— Nigerian convict’s confession gets him four years imprisonment, but bears all out
The judgement of Judge Peter Gbeneweleh of Criminal Court ‘C’ on Friday, July 19, implicated some officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) of facilitating power theft, a crime of that is currently being considered for legislation as a second degree felony.
It all came about when a Nigerian man, David Lee, who the judge convicted of power theft and subsequently sentenced to four years imprisonment, including the ten months he had already served at the Monrovia Central Prison, earlier revealed how LNP officers repeatedly arrested him but, on each occasion, “I would pay money (undisclosed) amount to the police to release me.”
Based on defendant Lee’s self confession to the commission of the crime and the police involvement, Gbeneweleh also ruled that the defendant payback the amount of US$53,000 as payment he received through illegal connections to the Liberia Electricity Corporation’s power grid.
In his sentencing judgment, Judge Gbeneweleh informed the parties, the defense lawyers and the government lawyers (prosecution) that police had on previous occasions arrested Lee for power theft.
A team of the Energy Monitoring Unit of the Liberian Electricity Corporation (LEC) arrested defendant Lee during their routine patrol on a light pole while he was illegally running a connection around the Center and Benson streets intersection, near the Total Gas Station.
Lee operated an illegal distribution point from his bedroom that was used to connect homes to the LEC power grid, and each of his subscribers paid to him an amount of US$40 consistently for four years (2015-2018) before his arrest.
Judge Gbeneweleh continued: “The prior history of the defendant as to his conviction has not been established during any police investigation.”
He added, “Defendant David Lee has not been convicted in the court of competent jurisdiction for power theft before his arrest, prosecution and conviction by any court.”
Gbeneweleh said that he gathered the police involvement into defendant Lee’s criminal activities from a pre-sentencing investigation report that the Probation Services of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) submitted to him.
The judge’s implication of the police comes against the backdrop of President George Weah’s condemnation of power theft, which the President said is taking place in Monrovia and its environs, and wants perpetrators prosecuted, while stressing the frustration Liberians continued to express due to the lack of adequate electricity supply in their homes and on the streets.
In a communication to the 54th Legislature in late April, President Weah reminded the august body that power theft damages the country’s economic development, “and is a crime akin to sabotaging the economy, it destroys life and property when dangerous illegal connections are made, sometimes causing fire outbreak.”
Besides, the President had submitted for enactment into law a bill to amend the Penal Law, Chapter 15 by adding thereto a new section 15.88 to provide for Power Theft to be considered a crime that sabotages the country’s development.
His frustration comes after the Liberia Electricity Corporation claimed that it is losing over US$8 million monthly to power theft.
In the Lee power theft case, the prosecution’s indictment claimed that the defendant was arrested with a roll of electric wire, one plier and a huge quantity of wires that he used to connect several private apartments.
“David Lee criminally connected to the LEC pole directly from his bed room, and used it as a base to connect other lines to supply power to residents across Benson Street, and covers as far as the OK Dry Cleaning and People’s Building on Benson Street,” the indictment read.