Yesterday March 4, 2019 was a very short hearing at the Monrovia City Court that could have found the legal basis for lawyers representing three detained senior employees of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).
Deputy Governor Charles E. Sirleaf, former Executive Governor Milton Weeks and Director of Banking, Dorbor Hagba, could have been freed from further detention on bond in connection to the unaccounted-for L$2.645 billion Liberian dollar banknotes. However, it could not yield any fruitful result as anticipated by the defendants’ legal team.
There was no time for the defense team to prepare themselves to secure the required bond, during Magistrate Kennedy Peabody’s short deliberation, which took less than an hour, instead of at least three hours or more to acquaint the defendants.
Sirleaf and Hagba were arrested on the night of Thursday, February 28, 2019, at different locations, while Weeks surrendered to the Liberia National Police (LNP) the following morning.
They have been charged with multiple criminal offenses that include economic sabotage, misuse of public money, property or records and illegal disbursement and expenditure of public money as well as criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation.
The drama ensued when LNP officers, believed to have acted on the 48-hour as provided by the Constitution for an investigation of an accused, later made it their duty to turn over the defendants from their cell, where they have been since their arrest and subsequently transferred to the Monrovia City Court, where the defense team believed was the right place to send the case.
The three men, Sirleaf, Weeks and Hagba, were handcuffed and escorted by heavily armed officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU) from the Police Headquarters to the Monrovia City Court. Besides the armed officers, there were many civilians also at the court’s premises chanting “rouge, rouge,” behind the trio as they were escorted to the Monrovia Central Prison at South Beach.
When the accused were for the first time arraigned before the court, Magistrate Peabody appeared uneasy to sit and hear the case. He was seen on numerous occasions moving outside and inside the courtroom.
Later, Peabody commenced the hearing, though it lasted for less than three hours, as opposed to several other criminal cases that took over six hours to allow the lawyers to address bond for the accused.
But in the case of Sirleaf, Weeks and Hagba, while their legal team arranged for their bond, Peabody authorized in no time that the clerk prepare their commitment letter to have them remanded at the Monrovia Central Prison, pending the filing of their bond.
However, a defense lawyer confided in the Daily Observer that they have already secured the bond, and they would be presenting it to the court today, March 5, 2019.
In the court’s writ of arrest, a copy of which is with the Daily Observer, the prosecutors claimed that during the period of January 2016, up to and including February, 2018, co-defendant Charles Sirleaf, while serving as Acting Central Bank Governor, “purposely with wicked and criminal intent, connived with other officials of the bank, and intentionally printed excess of Liberian dollars banknotes to the amount of L$146,250,000 for which the amount of US$401,469.58 was paid to Crane Currency by the CBL.”
On the L$5 billion, the court record alleged that they used the amount of US$433,898.14 for the excess to print L$3.59 million.
About the 10 billion transactions, the document claimed that the defendants failed to account for L$2.645 million, which the defendants on criminally converted to their personal use and benefits with the intent to deprive the government and its citizens.
“The actions on the part of the defendants have the propensity to cause serious economic instability and undermine the government, and cause its citizens to rise up against it,” the record alleged.
Meanwhile, latest report this newspaper obtained shortly before going to press last night, said one of CBL’s employees Richard Walker, was arrested by LNP officers and subsequently detained at the police headquarters on Capitol Hill. Walker arrest brings to four, the number of suspects arrested so far in connection to the ongoing ‘missing’ L$16 billion saga.