Index

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Quest for or Escape from Justice?

Counterclaims and accusations have characterized the testimonies of the four defense witnesses in their trials for an alledged US$1.8m fraud which happened at the Liberia Coca-Cola Bottling Company (LCCBC). The trial started with eleven indicted defendants. But is the trial in pursuit for justice against the indicted employees for fraud as the prosecution has presented it or an attempt to put to rest a US$ 10 million libel against the LCCBC by defendant George M. Paye? Defendant Paye who have taken the witness stand since his co defendants: Emmanuel R. L. Tyler, Sam Oye and Tonia Kparteh, decended have been testifying that no fraud happened at LCCBC and the trial was aimed at getting him out of the company. “… Seth Adu-Baah came to Liberia, took over as Country Manager and decided to kick me out of LCCBC,” witness Paye said in his April 26th testimony before the court and jury while answering to questions relating to internal audits conducted by Dina Asmaa Zouhir for the year 2010. The co-defendants had earlier testified that officials of the management staff called them to a meeting told them the case was not about them but George Paye who have been unleashing instruments into evidence to prove their innocence. Those co-defendants further alledged that LCCBC’s Country Manager Seth Adu-Baah and Human Resource Manager Gibreal Johnson had promised to have them of the indictment list if they said negative things about defendant Paye; they alledgedly refused. However defensive the defense witnesses’ testimonies may be, the prosecution witnesses’ testimonies have linked the four defendants in the dock to the crime alledged. The defendants are on trial for alledged misapplication of entrusted property, Criminal Facilitation and Criminal Consparacy that evantually led to a US$1.8m loss to the LCCBC. In his April 27th testimony, defendant Paye said because he refused to drop a US$10m lawsuit against the LCCBC other accused in the case were asked to distance themselves from him. He earlier explained that after he was served his suspension letter and turned over to the Liberia National Police (LNP) for investigation, several weeks went by and the LNP could not charge them because they (LNP) were awaiting evidence from LCCBC. Defendant Paye: “In the absence of such evidence they could not charge us. It went on for almost three weeks. So my lawyers decided to file Hebeas Corpus to restrain the LNP from futher investigation and subsequently came ti the Monrovia City Court. My lawyers urged me to go home. “Then the company hired Cllr. T. C. Gould to be their lawyer and at the same time decided to carry out publications in newspapers and on television that we have stolen US$1.8m dollars. So I got angry and asked my lawyers to sue the LCCBC for damages. They filed a lawsuit in the tone of US$10M.” When this was done, defense witness Paye said he send an email to the company’s owners in Spain which contain the newspapers’ publications and the lawsuit agains the LCCBC after they had called him to inquire why he had not been responding to their emails. Such communication as defendant Paye puts it, astonished the bosses in spain and they instructed LCCBC’s country manager to come back to liberia to “face the mess that has been created.” He added the one morning he was at his house and five men (one uniformed) came and served him a writ of arrest which he received and got ready to meet his lawyers. “When I was about to get in my car,” witness Paye said, “two men approached me and said to me ‘you are not suppose to ride your car. You have to ride the car we brought.’ So I said to him, who are you, are you from the court, where is your identity.” According to witness Paye, the uniformed Sheriff told him that the four other men were Cllr. T. C. Gould men. He said upon that statement he (Paye) requested the Sheriff to call the judge that if the men continue to force himm he won’t follow; he then climbed into his car and lock the doors. The witness said the arrest order was at a standstill for about 45 minuets before the Sheriff decided to ride with him in his car. “Upon reaching here I was told that the four men wer being instructed to take me to South Beach because I was very stubborn and I had no right to sue the company,” witness Paye said. He added after a bond was obtained his lawyer told him that Cllr. Gould had arranged a meeting with a condition that he (Paye) will drop his lawsuit against the company before the meeting could happened but he (Paye) refused; but two months later, another meeting was scheldule by Cllr. Gould at his office which he (Paye) attended. Defendant Paye: “At that meeting, LCCBC lawyer, Cllr. T. C. Gould said to me, ‘George, what has happened has happened. You got to admit to certain things so that we can resolve this issue.’ So I got angry and to my lawyer if that is what i was called for then I will not sit in that meeting. “Then I turn to Seth and said that he should provide evidence against me. Cllr. T.C. Goulc said again, ‘this reciept to U.N Drive [Supermarket] is it not true that you collectd the money for yourself.” The man who is at the center of the US$1.8M fraud said he did not answer the question and told Cllr. Gould that if he wanted answer to any question, he (Cllr. Gould) should take him to court. “So because of my rebuttal to drop the ten million lawsuits against the LCCBC, other accused were asked to distance themselves from me,” witness paye said. One of said asccuse is defendant Emmanuel Tyler, who according to witness paye called him to tell of the offer made to him (Tyler) but he (Paye) told Tyler to do what was best for himself. The prime defendant said it was proven that the LCCBC lawsuit was against him by the prosecution’s request to have his bank account subpoena and not the other defendants. Defendant Paye: “Am I the only one in the dock? The answer is an obvious no. to conclude I want to make this clear to the court and jury that there was nothing like thief of money at LCCBC. As I explained the forensic report how they derive at their figures? How can a company surviving on over draft claim that US$1.8m was stolen in eleven month?” Upon completing his testimony, the defense counsel requested that the US$ 10m lawsuit that defendant Paye talked about to be admitted into evidence which was done by the Judge at Criminal Court “C” and said instrument was marked D/22. Mainwhile, the trials seems far from over, as the prosecution has promised to produce several rebuttal witnesses to rebut some of the defense witnesses’ testimonies.

