... Commercial Court Judges ruled
The contention surrounding the alleged depletion of the amount of US$3.3 million out of the Escrow Account of the Ducor Petroleum Incorporated housed at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) is far from being resolved due to the judgment of the Commercial Court to deny the request by one of the two contending parties, the Amos Brosius’ party, to have the bank to release the financial statement of the company from 2013.
Brosius had earlier filed a 'Petition for a Bill of Information' before the court that is being controlled by a Three-Judge-Panel to order the other party, Monrovia Oil Trading Company (MOTC), the respondent to return the US$3.3 million said to have been withdrawn from the Ducor Petroleum's escrow account, which account was frozen upon the directive of the Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan, which Brosius sought the bank’s statement to authenticate the truthfulness of the accusation.
However, delivering their unanimous judgment, the three judges, Chan Chan A. Pargar, Associate Judge, Othello S. Paynan, Associate Judge, and Roosevelt Z. Willie, assigned Ad Hoc Judge, on Monday, September 13, said they can only state the status of the money when they are making the final determination on the petition for Accounting.
Willie's Ad Hoc Judgeship was given to him by Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, after Judge Morgan recused herself from hearing the matter. The petition for accounting was filed by the MOTC against Brosius', wherein the MOTC was seeking the court’s approval to have Brosius, who is the general manager and a shareholder of Ducor Petroleum, to account for his stewardship to the company.
While the accounting lawsuit was pending before the court since 2013, it was when Brosius asked the court to ensure that the money was still in the escrow account at LBDI by filling out the bill of information.
But the judges’ ruling further said, "The court is of the opinion that, when making the final determination on the petition for Accounting, it shall be the duty of the court to state the status of all funds, assets, and liabilities of the parties concerned that were brought under the court's control through the various banks to include the LBDI and or are subject of the Petition for Accounting."
The judges further explained that" In the event, the court determines that funds were withdrawn from the account (s) that were brought under its control without the consent of both parties, the court will take and or recommend the necessary and appropriate action (s) to ensure that the rights of the parties are protected under the law."
They also ruled that, "To grant the bill of information is tantamount to reviewing a matter that is pending before the Supreme Court on appeal, since in fact and in deed this issue was similarly raised in the complaint that was subject of Investigation before the JIC and is now before the Honorable Supreme Court for review."
Immediately after the judgment, Brosius who was not represented by a lawyer told judicial reporters that the ruling was a mockery of Justice. According to Brosius, the judgment was still being influenced by Judge Morgan. Brosius argued that his decision was only intended to see if there was money in the escrow account of Ducor Petroleum Incorporated at the LBDI.
"Look, I just wanted to make sure that the money was in the bank because it has taken nine years since we agreed to have the court under the watch of Judge Morgan to control the account pending the outcome of the accounting lawsuit," Brosius said.
"I am a signatory to the account and so I have all right to know the status of the account. How would the court demand that I should wait until the matter is heard and concluded before I know the status of my account," Brosius wondered, adding, "What kind of justice is this?"
Before the Monday judgment, Brosius' legal team had written to the court that since Brosius had not paid them for the past nine years for the legal services they rendered him, they could no longer represent him in the ongoing case.
"For the past nine years we have not been paid for our legal services provided Mr. Brosius; therefore, we are not prepared to continue to represent him for further hearing into the case until we know the status of the account," Cllr Momolu Kandakai, one of the lawyers from the Gongloe and Associates law firm wrote.
True to their words, none of the lawyers were present at Monday's proceedings. Surprisingly, the court-appointed Counselor Jamal C. Dehtho, associate dean and assistant professor of Law at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, the University of Liberia to represent Brosius. Cllr. Dehtho was appointed to the position by Counselor Warner, who is the Dean of the Law School and the lawyer of MOTC whose letter led to the depletion of Ducor Petroleum's escrow account at LBDI.
In the judges' ruling, the three judge panel explained that consistent with the law, practice and procedure in this jurisdiction, a party represented by counsel in a proceeding is required to present all matters of interest and consent to the court through his/her counsel and not directly communicate with the court.
When the escrow account was opened, Brosius claimed that the parties agreed to have Judge Morgan managed the operation of the Ducor Petroleum's account at LBDI until the final disposition of the accounting lawsuit, but Brosius is now claiming that Judge Morgan, without his consent and based on a communication from the MOTC’s lawyer Counselor Negbalee Warner, went ahead to write the management of the bank, and she authorized it to lift the agreed stay order,.
Later, based on Morgan's letter, the bank lifted the stay order and subsequently allowed the MOTC's party to allegedly withdraw the amount of US$3.3million in favor of MOTC, of which Brosius was seeking the judges’ intervention to allow him to have access to the company bank statement.