Constant delays in the payment of salaries and benefits to judges as well as interference are said to be major factors responsible for corruption in the country’s judiciary. This observation was made by Judge Roosevelt Willie on August 12, 2019, when he delivered his charge at the opening of the August Term of Criminal Courts, A, B, C, D and E of Montserrado County at the Temple of Justice.
Other international human rights reports including US State Department reports have also highlighted corruption as a major factor affecting the Liberian judiciary. Bribery of judges and judicial officials and the sale of justice to the highest bidder are chronic ills affecting the Liberian judiciary which are highlighted in these international human rights reports.
A case in point is that involving one Amos Brosius, general manager and supposedly a majority shareholder of the Ducor Petroleum Inc. Mr. Brosius was said to be previously associated with the Monrovia Oil Trading Company (MOTC) allegedly in a managerial capacity. Mr. Brosius, according to reports, left the MOTC allegedly following disagreements and formed his own company, the Ducor Petroleum.
A shareholder of the MOTC then files a lawsuit against Brosius at the Commercial Court, accusing Brosius of illegally using MOTC funds to establish his Ducor Petroleum Inc. Brosius rejects the charges in his response to the plaintiffs (MOTC) complaints.
The Commercial Court, in response to the claims and counterclaims imposed a freeze order on the LBDI accounts of the Ducor Petroleum Inc., pending disposition of the matter. It also ordered that any withdrawals from that account while the matter is still pending should be done only with a duly authorized and approved letter from the Court.
However Brosius contends that pending final disposition of the matter a new management team, allegedly Court appointed, was set up, thus effectively stripping him (Brosius) of his managerial authority over the company he had set up but which was now, according to him, being illegally claimed by his accuser, one Carron purportedly a French national.
Further, according to Brosius, while the matter was still pending disposition, the Court had, without his knowledge, endorsed a letter by Carron dated July 22, 2013, requesting the Court to modify its July 15, 2013 mandating a freeze on the Ducor Petroleum LBDI account. Under the authority of that letter endorsed by the Court, according to Brosius, over US$3 million was illegally withdrawn from his account.
Brosius, who has since been waging a relentless campaign to ensure justice in the matter, has according to reports encountered several obstacles along the way with most of such coming allegedly from the Commercial Court itself. One of such was the contempt (later quashed) charge placed on Brosius’s legal counsel respected human rights lawyer, Tiawan Gongloe.
Legal sources say that a letter from one party in a suit requesting reversal of a Court’s decision and the Court granting such request without a hearing to afford the other party the opportunity to challenge same constituted a gross violation of Brosius’ rights to due process. It was as if, according to legal sources, judges in the case had wedded themselves to a party in the suit.
Moreover, according to legal sources, the fact that such large amounts of money were illegally withdrawn under the cloak of judicial authority suggests that big names at the level of the Supreme Court might have been involved.
And it was probably for such reasons, basically the lack of trust in the Judiciary, that Brosius took his case to the ECOWAS Court for determination. However, it is important to underscore that cases going to the ECOWAS court must have first exhausted to the fullest extent, local remedies else the matter could be referred back to the Supreme Court, assuming that the Court had not been previously seized of the matter.
In other words, if Brosius did not take his case to the Supreme Court and opted instead to take it to the ECOWAS Court, it is not surprising therefore to see that Justice-in-Chambers Wolokolie has commenced an investigation into the matter involving the illegal withdrawal of over US$3 million from Ducor Petroleum’s LBDI account. This is most likely because the ECOWAS Court has referred the matter to the Supreme Court.
Now as to what turn this probe is going to take remains unclear for the moment.
One thing for sure is that this will prove to be a major test for the nation’s Judiciary for what it promises is putting impunity on trial. Liberian judges are, according to international human rights reports, receiving bribes routinely. According to respected Circuit Judge Roosevelt Willie, this kind of corruption is attributed to the delay in payment of salaries and benefits to Judges as well as political interference.
The nation wonders whether in this case, delay of salaries and benefits may have been factors contributing to the Court’s (Commercial) decision to authorize the illegal withdrawal of over US$3 million from Amos Brosius’ accounts. Who were those lawyers and judges involved in what appears to be a well concocted scheme, analogous to and indistinguishable from daylight highway robbery?
We do not at this point know what will be the outcome of Justice-in-Chambers Wolokolie’s probe into this sleazy affair or to where it may lead. Whether it will eventually prove to be a case of “you haul rope, rope haul bush” may be yet too early to tell. But we shudder to think that Judges and lawyers who should be respectable individuals will sink to such levels of gross dishonesty.
What hope then for the Judiciary — What hope for the Liberian nation?