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 27th Ruling Awaits LCCBC Fraud Case

Ruling in the lawsuit against four indicted employees of the Liberian Coca-Coca Kola Bottling Company (LCCBC) is expected to be handed down by Judge Blamo Dixon in the chamber’s section of Criminal Court “C” on the 27th day of April AD 2012. The ruling could bring the jury’s trial to an end, when the jurors would come up with a verdict of acquittal or conviction that may put to rest whether or not a US$1.8M fraud actually happened at the LCCBC. The indicted employees were charged with three counts; including misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation. The crimes engendered an alledged US$1. 8M loss to the entity. The defendants now under trial are George M. Paye, Emmanuel R.L. Tyler, Sam Oye and Tonia Kparteh. Each of the defendants had in open court pleaded not guilty to the allegation. If the charges levied against them are found to be true, the defendants’ reputation will be stained and careers may crumble. During the early stages of the case hearing in open court, the prosecution counsel paraded eleven witnesses including expert witnesses as well as five nolle prosequi defendants in person of Emmanuel Wleh, Chris Freeman, Eddie David, Williams Toe and George Grant. The prosecution witnessed testified to fourteen evidences that were marked, confirmed and admitted into evidence labeled from P/1 through P/14. These evidences consist of about forty instruments to include transaction records, letters of communication, miscellaneous sheets of paper and an audit report of an audit conducted by the company after it noticed the eleven defendants that were initial indicted have been doing budiness contrary to normal course. The initially indicted defendants were the managements of the UN-Drive and the Exclusive Supermarkets, the five nolle prosequi defendants-turn-prosecution witnesses, and the four defendants now on trial. Those edvidences presented to the court by the prosecution and attessted to by their witnesses tend to link the defendants to the allegation against. However, they (defendants in dock) have since April 11 taken the witness-stand to testify to their innocence. Three of the four defense witnesses who had been testifying have rated the prosecution evidences as flawed with a prejudicial motive against prime defendant Paye. When he took the stand, first defense witness Tonia Kparteh said the management of LCCBC promised him that he would be exonerated from the fraud case if he said negative things about defendant George Paye. He allegedly refused on grounds that he would not lie about defendant George Paye because he knew nothing negative about the individual who he had only got to know at the office as a professional person. During his time in the stand, second defense witness Sam Oye gave similar testimony about the offer made by official of the administrative staff of the LCCBC. These testimonies by the witnesses tend to impute that the lawsuit must have been masterminded by some individual to get at defendant Paye. Presenting his testimony, defense witness Oye told the court and jury that no fraud had occurred at the LCCBC in which he and his co defendants were involved in. He noted that reports on credited goods and sold products were presented to the commercial manager on a daily basis for accountability. He further told the court that all the proofs presented by the prosecution to justify that a fraud actually happened were flawed and lacked substance. Oye to the jury: “Those entire audit reports lack substance. They are all covered with flaw because those that conducted the audit did not adhere to the principle of audit.” He added that the audit was professionally erroneous in that the auditees who were the custodians to the audit were never seen or talked to while the audit was being carried out. Third defense witness Emmanuel R.L. Tyler offered a charged testimony to the court and identified some irregularities in the prosecution evidences when he pointed out to a daily sales settlement form that did not include the signature of salesman, Anthony Sartee nor the commercial manager. When asked by the prosecution counsel to compute figures in P/1 in bulk to determine whether there were shortages, witness Tyler to the court that if the prosecution wanted him to carry out such computation they should make available the module set up by LCCBC which is used in tallying sales records. The prosecution counsel, Cllr. Theophelius C. Gould, petitioned the court to grant forty minuets to get the module the witness asked for but such request was denied based on the defense counsel’s, Atty. Arthur T. Johnson, resistance. The resistance according to Judge Blamo Dixon was granted because the practice adopted by the prosecution was strange. He ruled that under the laws governing the courts in liberia, if a witness give an answer that the prosecution was not satisfy with, like the request made by the witness for a computer module that was not currently available, the proper remedy is to give a notice to produce a rebuttal witness. Be as it may, the defense witnesses are still on the stage to justify their innocence to the allegations against them. Their substantiated proofs of innocence will inevitably save their reputation and careers from being damaged now for the future. The Prosecution Counsel, Jury, and Court will rest on the third witness. This may eventually lead to prime defendant Paye taking on the witness stand. The LCCBC fraud case has now reached a critical point with the court’s ruling expectedly coming up in about three days from today. The ruling will have the defendants acquitted or convicted.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chinese Businessmen Detained for Tax Evasion

