Criminal Court ‘C’ has freed former managing director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Matilda Parker and Christina Paelay, the entity’s former comptroller, on corruption charges of awarding a falsified wreck removal contract for US$800,000 to Denmar Martin Flomo of Denmar Enterprises.
Madams Parker and Paelay were freed due to state lawyers’ inability to ensure the appearance of several witnesses, who were to testify against the defendants; thereby leaving the judge with no option, but to drop the multiple corruption charges against them.
The charges included economic sabotage, theft of property and criminal conspiracy.
“We have reached out to our principal witnesses that we intend to use in these proceedings, and having contacted them, because their testimonies are germane and cogent to the proceeds. In the eleventh hour, we noticed that the witnesses were inconspicuously absent in the courtroom, and that every effort made to establish contact with them yielded no fruitful result,” prosecutors explained to Judge Boima Kontoe.
The state lawyers further argued, “we are reminded that these proceedings, which were sent back to this court to start a new trial, should never be delayed by any party as to effect the end of justice.”
Immediately after the prosecution’s application for postponement of the case on grounds that they cannot locate and or identify their witnesses, Judge Boima Kontoe said, “given the history of the case dating far back as the first quarter of 2015, the court views the application to be frivolous.”
Therefore, Kontoe explained about the Supreme Court’s opinion on the matter, which provides that when the Republic causes an individual or person, natural or legal, to appear in a court of law or any tribunal, the Republic should be prepared to proceed with the prosecution of the case against said accused person(s).
He also explained that his second mandate for the case to resume was read on December 28, 2018, and the first assignment for the hearing was issued on March 4, 2019.
”This court finds it difficult to understand the legal and factual basis of prosecution’s application for continuance, because the second mandate from the Supreme Court, dated December 28, 2018, said prosecution should prepare their witnesses to testify on their behalf,” the Judge said.
“I am taken aback because of prosecution’s assertion in its application for continuance that it contacted its witnesses who were absent from court and, therefore, it is requesting this court to grant continuance,” Kontoe said.
“Prosecution in the opinion of this court, has miserably failed to show good cause why this case reminded by the Supreme Court, and the mandate read on December 28, gave such frivolous excuse as prosecution has done in the instance case,” Kontoe said,” He said the indictment against the defendants was hereby dismissed without prejudice to the state.”
Parker and Paelay were suspended in April, 2015 and were subsequently charged with economic sabotage, theft of property and criminal conspiracy. The duo were arrested on July 21 that same year and released on $1 million bond.
They were accused of awarding a falsified wreck removal contract to Denmar Enterprises owned by one Denmar Martin Flomo, valued at $800,000.
Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf suspended Parker following an investigation by the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LAAC).
The investigation alleges that Parker awarded contracts without the approval of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission on behalf of the NPA for wreck removal projects at the ports of Monrovia, Buchanan and Greenville. The grand jury’s indictment also alleges that Parker made fraudulent payments to co-defendant Deneah M. Flomo.
The Parker’s case grew in May 2015, when she and Paelay were indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County for “economic sabotage, theft of property and criminal conspiracy.”
The first trial of the case commenced in November, 2015, and subsequently progressed to February, 2016, when prosecution fled to the Supreme Court on a Petition for Certiorari.
The petition was heard and the Supreme Court on October 4, 2017, reminded the case and mandated the court to resume jurisdiction.
That mandate was read on November 16, 2017, under the gavel of then Judge Blamo Dixon, resident Judge of Criminal Court ‘C.’
Later the case again started on September 27, 2018, after the Supreme Court mandate was read, following which the defendants were arraigned and they denied the accusation as contained in the indictment. During that time, the prosecution made a submission requesting that their six witnesses not to be compelled to testify at the second case, and that those testimonies made to form part the new trial records.
That request was resisted by the defense lawyer, Arthur Johnson; however, the court denied the request prompting Cllr. Johnson to appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court then reversed the court’s decision, but later mandated for prosecution to produce their six witnesses to testify at the new trial, which the government lawyers claimed that they could not locate and identify those witnesses.