The decision about whether or not convicted former Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Moses Wogbeh, and his colleagues would spend ten years behind bars now rests on the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Their legal team has filed an appeal to review the initial ruling of Judge Peter Gbeneweleh of Criminal Court ‘C.’
Judge Gbeneweleh on August 25 found guilty Wogbeh and four of his colleagues, including a surveyor of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, of economic sabotage and ordered them to pay US$10,000 each into government revenue within 72 hours.
Judge Gbeneweleh also sentenced them to a period of ten years in prison before asking them to restitute US$6m.
His action came after government proved that the convicts accumulated from illegal issuance of 61 Private Use Permits (PUPs) that authorized commercial logging activities on 1.2 million hectares of farmland throughout the country.
The accused defense counsels, however, are resisting, basing their arguments on Article 20 (b) of the 1986 Constitution, which provides that “the right of an appeal from a judgment, decree, decision or ruling of any court or administrative board or agency, except the Supreme Court, shall he held inviolable.”
The defense counsels hold on to that right to appeal against Judge Gbeneweleh’s decision, meaning that Wogbeh and his colleagues will not be jailed or be made to pay a dime to government, unless the High Court look into the merit and demerit of their request.
Another important issue in the case is that all of the convicted men are being placed on a criminal appearance bond, which prevents anyone from arresting them, while the High Court has not heard their appeal as provided by law.
Therefore, under Article 20 (b) of the 1986 Constitution, the men are enjoying their freedom.