At least five Chinese businessmen have been arrested and detained at the Monrovia central prison on charge of contempt of court for their delinquency to appear before the Tax Court for Montserrado County since June of 2011 to answer to why they have not being paying tax for the businesses they are operating in the country. Those arrested business men include: Lian Zhi, Xu Li Xin, Duan Yong Hou, Ne Jzan Ping and Liang Jle, who as per the order of the Her Honor Eva Mappy Morgan, are to remain in jail for the period of thirty days. It is likely that they may get a bond or remain in jail as they undergo trial for the act of evading tax in the tone of about US$50,000 by changing the name of the construction materials business located on Tubman Boulevard opposite S.D. Cooper road. The businesses, currently named Chain Builders and Modern Builders, where close down yesterday, April 19, 2012 by sheriff of the Tax Court supported by the Liberia National Police and Cllr. Aaron B. Kparkillen, Assistant Minister for Taxation at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). According to the closure order carried by the Tax Court’s Sheriff, China Construction Material Super Market, China Quality Building Material Corporation, Liberia China Investment Group and China West African Building Material Store, names the businessmen previously operated, are found in violation of Section 1900 (Tax Evasion) of the Revenue Code of Liberia. The Chinese Businessmen that were in the Chain Builders and the Modern Builders stores were arrested and taken to the Tax Court at the Temple of Justice from where they were taken to the Monrovia central prison to serve their 30 days term. When asked why the Chinese were being taken into custody, Cllr. Kparkillen said the businessmen had evaded tax and have failed to appear in court since June of 2011 when they were summoned. He said such act was a gross disrespect to the Liberian authority and such would not be taken lightly because the men would not have dared to do that if they were in China. The effort of having the Chinese arrested was to set presidence to others who are likely to engage in tax evasion adding that ‘Liberia is a country of Law not men’.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cases Overflow Courts’ Dockets

