The trial of former Procurement Manager of International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) on allegations of receiving items worth more than US$20,000 from the institution’s customers began on Monday, June 9 at Criminal Court ‘C’ with the prosecution's first witness taking the stand.
Defendant Choyen Johnson was indicted in 2013 with theft of property and forgery, on allegations that he forged the signature of IFES –Liberia Operation Manager, Jonathan Valkings to prepare invoices and delivery notes to customers to withdraw items valued at more than US$20,000.
However, when the indictment was read to Johnson in open-court he pleaded not guilty, thereby joining issue with the State.
“IFES’ lawsuit is wholly without merit and their claim that I forged my former boss’ signature is false,” defendant Johnson told the court.
IFES is an international non-profit organization founded in 1987. The Washington D.C.-based development organization provides assistance and support for elections in new and emerging democracies.
Testifying on Monday, Witness Robert T. Salinga alleged that on July 5, 2012 IFES-US was informed by IFES-Liberia that there were acts of misconduct and forgery carried out by defendant Johnson.
Salinga further alleged that he and another employee of IFES-US were sent to Liberia to conduct an investigation into said allegation.
“IFES- USA instructed us to conduct an investigation and report our findings back to them,” IFES’s lead Project Accountant stated.
“On August 9, 2012, we arrived in the country and immediately began our investigation,” the witness said.
The Prosecution's first witness said they conducted an interview with the IFES Operation Manager, Mr. Valkings.
“Our investigation revealed that there were 20 purchase orders that were forged by the defendant. We were also informed and showed delivery orders, invoices including a forged letter written by the Chief Executive Officer of IFES Washington office regarding the delay of payment to various vendors,” Salinga further stated.
“We also interviewed different vendors including D and G about forging the IFES executive director’s signature to issue delivery orders and invoices,” he alleged.
“We saw invoices and purchase orders bearing the name and signature of the defendant. Those signatures were not Jonathan Valkings, they were forged signatures,” he added.
“Since the documents were presented by Mr. Chayon and all were bearing his name and signature, we were made to believe that the person who signed the\documents was the defendant.”
“We were able to see and recognize the signatures of Jonathan and he categorically confirmed that those were not his signatures, and he showed us his proper signatures by signing his name in front of us,” Salinga further alleged.
“I’m not an expert to identify signature, but I believe these are Jonathan’s signatures,” he stated.