Says Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay, as he accepts government’s request for time to find an amicable solution
Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay of Criminal Court ‘C’ on Tuesday, May 26 termed as ‘mockery’ action by state prosecutors their motion to suspend the further hearing in the case of the L$2.6 billion as well as the excess LD$10.5 billion authorized to be printed by Crane Currency in 2018, which fits remain in doubt to the understanding of the general public. Right now, former Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), Executive Governor, Mr. Milton Weeks is left alone in the dilemma surrounding this sticky national issue with the rest of those connected to him freed from charges levied against them earlier.
Accepting the state prosecutors’ request for suspension of the matter, Judge Gbeisay said, “The behavior of the state lawyers in which the defense lawyers (Weeks’ lawyers) have agreed seems to be making a mockery of the court and the justice system.”
Gbeisay’s utterance comes just a day following a request for continuance (suspension) filed by the state prosecutors informing the court that they and the lone defendant, Weeks, are endeavoring to find a common ground on the way forward in resolving the matter to save time, energy, and resources.
Giving the historicity of the state lawyers’ behavior, Gbeisay said, “The indictment against co-defendant Weeks and others is dated back to June 14, 2019, nearly a year.”
Gbeisay added that in the jurisdiction, indictments are based on oral and documentary pieces of evidence introduced before a grand inquest (jury), meaning that before an indictment is released, the state has gathered enough evidence against a defendant.
“When this case was called in the last term of court, the state prayed this court for a continuance for three weeks. The request was granted and the three weeks requested for was extended beyond six weeks,” Gbeisay narrated.
Gbeisay said at the call of the case this time on May 13, 2020, the state again informed the court that it has filed a motion to nolle prosequi (drop charges) in the case against some of the defendants that include Charles Sirleaf, Deputy Governor for Operations, Dorbor M. Hagba, Director of Finance, Richard H. Walker, Director for Operation and Joseph Dennis, Director for Internal Audit, excluding co-defendant Milton Weeks, thereby giving the impression that it has cogent and material evidence against Weeks.
Judge Gbeisay further explained that on May 25, based on a regular notice of assignment, the state again informed the court that it has filed a Motion of Continuance for another three weeks on grounds that it has initiated discussion with co-defendant Weeks to seek an out-of-court resolution and or mitigate the charges.
“This court wonders why now, after nearly a year since the indictment was released. More besides, the defense counsel who prayed for the assignment on May 25 also filed their response, interposing no objection of the request made by the state,” Gbeisay said.
Again, Gbeisay said, “The record shows that this judge was recalled to preside over this case because the Resident Judge of Criminal Court ‘C’ Blamo Dixion had earlier recused himself from the case and the state prosecutors had objected to Judge Peter Gbeneweleh, who had replaced Dixon from presiding over the matter.”
Gbeisay continues, “This case is a sensitive so-called high profile one; these consistent and continuous requests for postponement speaks volumes and gives a different impression of the court and the judge presiding therein to the public and tends to erode public confidence in the judiciary.”
Judge Gbeisay agreed that while the state has the right to Nolle Prosequoi (drop charges), its case under Section 18.1 of the Criminal Procedure Law, stressing “the court also reserves the right to dismiss the case under Section 18.2 of the same criminal procedure law for the unnecessary delay as in the instant case.”
Gbeisay said rhetorically, ” This court cannot be held in hostage by the prosecution until it is ready.”
Granting the request for suspension of the case, Judge Gbiesay said, “The motion for continuance is, therefore, hereby granted with the modification that it reverts to this court in seven (7) days; failure of which this court will proceed to sua ponte and dismiss this case under 18.2 and pay its attention to other matters.”
In their request for suspension of the case, the state lawyers argued that it is proper for an application of this sort to be made so that the parties can have ample time to discuss and reach a peaceful agreement before proceeding.
They further argued that “It is a practice and procedure in our jurisdiction that instructs that where the parties at their own volition have initiated the process of opening windows of opportunity to hear each other’s concern and advance suggestions on how to resolve a triable issue geared at finding an amicable solution that could lead to the mitigation of the charges levied, a motion of continuance is the proper remedy at law to invoke to give the parties ample time.”
According to the lawyers, during the last few days, there were strong indications suggestive of mitigating the charges and thereby finding a way forward in dealing with other issues that are quite ripe and incredibly probable and therefore, “we pray the court for the continuance of these proceedings for three consecutive weeks for reason.”
It may be recalled that the government dismissed charges that include economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, and criminal facilitation and money laundering against Charles Sirleaf, Deputy Governor for Operations, Dorbor M. Hagba, Director of Finance, Richard H. Walker, Director for Operation and Joseph Dennis, Director for Internal Audit, thereby leaving Weeks as the lone defendant.
This move, according to analysts, left the public with a distinct impression that the dismissal of charges against Weeks was just a matter of time, mainly out of fear that he would have told it all (“split the beans”).
Further, according to a retired security official (name withheld), putting Weeks on trial while others have been let off the hook would have meant that the government was prepared to risk a tell-all by Weeks. Moreover, according to him, some past and current government officials including former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf would have all been dragged into the mud. This is why he believes Weeks will be let off the hook and this is the impression being cast on the public.
That impression appears to have been engrained even further with the filing of a motion for continuance by state prosecutors, citing as reasons, efforts being made to mitigate the charges by finding a suitable arrangement with Weeks. Whatever shape or form those “suitable arrangements” will take remains unclear. Also unclear is the fate of the US government-sponsored investigative Kroll Report which now appears to have been left in the dark.