Judge Blamo Dixon Asserts; Suggest ways forward The Judge of Criminal Court “C”, A. Judge Blamo Dixon, last Tuesday disclosed that the docket of the court is loaded with about 300 cases that are yet to be heard. Such overwhelming number of unheard cases according to Judge Dixon could be due to the fact that the court spends a whole term or pratically two terms hearing a single case while parties in the other cases continue to run around to have their cases heard. “This court and Civil Law Court their dockets are crowded. We have almost 300 cases on the court “C” docket. People are going up and down to hear their cases. We only spend a whole term or practically two terms of court on just one case. And all the other cases are ‘put on ice’”, Judge Dixon said. The Court “C” judge has been talking with some lawyers about ideas that could significantly reduce the amount of cases on the courts’ dockets. “I have talk to one or two lawyers regarding jury term or the jury section suggesting that the number of days be increased or we can have two terms of court like criminal court “E” which has six months first term and six months second term,” he said. Judge Dixon said there could also be a strategy in which judges will still rotate at the will and pleasure of the Chief Justice but courts would only open once or twice a year instead of having the courts closing and opening four times a year. “Maybe we could only open court one or two times a year. Instead of having the court open for February term and after 42 days we open court for May term; after 42 days we open court for August term and another 42 days we open for November term”, he averred. The Court “C” judge also suggested that there should be amendments made in the Rule of Court which prohibits a judge from hearing two jury cases at the same time in the interest of the Liberian people because such could increase the number of cases being heard in a single court term. “I also suggested that the rule of court prohibits a judge from holding two jury sections at the same time. This is what the rule of court says, but adjustment could be made in the interest of our people to have judge hold two jury sections at the same time when that rule is amended,” he said. He urged those in authority of the Judicial Circle of the Republic to see how best they can manifest such ideas into reality. Judge Dixon made the above comments when he announced the closure of the February Term of court in the edifice of the Criminal Court “C” where the Jury Trial for the Liberia Coca Cola Bottling Company’s (LCCBC) US$1.8M fraud case is being heard. Though the jury section of the February term of court has come to a close, Judge Dixon said that the case would continue in the chambers of court as to have it concluded and the sequestrated jury hearing the case disbanded. He acknowledged the effort of the jury to sit through court trials and help the court come up with its verdicts in cases. Also speaking at the close of the Jury section for the February term of court was Assistant Minister for Litigation at the Ministry of Justice, Cllr. Augustine C. Fiayiah, who urged the jurors to be sincere in carrying out their task. He told the jurors present in court that if the civil society accuse the justice system of being corrupt, such accusation reflicted back to the public because the jurors where from the civil society. Another speaker, Atty. Arthur Johnson, a Public Defender of Monstserrado County highlighted the sacrifice that the jurors make to sit in the court on cases. He believed that they were not sitting in court for the US$6 per day that they receive but rathet to ensure that justice is served to those who deserve it. In closing Cllr. Theophileous C. Gould, President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), promised the Judge that the association will work to see how it could help make the idea of adjusting the term and rule of court a reality.

UL Boosts Students’ Confidence

The University of Liberia (UL) last Thursday held its first job fair which affords several thousands the opportunity to gain exposure to potential would be employers. More than 30 private corporations and Government agencies were at the fair issuing out forms to and collecting curriculum vitaes (CV) from students who queued at the Firestone Quadrant (FQ) Building on the UL’s main campus where the event took place. According to Rev. J. Samuel Reeves, Director of Student Academic Advisement and Career Counseling Center at the university, the job fair was intended to have the students familiar with the ways people go about searching for a job. He said a two-day workshop was conducted with the students on how they could develop their resume that would help expedite their chances of being hire by an employer if they apply. The Student Academic Advisement and Career Counseling Center Director envisioned that having students and citizens of a country employed is significant in the strive for a peaceful and crime free society. Rev. Reeves carryout a theoretical equation which states that “the higher the employment rate in a country the lower the crime rate; and vise versa”. Speaking with some of the students who queued at the FQ building, they said the job fair was an opportunity which will help them get a job to sponsor their education. Jonathan Moore, one of the several students who spoke with the INSIGHT thanked the administration of the UL for being farsighted to initiate such program that would boost their confidence is the search for jobs. He hoped that he event will continue and that the corporations and agencies that were on ground issuing forms, and collecting credentials would actually employ or hire most of the students for internship. Also making comment on the conduct of the event which was aimed at having students exposed to job opportunity and provide workforce to the growing number corporations and entities in Liberia, Dr. Wede Elliott-Brownell said the event has created an atmosphere in which many UL students would get internship jobs. Dr. Elliott-Brownell who is the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost of the UL added that students who were participating in the fair cross-cut the entire student populace (23,000 plus) from all colleges at the university. She told reporters who attended the event that many students at the tertiary level of education in the country have not been able to obtain a job because they could not just go out to companies and say employ me when they don’t have the requisite experience. The UL Provost hoped that the job fair event would amplify at a frequency of at least twice a year in order to give more students at the university a chance to get some job experience that would compliment their academic credential. Job fair such as the one just ended is a new phenomenon that has been introduced by the University of Liberia to address the age old problem of students not getting a job after they graduate because they do not any job experience in there area of discipline. Asked if there were plans of incorporating other universities on the UL’s job fair, madam Elliott-Brownell said the university will not incorporate other universities on the program because the current amount of students of students at the university is expected to project by next year and subsequently in years that follow. Madam Elliott-Brownell however said the UL is willing to work with other universities in the country to develop such program for the benefit of Liberian students.

