The Supreme Court yesterday transferred Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Kakata, Margibi County.
The transfer of the Criminal Court ‘C’ Judge, who is handling the Global Witness bribery case against scores of present and past public officials, is expected to create a serious setback to the speedy resolution of the matter.
Judge Gbeisay has been re-assigned to Margibi County and subsequently replaced with Judge Yussif Kaba, currently mending the Civil Law Court in Monrovia.
Judges serve at the will and pleasure of the Chief Justice, who has the mandate to transfer any judge from one court to the other throughout the country.
Gbeisay has been presiding over Criminal Court ‘C’ for the last two terms of court, a total of 104 days, before his transfer to Margibi County.
Under the law, judges are to be rotated (transferred) after serving a term of court, which lasts for 42 days, and an extended period of 10 days for them to prepare reports on their activities, which takes the total to 52 days.
Before his transfer, prosecutors in the Global Witness case complained to Justice in Chamber, Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks, just a day before Gbeisay was expected to send some of them to prison if Heine Van Niekerk, their key witness from South Africa, failed to appear before the court to testify.
It was van Niekerk, who was an executive of Sable Mining, a UK-based mining company, who Global Witness claimed presented the spreadsheet and emails to the court.
The emails and spreadsheet outlined Sable Mining’s alleged payment of over US$950,000 as bribes to Liberian officials with the intention of changing the Public Procurement Concession Commission Act (PPCC) and award the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County to Sable.
Gbeisay also refused to legitimize the evidence by placing a permanent mark on prosecution’s ‘vital emails and spreadsheet evidences’ that the state lawyers claimed was obtained from the Global Witness. The decision caused prosecution to ask for a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to be filed against Judge Gbeisay.
Certiorari is a document which a losing party files with the Supreme Court to review the decision of a lower court.
In the absence of the writ, Gbeisay has been transferred, though Justice Banks has also placed a stay order preventing Gbeisay from further proceeding with the matter pending the outcome of a hearing into the matter.
Besides, not issuing the writ, Banks has mandated the defense, prosecution and Gbeisay to compile their legal grounds as to whether or not Banks should issue the writ.
While the matter is yet to be decided, Gbeisay has been reassigned, which now makes it more difficult for the new judge to hear the case for this term of court.
Even if Justice Banks were to issue the writ, a legal expert told the Daily Observer that any of the parties that feel unsatisfied has the right to appeal against the decision to the other four judges of the Supreme Court.
If the matter goes before the other judges, it means that they will listen to arguments from all the parties after which time the justices would by October come out with the final decision.