Giving several reasons on Wednesday why he dropped charges against former Commence Minister Miatta Beysolow, Judge Emery Paye of Criminal Court ‘C’ said the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission’s investigative report, which served as a basis for the indictment, was erroneous and defective.
“It is clearly seen that the Commission did not exercise due care in handling its own reports,” Judge Paye indicated, adding,” hence, the institution of the indictment was procedurally defective.”
He went on, “This goes without saying that the answer to the only issue was whether or not the defendant established sufficient grounds to dismiss the indictment which was a resounding yes.”
According to the Criminal Court Judge, there was a missing link that claimed the court’s attention.
“The missing link was the absence of the Ministry of Justice, in the prosecution of defendant Beysolow,” Judge Paye emphasized.
He delved into the LACC argument that the law gives them right to prosecute anyone of corruption, if the Ministry of Justice fails to do so.
Judge Paye clarified that “If the Ministry of Justice for whatever reason, does not take action to prosecute the case, by the provision of Section 11.3 of the LACC Act, this law being clear on its face, requires no further interpretation and it is sufficient for this court that the ministry could not prosecute the defendant because the report lacks jurisdiction.”
According to Section 11.3 of the LACC Act, the Ministry of Justice may declaim to prosecute a case of corruption recommended for prosecution. If it determines that the evidence adduced by the commission is manifestly inadequate or is illegally acquired, in such a case, the commission shall be given the opportunity to augment the evidence or to show that the evidence is, in fact, adequate and properly acquired.
In this case, the LACC failed to augment or justify said evidence and, without the involvement of the MOJ, single-handedly proceeded with the prosecution of the case, which several legal experts described as “waste of public resources.”
Judge Paye said “having perused the entire records in the case, I am convinced that the institution of the said indictment is grossly defective and erroneous, because the documents failed to show any augmented or modified investigative report to warrant the prosecution of defendant Beysolow.”
“This is precisely the point,” Judge Paye stressed,“since the LACC did not adduce any augmented evidence or modified report, which should have been forwarded to the Ministry of Justice to warrant the prosecution of the defendant, the LACC was in error when it proceeded with the institution of the indictment based on its investigative report.”
They also failed to show jurisdiction in the court over the subject matter or to charge an offence, according to Judge Paye.
He quoted the fundamental principle of the law, which, according to him, says that the essence of criminal prosecution is not to convict, but to make sure that justice is done.
“A careful perusal of the case shows that the LACC investigative reports of August 19, 2013, only recommended that an administrative action be taken against the defendant,” according to the Judge.
But, he said, “The court wonders why the LACC ignored the recommendation of its own report and proceeded to prosecute criminally without the showing any augmented or modified report that could constitute the basis for the indictment.”
Judge Paye said the court observed that the act allegedly committed by the defendant was purely administrative rather than criminal in nature.
Minister Beysolow, together with T. Nelson Williams, Jr., former Managing Director of Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC); Aaron Wheagar, former Managing Director for operations at the LPRC; Steve Flahn-Paye, Commerce Ministry’s Director for Price Analysis and Marketing; and
Aminata and Sons, Inc., were jointly indicted by the LACC.
LACC initially claimed that the Minister in August 2011 personally executed a syndicate along with the co-defendants by handpicking Aminata & Sons, a wholesale and retail petrol dealer, without a competitive bid process, to distribute and sell a donated consignment of Japanese petroleum products, in violation of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) Act. They allegedly misapplied over US $5 million from the sale of the products, LACC claimed.