Whistle-Blower Whistle Sounds L$700M Libel

The Management of the Movement in Defense of the Downtrodden (MDD) is currently facing a L$700M libel lawsuit filed against it by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) for tarnishing the reputation of the institutions over transactions surrounding the completion of the “New Central Bank” office building on Ashmun Street. The MDD (defendant) is being represented by its Executive Director, Alfred G. Togbah, sr., Board of Directors and Officers while the CBL is being represented by its Executive Governor, J. Jones Mills, Board of Directors and Officers. According to the Plaintiff’s Written Direction filed before the judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Civil Law Court of Montserrado County sitting in its December 2011 termed, the defendant, with malice and intend to tarnish and damage the good name and reputation of plaintiff issued a press statement which is libelous on its face. The press statement issued by the defendant provided four counts to the public through the media which, according to the plaintiff written direction, clearly imputes to the plaintiff criminal offences including theft, corruption and bribery. The defendant in its press statement alledged that plaintiff flagrantly abrogated the Public Procurement and Concession act of Liberia by not conducting a bid of preferment for a company that would complete the above mention building and that the present cost for the completion of the building has nearly trippled the initial amount estimated for the completion process. Furthermore the statement alledge that the company now selected for the completion of the building had earlier submitted a cost far less than the current cost but was bargained with the plaintiff to increase the cost in order have been awarded the contract and the CBL’s management benefits share of the bargain. The statement finally alledged that the CBL acted contrary to the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to release information or documents surrounding the project to it during MDD’s investigation. The plaintiff however denied hindering the MDD of information that they requested because it provided the organization with an office space at the bank’s facility were they could peruse all information on the project. When asked by the jurors in the case if he (Togbah) had a chance to view the documents relating to the project which his institution the MDD had taken the CBL to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and the media, defendant Togbah said when he requested fot the documents the CBL ushered him into a room of ‘voluminous documents’ that could take several months to complete. He said he could not go through the documents at the bank’s facility on grounds that investigation was not an event but a process that require time and two of fear of getting thirsty and asking for water from the CBL. The outcome from the case cannot be preempted but whatever it would be it may either encourage or discourage civil society organization like the Movement in Defence of the Downtrodden to challenge alledged graft/fraud in the country.

Hadid Electronics Suffers Fire Desaster

Hadid Electrionics Incorporated, sole distributor of Samsung products in Liberia, yesterday April 10, 2012 gutted fire which brought normal traffic activities on Randall Street to a standstill for more than four hours. Smoke began to rise from the store’s warehouse at about 12:30pm according to eyewitnesses who looked on as firefighters of the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC), and United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) struggled to have the fire extinguished by about 5:00pm. According to information gathered from some of the firefighters who braved the thick fumes rushing out of the warehouse, they had problem entering the store which had being on fire before they arrived. Speaking to Mr. G. Warsuwah Banoul Sr. Director of the LNFS, he lauded the effort of the sister fire services that worked along side his agency to contain the fire from not spreading to other buildings that were in close proximity to the scene. He used the occasion to call on archeticture who design buildings to include fire escapes and sprinklers which are vital in dealing with fire before the LNFS and other fire services can come in. He said the firefighter faced problem reaching the source of fire because the building had a one way entrance which was heavily guided by steel door that they had to break through before commencing extinguishing the fire. He said that people needed to revisit the way they constructed houses in the country so as to have enough space between the houses to avoid the fire from spreading to another building if there was an incidence like the one yesterday. Director Banoul cautioned Liberians and business people to be mindful in handling fire because if could be a good servant or a wicked master if it in not handle properly.

