Interferences by Senate Pro-Tempore, Justice Ministry usurp court’s mandate in Singbeh’s case
Article 3 of the 1986 Constitution provides that “Liberia is a unitary sovereign state divided into counties for administrative purposes. The form of government is Republican with three separate coordinate branches: the legislative, the Executive and Judiciary. Consistent with the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, no person holding office in one of these branches shall hold office in or exercise any of the powers assigned to either of the other two branches except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, and no person holding office in one of the said branches shall serve on any autonomous public agency.”
Despite the existence of this law, President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, Albert T. Chie, is said to have issued a directive to Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie of Criminal Court ‘A’ not to release the indictment procured by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) through the Grand Jury for Montserrado County against Nanborlor Singbeh, Secretary of the Senate, to Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice, which is clothed with the legal authority to hear and make a determination into theft of property and economic sabotage charges that the LACC brought against Singbeh, according to eyewitnesses.
The jury, on May 28, 2020, charged Singbeh and several other individuals that include former Executive Director of the National Investment Commission (NIC), George W. Wisner as well as two commercial banking institutions, Ecobank-Liberia and Afriland First Bank Liberia, were accused of facilitating Singbeh to dupe his Czech Republic partners, Pavel and Martin Miloschewsky of US$2.6 million and machinery worth US$2.4 million totaling US$5 million.
Singbeh holds 30 percent share in MHM Eko-Liberia, with two Czech brothers, Pavel and Martin Miloschewsky owning the remaining 70 percent share of which the investors are demanding the restitution of their money.
Senator Chie’s involvement into the matter resulted from a verbal confrontation between Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe and Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh, Assistant Minister for Litigation at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) on the one hand, and Solicitor General Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus and Edward Martin, County Attorney for Montserrado County on the other hand.
It all started when Cllr. Gongloe, whom the Ministry of Justice through a written communication appointed to serve as “Patent” (meaning to associate with the ministry as a retained lawyer) for MHM Eko-Liberia, went to Judge Willie of Criminal Court ‘A’ to inquire as to why the indictment, dated May 28, has not been turned over to Criminal Court ‘C’ to begin the arrest of the defendants.
Cllr. Gongloe’s appointment by the ministry came when the Attorney-in-Fact of MHM Eko-Liberia, Mr. Hans Armstrong, a British national, suggested that Cephus, Martin, and Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean should recuse themselves from handling this matter.
Armstrong’s argument for their recusal was that they (Cephus, Martin, and Dean) had earlier provided legal representations for Armstrong before taking their current positions in the government.
Surprisingly, while Cllr. Gongloe was in the office of Judge Willie, the judge decided to phone Cephus and Martins, explaining to them about the appointment letter Cllr. Gongloe had presented to him, and that he, Judge Willie wanted them to come and verify the letter, though, Cephus and Martins have both been banned from taking part in the case, according to eyewitnesses.
When Cephus and Martin arrived at the offices of Judge Willie in the presence of Cllr. Gongloe, the eyewitness alleged that they harshly approached Judge Willie, telling him about their intention to dismiss the indictment and openly advised Willie that “We told you this indictment is an attack on the Senate and so, we advise you not to send the case files against Singbeh to Criminal Court ‘C.’
The eyewitness said Cllr. Gongloe, in response told Cephus and Matins, noted: “You people are not part of this case and Judge Willie should not allow you to dictate to him and, if he does, I am going to take the matter before the Supreme Court.”
“I am the patent and I have the right to intervene in the matter. It is now mine to decide what to do with it,” Gongloe continued.
The situation, the eyewitness said, calmed down when Judge Willie informed Cllr. Gongloe that he was going to send the case files to Criminal Court ‘C’ on Wednesday, June 11 which, up to press time, Willie had failed to do.
A source at the Ministry of Justice confided in the Daily Observer that Justice Minister Dean had earlier refused to play any role in the matter after he (Dean) was approached by Cllr. Cephus about the desire of Senator Chie to have the indictment against Singbeh dismissed because, according to the source, “It is an attack on the Senate.”
Cephus’ approach to Minister Dean was done through a text message immediately after Senator Chie had called Cephus to convince Minister Dean to back-off from prosecuting the case.
The ministry’s letter to Gongloe, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer was signed by Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh, Assistant Minister for Litigation on June 8, 2020, captioned: “RE: Letter of Patent.”
It continues, “The Ministry of Justice has herewith granted you this legal instrument (letter) to associate with the Ministry of Justice (Republic of Liberia) as a retained lawyer for MHM Eko-Liberia, Inc, through its Attorney-In-Fact, Mr. Han Armstrong, in the case.”
It furthers says, “The said matter was forwarded to me by Cllr. Sayma S. Cephus, as a result of the Minister, SG, and County Attorney for Montserrado County having recused themselves from the case because they represented Mr. Armstrong, while in private practices.”
The letter also indicates: “Sir, your association with the state matter will be to the extent of pre-trial screening of evidence, forming of the indictment, grand juror’s presentation and trial of the case and shall terminate after final disposition of the cause by written communication to you.”
Finally, the letter says, ”It is our ardent hope that you will bring to bear your experiences as a former prosecutor in the aforesaid matter.”
It may be recalled that Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie was involved with similar protection of Singbeh when Chie, on Thursday, September 12, 2019, refused to allow a court Sheriff accompanied by two officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) to arrest Singbeh, at Chie’s Capitol office, where Singbeh had gone to evade arrest.
Magistrate Victoria Worlobah Duncan of the Kakata Magisterial Court in Margibi County issued that arrest order on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, where Singbeh and several others of the senior management team of a Czech Republic-owned company, MHM Eko-Liberia Incorporated are accused of illegal sale of heavy-duty earth-moving equipment (caterpillars) and heavy-duty trucks worth about US$650,000.
Later, Senator Chie sent a handwritten note on the back of his call card to tell Magistrate Victoria Duncan that Nanbolor Sengbeh would be submitted to the court at a later time.
An eyewitness at the Capitol at the time informed the Daily Observer that Senator Chie asked the court officers not to take Singbeh along with them because he was going to communicate to Magistrate Duncan and, therefore, he (Senator Chie) would be responsible to surrender Singbeh to the court at a later date.
Chie’s letter to Magistrate Duncan was based on the Sheriff’s plea with him (Chie) to reduce his statement into writing, which the Senator did in the form of a hand-written note on the back of his call card.
Copy of Senator Chie’s call card written on September 12, which is still in the possession of the Daily Observer, reads, “Your Honor, Victoria Worlobah Duncan, I confirm that the Secretary of the Senate has been served the writ and will appear.”
By then, Chie did not mention the date on which he would surrender Singbeh to the court.
The trucks and equipment under litigation were purchased and shipped by the 70 percent majority shareholders, Czech brothers Martin and Pavel Miloschewsky, but with an agreement of reimbursement when the company produces and sells crushed rock, the court record claims.
Since the establishment of MHM Eko-Liberia Inc. in Seeke-Ta, Weala Township, Margibi County in 2013 up to present, Singbeh is yet to produce or sell a truckload of crushed rocks.