure that those named in the scandal do not leave the country until investigation into the mystery is completed.
“The government takes the ongoing investigation seriously, because it has National Security Implications,” the release said.
Information Minister Eugene Nagbe said: “The government has issued a security circular advising persons of interest, who are required to assist with the ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding the importation of Liberian Dollar banknotes into the country between November, 2017, and August, 2018, not to leave the country.”