Friendship Turned Deadly

Flower Pot Community off the Du Port Road turned into a scene of drama on March 19, 2012 when two intimate friends, Augustine David and Prince Zammie, got involve into an argument which left one of them dead. The alleged aggressor, Augustine David age 20, having fled the scene that day was arrested by Liberian National Police (LNP) Corporal Jerry Wymah in the Chicken Soup Factory Community on March 20, 2012, investigated and subsequently charged with murder. Defendant David was charged for violating Chapter 14; Sub Chapter B; and Section 14.1 of the revised penal code of the Republic of Liberia have since been forwarded to court to face trails for purposely, knowingly and intentionally causing the death of Prince Zammie. According to the details of offense stipulated in a police charge sheet dated March 27, 2012, both defendant David and his victim Zammie attended the same school and played for the same football team, the school team. Besides attending the Chirstain Bible Faith Academy located in the Joe Bar Community in Paynesville, the defendant and victim lived as next door neighbors in the community where the young Prince Zammie met his untimely dismay. The police charge sheet furthered that it was revealed by detailed inqueries coupled with eyewitnesses’ accounts that on March 19 both the victim and defendant returned from school together and when off back to Joe Bar for football practice. When the practice was over, the defendant and victim were accompanied by two other players who were going to have meal at the victim’s (Prince) home. According to one of the players that was with them (victim and defendant), while they enroute to the victim’s house, an argument broke out between the victim and the defendant which called out the bad blood that led to the death of the late Prince Zammie. The eyewitness said that the victim call off the argument saying he (victim) did not want noise with the defendant on grounds that the defendant once visited his (victim) home and vomited over the floor. Besides that the eyewitness said the victim further accused the defendant of misbehaving at his (victim) parent’s home in the presence of his grandmother who reported the defendant misconduct to his (victim) mother. By that accusation the eyewitness said defendant David called the victim’s grandmother a liar but the victim cautioned him (defendant) not to insult his (victim) grandmother because by that he (defendant) was insulting his (victim) mother and if the defendant did not refrain from that there was going to be a fight. The eyewitness narrated that the defendant asked the victim if he (victim) have never insulted his (defendant) parents, when the victim refused to accept that he have ever insulted the defendant’s parents, the defendant exclaimed “F*C* your people.” It was then according to the eyewitness that the two friends entered into a fight that the eyewitnesses intervine and had calm. When they got home, as the eyewitness puts it, the victim brought his food outdoor for them to eat; while eating the defendant came from the back of the victim and stabbed him (victim) in the upper right back with a kitchen knife and throw it away; the weapon was later recovered from the crime scene by the police. The victim was rushed to the ELWA hospital where he expired while undergoing treatment for the severe wound inflicted by the blow of the aggressor’s blade. When he was arrested, defendant without cohesion admitted to the committing the murder and is awaiting cour trial in due time.

Guns and Drugs Seized in Salala

Joint Security officers operating in Bong County last Sunday arrested several guns and a huge consignment of marijuana during a routine check at the Salala Check point. The firearms and drugs arrested were in the possession of Alfred Dellond, 33, who was conveying the illegal items on board a commercial vehicle from Gbarnga to Harbel, Margibi County. How the arrested weapon and confascated drugs was going to be used remain a mystery yet to be answer. According to police spokesman, Commissioner George Bardue, when he give an update of the police activities in the country, suspect Dellond was arrested with three single-barrel pistols and a bag of marijuana. He said that the suspected was informed of his constitutional rights, investigated and has been forwarded to court on charge of illegal possession of firearm and the illegal possession and sale of narcotic drugs. The police spokesman futher said that at least one person identified as Fred Saylee have died in Gbarnga due to maltreatment against him by two individuals who claim to be agents of the Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA). Commissioner Bardue said the suspects identified as Henry Flomo and Francis Kollie alledgedly pursued victim Saylee and subdued him with stick (baton).

