US$6M PUP Ruling Delayed Again

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Poor health? Peter Gbeneweleh, the no nonsense judge who continues to delay ruling in the US$6m PUP case
How many postponements have there been in this single ruling surrounding US$6m Private Use Permits (PUP)?
This was a question that family members, the defendants and even lawyers were asking publicly in the courtroom of Criminal Court ‘C’ yesterday minutes after Judge Peter Gbeneweleh again backtracked from his declaration to come down with his final judgment following several failed attempts last month.
The dismissed Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Managing Director, Moses Wogbeh, and three others, including a surveyor at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy are being tried for their roles in the illegal issuance of 61 Private Use Permits (PUPs) that authorized commercial logging operations on nearly 2.5 million hectares of farmland.
Their action, prosecution is claiming, cost government to lose revenue amounting to over US$6m, an allegation they denied when each took the witness stand.
Wogbeh and his co-defendants are facing 10 to 20 years imprisonment if convicted as charged with economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, forgery and counterfeiting.
Judge Gbeneweleh did not give any reason for the postponement in court, but the decision was reached immediately after he met with prosecutors led by the Solicitor General, Betty Lamin Blamo, and the defense team who vented their anger as they left his chamber.
It was their legal team that informed the defendants that Judge Gbeneweleh had advised them in his chamber that he could not continue with the ruling yesterday due to “poor health.”
Immediately upon hearing about the postponement of the case, the defendants wondered loudly, “What is wrong with this ruling again? Why at this time would the judge say that he is sick and cannot rule in our case?”
“We want for him to tell us that we are free and government does not have a case against us,” said the defendants.
“We are tired of being out of job. Let them tell us so we can know our fate and what to do next,” they exclaimed.
“This attitude of not respecting his own decision has not been exhibited by Judge Gbeneweleh. We hope that nothing funny is going on behind closed doors,” the accused were heard saying.
The situation took over an hour for the defendants’ lawyer to quiet down and subsequently convince their clients to leave the courtroom to which they finally complied with disappointment and frustration on their faces.
At yesterday’s hearing, prosecutors did not make any open statement regarding Judge Gbeneweleh’s decision, after the chamber discussion.
But Solicitor General Blamo was spotted using the back door of the courtroom to leave the Temple of Justice.
Her action yesterday demonstrated her frustration over the continue postponement of the ruling.

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