Crane Currency also added to indictment
The defendants in the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) missing money case involving current and former officials of the Bank, all of who were arrested and jailed on charges of economic sabotage and theft of property, were rearrested early Tuesday, August 20, 2019, and are remanded at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP), this time without bail.
The defendants, former CBL Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks, former Deputy Governor for Operations, Charles Sirleaf, Dorbor M. Hagba, Director, Finance Department, Richard H. Walker, Director for Operations, and Joseph Dennis, Deputy Director for internal audit, are being held on new charge: money laundering, for which they are now each required to file additional bonds.
The new indictment and charge raises a new case, separate from the existing case, which was supposed to begin on Tuesday. The opening of the case was postponed for Monday, August 26. As the defendants emerged from court, they were slapped with the new charge and marched off to court.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Presiding Judge Blamo Dixon, issued a 72-hour ultimatum for the prosecution to turnover all of the species of documentary evidence that they intend to produce or adduce in the trial of the case against the defendants.
Judge Dixon’s contention was for the defense lawyers to have adequate, and sufficient notice and also to enable the defense team to provide adequate legal representations of their clients, which question the defense team raised early.
The prosecution‘s new indictment claims that the legislature, through a communication dated July 19, 2017, mandated the CBL to replace the legacy notes completely with the newly printed banknotes so that there would be a single type of Liberian dollar banknotes, and that the appropriate details of the volume and denominations of the replacing banknotes be submitted to the legislature, prior to the printing and minting of coins.
The court document further alleges that contrary to furnishing the legislature with the details requested in the July 19 communication, co-defendants Weeks and Sirleaf had earlier executed a contract on June 12, 2017 with co-defendant Crane Currency to print L$10 billion worth of banknotes for the amount of US$20,121,689.20.
It also claims that in the printing of the unauthorized L$10 billion, co-defendant Crane Currency surreptitiously proceeded to print and caused to be printed L$10,359,750,000 of which L$359,750,000 in excess of the contract amount and that co-defendants Weeks, Sirleaf and Hagba proceeded to pay US$12,166,831.12 to Crane for the amount of Liberian dollars notes printed; that is, US$2,045,141.92 in excess of the amount to be paid for printing the unauthorized L$10 billion.
Again, the court’s records allege that though the total amount of Liberian dollar banknotes contracted by the CBL to be printed by Crane Currency was L$15 billion and the defendants had reported that only L$15,506,000,000 banknotes, including the excess resulting from practicalities of banknotes printing, packing lists submitted revealed that L$18,151,000,000 were illegally printed, supplied and received by the CBL by means of air, and sea transportation, from July 14, 2016 up to and including February 19, 2018. “This leaves a variance of L$2,645,000,000 for which the defendants have failed to account,” the record claims.
It continues that, “the printing of the L$10,000,000,000 banknotes and the resulting excess therefrom without the legislative approval and authorization the defendants were also in violation of the 1986 Constitution and he Act establishing the CBL as amended on March 4, 2014, there and then, the crime of money laundering the defendant did commit.”
Following his first arrest on March 4, 2019, Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks, former executive governor of the CBL, filed a property evaluation bond in the amount of US$909,319.88 to secure his release from pre-trial detention.
His bond was secured by properties secured by Benoni W. Urey, who owns property located on the Police Academy Road with an assessed value of US$163,291.58, as evidenced by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) tax assessment.
Additionally, Attorney Angelique G. Eupheme Weeks, and Mr. and Mrs. Dweitt vonBallmoos, with the values of their properties as US$240,000 and US$506,026.30, respectively, secured the bond for Weeks.
The first bond for Charles E. Sirleaf, deputy governor, was secured by the Accident and Casualty Insurance Company (ACICO) in the amount of US$60,000. However, Judge Boima Kontoe did not approve of it “because, I needed time to review the said bond.”
Later Sirleaf, through his legal counsel, filed a motion to admit him to bail on medical grounds, which request was not opposed by the prosecution.
Also, co-defendants, Dorbor M. Hagba, director, finance department, Richard H. Walker, director for operations and Joseph Dennis, deputy director for internal audit, had their initial bails secured by the same ACICO in the amount of US$240,000, meaning the insurance company paid the amount of US$60,000 for each of them.
Prosecutors want defendants jailed at all costs
Government’s lawyers have been craving a decision by Judge Gbeneweleh to set aside the bail bond filed to release the defendants and have them (defendants) rearrested, and subsequently detained at the MCP until a proper bond is secured.
However, Judge Gbeneweleh’s dismissal of the prosecution’s motion prompted their appeal to Justice in-chambers, Joseph Nagbe charging that Judge Gbeneweleh had displayed bias against their client in his handling of the case.
Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor, on Tuesday, August 6, communicated with Judge Gbeneweleh, instructing him to dispose of business before the court, including the reading of Chambers Justice Nagbe’s ruling, denying the prosecution’s demand for Judge Gbeneweleh to recuse himself from hearing and determining the matter.
However, in less than 48 hours of the reassignment of Gbeneweleh, Chief Justice Korkpor replaced Judge Gbeneweleh with Judge Dixon.
“All the bonds these men have filed are legal and sufficient for them to be released and for the case to proceed, which will be in about a week. These people are not flight risks. So it baffles us as to why the prosecution is bent on keeping them in jail,” a source close to one of the defendants has said.