Lawyers seeking to exonerate former board chair of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Mr. Clemenceau Urey, of his alleged involvement in the payment of US$120,000 as “lobbying fees” for the ratification of oil blocks 11, 12 and 13 by the 53rd National Legislature, have begged the Criminal Court ‘C’ to try him separately.
The lobby fees were one of the key demands of the Legislature to ratify the Oranto and Broadway Production Sharing Contract for oil blocks 11, 12 and 13.
Mr. Urey was charged in February 2013, along with eight other senior managers, for the commission of the crimes of economic sabotage, bribery and criminal conspiracy.
The charges were based on allegations of illegal payment by the company to members of the 53rd National Legislature, in which Urey’s legal team is contesting that he was charged along with the others because of his position as former board chair of NOCAL.
In their request to the court, Urey’s counsels argued that, as chairman of the board, he (Urey) was only permitted to vote in cases, when there was a tie over an administrative decision.
“Since there was no tie vote in the decision to pay the money to the lawmakers for the ratification of the law, he could not vote to approve any payment to the lawmakers,” they said in the court record, adding “Since he did not vote to approve or authorize the payment there was no legal or factual basis for him to have been charged along with the other defendants.”
The document further contended that the NOCAL board chair was a presidential appointment and being a presidential appointee, legally, he served as an agent of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
“He was obliged to carry out her instructions,” the counsel argued.
According to the court records, Urey did not vote to make the payment, nor did he sign any check to have the payment made. However, “in his capacity as Chairman of NOCAL’s board of directors he was obliged to inform President Sirleaf about the insistence of the Legislature to receive lobbying fees as a precondition for ratifying the Oranto and Broadway Production Sharing Contract for oil blocks 11, 12 and 13.”
Explaining the alleged role of President Sirleaf in the lobbying fees payment, the lawyers for Mr. Urey charged that “President Sirleaf personally, specifically and expressedly instructed both Urey and another defendant Dr. Foday Kromah, NOCAL’s former president and chief executive officer, to comply with the demand and make the payment to ensure that the agreements received the required legislative ratification because this was in the national interest.”
They further alleged that as agent of President Sirleaf, Urey acted on the specific instructions of the President, and therefore he is entitled to enjoy the immunities which President Sirleaf herself would enjoy in the matter.