Just days after Solicitor General Cllr. Saymah Syrenius Cehpus was criticized for calling for a travel ban to be placed on several individuals including former Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) Ellen Corkrum, John S. Davis, President of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), and a Liberian businessman, Musa Bility, then chair of the LAA, Cllr. Cephus on Tuesday shifted the blamed on the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
The latest news comes from a state lawyer Attorney Alfred Bandiyo, who represented his boss, Cllr. Cephus, during the traveling ban proceedings on Tuesday, February 18, at the Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice.
There was no information from Bandiyo regarding the whereabouts of the Solicitor General and the Montserrado County Attorney, Cllr. Edwin Martin, but, Atty. Bandiyo in his argument said, “It is the LACC that asked the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to issue the writ because they were conducting an investigation and never wanted any of the defendants to escape the country.”
Atty. Bandijo also argued that they could not refuse the LACC ‘s request because it was intended for them to exhaust due process since they were clothed with the authority to investigate them, suggesting,” Please call the LACC to appear before this court to provide clarity on the writ.”
Despite the defense team argument that Magistrate Jallah should deny Atty. Bandijo’s contention, the magistrate went ahead to grant the request and subsequently subpoena the LACC to appear before the court on Wednesday, February 19.
Magistrate Jallah also refused to rule into the matter, though, the defense team asked him to do so.
In their argument, Cllr. Jonathan T. Massaquoi, one of the legal counsels for defendant Bility, asked Magistrate Jallah to refrain from further handling of the matter because his court does not have any jurisdiction over the issue.
“This court does not have nay jurisdiction over the matter that is still under investigation by the LACC, if any,” Cllr. Massaquoi argued.
According to Massaquoi, none of the defendants has ever received invitation from the LACC before Magistrate Jallah could issue the writ against the defendants free movement outside of the country.
“Magistrate Jallah is in serious errors to have issued the writ because LACC cannot be investigating and the court at the same time issues the writ against the defendants,” Massaquoi argued.
Massaquoi said, the LACC’s alleged investigation has not charged any of the defendants, as such, there is no case pending before Magistrate Jallah prompting him to issue that writ. “The writ is also used in civil matter and not during criminal cases, so do not accept the prosecution’s argument but dismiss the entire writ,” Massaquoi pleaded with Magistrate Jallah, which fell on deaf ear.
It can be recalled that Magistrate Jomah Jallah issued a “Writ of Ne Exeat Republica”, meaning to ban the defendants, Bility, Corkrum, and Davies, among others, from leaving the bailiwick of the country for hearing shortly after Cephus wrote the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to reopen the multiple charges case that was already dropped against Bility and Davis by the Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice.
Cephus’ writ came days after the charges against Corkrum was dropped by Wesseh A Wesseh, Assistant Minister for Litigation, Ministry of Justice, and that Wesseh’s decision was immediately overturned by Cephus before filing for the traveling ban against the defendants.
Though, Cephus had early served as a private lawyer for both Corkrum and Davis when he was not serving as Solicitor General, Cephus’ communication with the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission asked the anti-graft body for an immediate re-investigation of the matter, where he has served as a lawyer of co-defendant, LBDI.
Cehpus’ communication dated February 3, 2020, was addressed to the head of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Cllr. Ndubuisi Nwabudike.
The letter reads, “We present our compliments and have the honor to forward herewith the attached case file involving Madam Ellen Corkrum, Musa Bility and members of the Board of Directors of RIA and a number of commercial banks which were investigated, others dropped and some were subsequently indicted for “Economic Sabotage, Theft of Property, Criminal conspiracy, and Misapplication of entrusted funds.”
In continuation, the letter further states: “A careful review of the records of the case shows that the previous government entered a Nolle Prosequi in favor of a number of defendants involved in this matter prior to our ascendancy, and we in recent times did the same due to the absence of Madam Corkrum and to avoid being seen as pursuing a “selective prosecution.”
Further, “we also noticed that a sole source recommendation was made by our predecessor, Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo, to hire a US-based firm, Fox Rothschild, to which US$200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand Dollars) that was allegedly paid to Fox Rothschild to have Madam Corkrum brought back to Liberia.”
Finally, the letter recommended: “investigation should take into consideration the legal basis for the former Solicitor General Betty Lamin-Blamo recommending a sole source bid or selection of Fox Rothschild, what became of the extradition proceedings if any among them.”
Corkrum was indicted along with a Liberian businessman, Musa Bility, former chairman of the Board of Directors of LAA; the Monrovia Diaspora Consulting, LLC, through Momar Dieng, a U.S. citizen; and the First International Bank (FIB, now GN Bank); and the LBDI, on charges of economic sabotage, criminal facilitation, conspiracy to defraud the government, and making unauthorized transfers of funds from government accounts.
The First International Bank was indicted for allegedly conspiring with co-defendants of Corkrum, Melvin Johnson & Associates, to make an unauthorized transfer of funds in the amount of US$56,750 from the account of the Liberia Airport Authority when Corkrum was the Managing Director.
Corkrum clandestinely left Liberia with the help of some top security personnel that were serving in the erstwhile Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration.
Corkrum’s escape was precipitated by an indictment by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County in 2013 on charges of economic sabotage, criminal facilitation, conspiracy to defraud the government, and making unauthorized transfers of funds from government accounts.