Months after Magistrate Victoria Worlobah Duncan of the Kakata Margibi County Magisterial Court described as “an insult to the Judiciary Branch of the Government” the alleged refusal of the President Pro-Tempore, Senator Abert T. Chie, to allow court Sheriff and officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) to arrest Senate Secretary Nanborlor Singbeh, the magistrate herself has been allegedly linked to supporting the very Senate Secretary.
Magistrate Duncan demonstrated her alleged partiality immediately when she, on Monday, February 24, postponed Singbeh’s US$825,000 criminal appearance bond justification hearing that was seriously challenged by Hans ‘s lawyers, without the knowledge of Mr. Hans Armstrong, a British national and Attorney-in-Fact of the 70 percent majority shareholders, Czech brothers Martin and Pavel Miloschewsky of the Czech –Republic owned company, MHM Eko-Liberia Limited. Singbeh’s challenged bond is filed by the Sky Insurance Company.
Justifying her decision to postpone the scheduled hearing, Magistrate Duncan through a telephone conversation with the City Solicitor (government lead lawyer), Attorney Randal C. Saul, said that she personally received a letter from Singbeh’s lawyer that they were attending to another case at Criminal Court ‘C’ in Monrovia, which could not allow them to attend the hearing in Kakata.
Surprisingly, when the Daily Observer contacted the clerk of the Kakata Magisterial Court as to his knowledge about Singbeh’s letter for postponement of the case, the clerk who refused to be named replied,” There is no record with me about Singbeh’s letter. I was only told this morning by my magistrate that she received a communication from Singbeh and she would not hear the justification of the bond hearing today, (being Monday, February 24).”
The ethical standards for judges or magistrates say that they are prohibited from all private or ex-parte, communication with the judge or magistrate to whom your case is assigned. Ex-parte communication occurs when one of the parties to a lawsuit, or when that party’s attorney exchanges information with the assigned judge or magistrate without the knowledge of the opposing party, or his or her attorney.
It further says any communication between the assigned judge or magistrate and a litigant must be in writing and a copy of the communication must be sent either to the opposing party or that party’s attorney, which did not happen with the case of Magistrate Duncan.
A legal expert hinted the Daily Observer that, based on Magistrate Duncan’s utterances, it seems prudent to conclude that the form and manner in which the magistrate, without the knowledge of the other party, received a communication from the other party to postpone the bond hearing questions her credibility in handling the matter.
“The perceived double-dealing utterances of Magistrate Duncan, in this case, require immediate corrective action. Her choice of words that she personally received a letter from Singbeh’s lawyer to postpone the hearing is worrisome and it seems that deception is in play,” the legal expert said.
The question remains, should Magistrate Duncan recuse herself from the case?
Armstrong had initially accused Singbeh and several others of the senior management team of the Czech-owned company, MHM Eko-Liberia Incorporated, of illegal sale of heavy-duty earth-moving equipment (caterpillars) and heavy-duty trucks worth about US$650,000, which hearing Magistrate Duncan scheduled for Monday.
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 produced and sold crushed rocks, the court’s record claims.
Since the establishment of MHM Eko-Liberia Inc. in Seeke-Ta, Weala Township, Margibi County in 2013 up to present, Singbeh has not produced or sold a single truckload of crushed rocks.
Singbeh is the president and chairman of the board of directors of the MHM Eko-Liberia Inc, where he also holds a 30 percent share.
The case was brought by the Miloschewsky brothers through their Attorney-In-Fact, Hans Armstrong, a British national, against Singbeh.
Singbeh was early arrested two days after the Kakata Magisterial Court ordered the arrest of his aide, Jan Holasek, a Czech national, in connection to the sale of the trucks and equipment, and the alleged illegal withdrawal of US$317,500 out of the company’s account at Ecobank-Liberia.
Holasek has meanwhile been released on a controversial bail, which Hans’ lawyers argued that the bond does not include Singbeh and asking for the arrest of Singbeh unless a separate bond was filed on his behalf, which hearing Magistrate Duncan postponed due to Singbeh’s lawyers’ communication.