On Tuesday, October 29, 2019, the full bench of the Supreme Court heard an appeal by lawyer representing Semoh Group of Companies against the Monrovia City Court for convicting two of the company’s managers, who misapplied US$130,000 that was intended to construct the Botota Magisterial Court in Bong County.
The two convicted managers are Moserray Momoh and James P. Mator.
Semoh Group of Companies is reportedly owned by Moseray Momoh, who is currently the deputy managing director for administration at the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC), and James P. Mator serving as administrative and finance manager for Semoh Group.
In their complaint filed by Cllr. Amara M. Sheriff, the company claimed that both Momoh and Mator were charged with the commission of misapplication of entrusted property valued at US$130,000, and they were tried and convicted with substantial modification before the Monrovia City Court.
Cllr. Sheriff added that the said conviction was confirmed by then Judge Blamo Dixon of the Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice.
He argued further that under the law, the magisterial courts do not have original jurisdiction for the amount of US$130,000, for which the men were sued to restitute the money.
That is to say, according to Sheriff, the Monrovia City Court does not have the original jurisdiction in any theft related offenses in the amount of US$50,000 and above.
“All theft offenses ranging from US$50,000 and above are felony of first degree. Therefore, it becomes an indictable offense to be tried in criminal circuit throughout the country,” Cllr. Sheriff argued.
He continued that despite the fact, the Monrovia City Court has no original jurisdiction as the crime alleged is felony of the first degree, which is cognizable before the circuit court, specifically the Criminal Court ‘C.’
Accordingly, Sheriff claimed that the magisterial court does not have original trial jurisdiction over the amount, “is void, and shall be dismissed as a matter of law.”
“The Supreme Court says time and again that the Magisterial Court did not have original jurisdiction over the first degree felony, and therefore, the judgment is void as it was never entered,” Sheriff pleaded with the court.
“We request the Supreme Court to dismiss the entire cause of action due to the voidness of the judgment where the Magisterial Court did not have original jurisdiction over US$130,000, and discharge the defendants from answering to the charges levied against them,” Sheriff told the court.
The case grew when the judiciary claimed that in November 2015, it executed a construction contract agreement for the construction of the Botota Magisterial Court of US$138,402 with Semoh Group of Companies. However, before the work could start, US$124,402 was already paid to Semoh.
But the judiciary is claiming that Semoh should pay back US$48,000 of the US$124,402 that was given to him for the remaining work that he is yet to do.
It was against the backdrop that the judiciary charged the pair with misapplication of entrusted property, and forwarded them to the Monrovia City Court for prosecution.