US$4M Libel Lawsuit Hangs Over Information Ministry

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The Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) will shortly face a US$4million legal action for its alleged statement that the vice president for operations at the Liberia Football Association (LFA), Cassell Kuoh was wanted for prosecution in a US$247,500.00 theft involving the National Security Agency (NSA) and some Korean businessmen in 2014.

  Kuoh’s lawyer Cllr. Amara Sheriff last Friday told journalists at the Temple of Justice that they have concluded collection of oral and documentary evidences to file their case against the ministry.

  Cllr. Sheriff, who is a lawyer of the Sherman and Sherman law firm, owned by Cllr. Varney Sherman said, “We are filing the lawsuit for the alleged defamation of the character and reputation of Mr. Kuoh, as a result of statements made about him by the Deputy Minister for Public Affairs, Mr. Isaac Jackson.

  Minister Jackson was quoted by the New Vision newspaper in its Monday, January 12, 2015 edition, under the caption, ‘LFA Veep Wanted for Money Laundering.’ The paper reported that Mr. Kuoh was allegedly ‘wanted for prosecution by the Liberian government in connection with the Korean businessmen’s US$247,500.00 theft.”

  Minister Jackson was further quoted in the story as saying, “a finding by the Special Presidential Committee mandated to investigate accusation of money laundering, illegal arrest and conspiracy to defraud some foreign investors revealed that the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of LFA first division club, Cassell Kuoh is one of the two conspirators directly involved with the illegal arrest and subsequent stealing of the Korean businessmen money.”

   Minister Jackson was said to have made the revelation during a MICAT regular press briefing.

  However, addressing journalists, Cllr. Sheriff asked Minister Jackson to be prepared to produce the evidence that the Special Presidential Committee, headed by the Dean and Professor of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia, Cllr. David A.B. Jallah, recommended Mr. Kuoh’s prosecution.

   “We are going to file a million United States dollars damages lawsuit for the injuries done by the false statements printed on several newspapers and broadcast on various radios about our clients throughout the country,” he said.

   According to him, the report mentioned that Kuoh was not in the country when the committee members communicated to him, after some of the accused said that he tried to hire a lawyer for them.

  “My client was not in the country when the incident took place. He had left for the United States, so how would a minister allege he conspired with other people to steal from the Korean businessmen,” Cllr. Sheriff wondered.

  “He was only invited because two of his friends who were said to have been part of the act contacted him to find a lawyer that would represent them during the trial,” the lawyer noted.

  Cllr. Sherman whose law firm Cllr. Sheriff works for is also the national chairman of the ruling Unity Party (UP) and the Senator-elect of Grand Cape Mount County.

   The announcement of the potential lawsuit against the Ministry of Information came after the committee had recommended that the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government refund the US$247,500.00 seized from the Korean businessmen on July 8, 2014.

  In Cllr. Jallah’s committee report to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a copy of which is with the Daily Observer, he quoted them as saying, “Upon being informed by Attorney Jonathan Massaquoi that he was contacted by Cassell Kuoh to represent his friends, Nasser Aly and Osman Bangaru in the matter, the committee decided to invite Mr. Kuoh for an interview and did write him.”

  The document further states that,  “However, the committee was unable to meet with Mr. Kuoh as the staff at the Liberia Football Association (LFA), the organization where he serves as vice president for operations, and where the letter was delivered, informed the dispatcher that he was out of the country.”

 It said, “The committee was subsequently informed by Attorneys Arthur Johnson and Swahilo Sessay that they were also asked by Mr. Cassell Kuoh to represent his friends, Nasser Aly and Osman Bangaru in the matter.”

   “This further triggered the committee’s interest in Mr. Cassell Kuoh and his involvement in the matter under investigation.”

  “However,” the report said, “on Monday October 27, 2014, Cllr. Jallah received a telephone call from cell number 077-666999 from a male who claimed to be Mr. Kuoh, who confirmed that he had been out of the country, and had just returned and saw the committee’s letter of invitation.

  “He wanted to know whether it was not too late to meet with the committee. Cllr. Jallah consulted with members of his committee who agreed to meet with Mr. Kuoh on Tuesday, October 28, 2014, at 10am. When Cllr. Jallah communicated this information to Mr. Kuoh, he said that he could only be available over the weekend as he had a church conference to attend all week.

 “At its Tuesday meeting, the committee decided that it could not wait until the weekend to meet with Mr. Kuoh as the investigation had been outstanding for quite a while. Therefore, the committee did not meet with Mr. Kuoh. In fact the committee had sufficient documentary evidences to reach a conclusion relative to Mr. Kuoh’s involvement in the matter,” it concluded.

  The report further recommended that the five operatives of the National Security Agency (NSA) who were directly involved with the arrest of the Korean nationals and their two co-conspirators be handed over to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.

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