It seems that the Supreme Court may likely not lift its stay order placed on the Tax Court’s enforcement of its (Tax Court) judgment amount of US$300,130.68 and LD$37,763,444.77 as tax fraud against Musa Hassan Bility, president and CEO of Srimex, a company dealing in petroleum products.
The stay order was instituted in January 2018, by then Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh, chamber justice of the Supreme Court, just a day for the Sheriff of the Tax Court, Fredrick Blamo, to commence to seize and expose for sale land, goods, and chattels belonging Bility for settlement of the court’s final judgment.
It came about when Bility’s legal team, Kemp and Associates Legal Consultancy, prayed Justice Ja’neh to grant their petition for alternative writ of prohibition and to also order Judge Chesson to stay all proceedings in the case.
Bility also asked Justice Ja’neh to return to status quo ante pending the outcome of their petition, which up to present there is no document before the Tax Court pointing that the matter has been sent back to that court to take jurisdiction over it, which request was immediately granted by Ja’neh.
While the stay order remains in place, Justice Ja’neh on two separate occasions January 19 and 30, 2018 scheduled conference with the parties, Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Judge Mozart Chesson and Bility.
Unfortunately, the outcome of those conferences remains a mystery.
When contacted by the Daily Observer in his chamber at the Temple of Justice, Judge Chesson said he does not have any knowledge about the status of the case.
“Check the court file if there is any mandate from the Supreme Court for the court to take jurisdiction of the case. There is none yet and I am waiting for it,” Chesson reluctantly told the reporter.
When also asked whether he attended any of the two conferences with Justice Ja’neh, Chesson response in the positive.
“I don’t know why my name was on the caption of the case, because I was not a party to it, the case was between LRA and Srimex, and not me,” the Tax Court judge said.
When also contacted about the status of the case, Atty. Sam Momulu, Acting Clerk of the Supreme Court confirmed Judge Chesson’s statement that the matter was still with the Supreme Court.
“The matter is before the Supreme Court and we are going to look into it very soon,” Atty. Momulu maintained.
He did not give a specific date for the lifting of the stay order and subsequent resumption of the matter by the Tax Court.
One of the conference communications, dated January 19, 2018, which was obtained from the Tax Court’s document signed by Atty. Momulu, read, “By directive of His Honor Kabineh M. Ja’neh Associate Justice pending in Chamber, you are hereby cited to a conference with His Honor on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, at the hour of 2PM, in connection with the above captioned case.”
Before the stay order, in 2012, Srimex was adjudged liable by Judge Eva Mappy Morgan, then Tax Court judge for a tax debt in the amount of US$180,000 plus 6% interest also in the amount of US$10,800 thereby making Bility’s tax debt to US$190,800, which by then Bility accepted to pay.
Thereafter, Bility made some significant payment of the debt to the extent that balance sum of US$94,700.
Bility also claimed that he paid US$23,000, which the court said it has not received.
Since then Bility has not made effort to pay the remaining money of US$94,700, which action prompted the LRA to ask the Judge Chesson for enforcement of the judgment debt.
It was based on LRA’s request that Judge Chesson on October 23, 2017, about five years later, to rule as follow, “Bility is liable to pay the government US$396,220.58 which include a monthly compounded interest of US$205,420.68 for 63 months at an interest of 14% as of July 2012 plus the initial tax judgment amount of US$190,800.”
It was the enforcement of that judgment when Bility asked Justice Ja’neh to place a stay order, which he did, arguing “Chesson’ ruling for the importation of the compounded interest on a monthly basis for 63 months, is legally baseless and not in consonant with law.”
Defending his action for not paying the judgment debt since 2012, Bility claimed that former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in October 2017, issued an Executive Order Number 89, where he said, the president “instituted policy measure to stimulate economic growth by reducing administrative business process requirement on concessions, small and medium sized businesses and manufacturers with a further waiver on penalties and interest imposed on business houses.”
Therefore, Bility argued Chesson’s imposition of the compounded interest runs contrary to then President Sirleaf’s executive order and Article 21 (d) of the Constitution of Liberia, which he quoted by saying, “it frowned on the imposition of excessive bill, fines and punishment.”