GOL Braces for UNMIL Departure

Starts to Decentralize Justice and Security Services With the departure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) drawing closer, the Government of Liberia (GoL) has begun building several Regional Hubs around the country in efforts to decentralize justice and security services to all parts of the country. The Regional Hubs (Justice Centers) are being built with support from the United Nations peacebuilding fund and other partners who have pledged unweavering support to the infant peace and democracy the country has enjoyed since 2003. Accordign to the Cllr. Christiana P. Tah, Minstier of Justice, there are going to be five regional hubs which will have a Criminal Court and a Circuit Court built across the country in about three years when the UNMIL will be leaving the country. She said the hubs will also include a Liberia National Police (LNP) office, a Bureau of Immagration and Naturalization (BIN) office, and a public outreach and service office where Public Defenders, County Attorneys, Corrections and Human Rights officers will be deployed. The Attorney General of Liberia added that the effect the hub will have on the communities, justice, and security system include: fostering linkagages among rule of law actors, increase security response capacity, strenghten command and control, foster community security initiatives and increase public access to security and justice accountability mechanisms among others. She said that it was about time that the justice system spread out of Monrovia which has been the custodium of justice in the republic of Liberia for ages. Cities targeted for the constuction of the significant justice centers are Gbarnga, Bong County (ongoing); Harper, Maryland County; Zwedru, Grand Gedeh; Tubmanburg, Bomi County; and Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. Each of the hubs will be providing services to the counties that are in proximal to the county it is station. The Harper will provide services to Grand Kru, River Gee and Maryland; the Zwedru will provide services to Sinoe and Grand Gedeh; Tubmanburg will provide services to Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, and Bomi; Buchanan will provide services to River Cess, Margibi and Grand Bassa while Gbarnga will provide services to Lofa, Nimba and Bong Counties. Asked how much each of the hubs will cost, Minister Tar put the funds expended on the Gbarnga hub alread at about US$4.2M for the structure and furniture. She said in the next three years the Government is looking forward to doubling the strenght of the LNP because it will be taking over most of the tasks UNMIL will be abandoning.

Fake Drugs Roam Liberia’s Market

Says Acting Asst. Minister Pewu Dr. Moses Pewu, Acting Assistant Minister for Curative Services at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) have called on Liberians to be cautious in procuring medical drugs in the country because there are lot of fake drugs on the market. According to Dr. Pewu, most drugs being sold as antibiotic in the country have being tested and proven to be mere cassava powder enclosed in capsules or caked as tablets to have people that are desprite for a cure, fooled to subscribe to them(fake drugs) With many Liberians over the years have become accustom to the act of purchasing medicine from quack pharmacists (street drugs vendors) and pharmacies around town without any medical advise, Dr. Pewu said he could not determined how many liberian have died as a result of the usage fake drugs. He cautioned Liberians not to buy drugs based on their own prescriptions from any unrecommended pharmacy or street vendors because some of these medium have the tendency to put money above the well-being of the ill individual. The acting Asst Minister recalled that some time ago one pharmacy (name withheld) which dealt solely in antibiotic and diabetic drugs compromised medical ethics by selling the diabetic pills as antibiotic to some individuals. “I remember there was a time one pharmacy which sold antibiotic and diabetic drugs in town here began to sell the diabetic drugs to people as antibiotic when their antibotic supply ran out. This may have been for economic gain. But what happens if a non-diabetic person takes drugs meants for diabetic patients,” Dr. Pewu asked. He explained that the effect was that the amount of sugar in the non-diabetic person body is drastically reduced which usually results to instant death if that persons falls off. The Acting Assistant Minister for Curative Services made the remark when he was asked to confirm media reports of expire drugs at the nation’s prime referral hospital, JFK, during a press briefing held at the UNMIL headquaters in sinkor. Dr. Pewu respond to the question was that there have being a case of expire drugs at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Medical Hospital earlier this year but there are measure being taken to ensure that such case does not recur. However the existance of street drug peddlers in Liberia have being popularized in the country since the late 1998 when medical facilities in the country was disadvantaged in providing pharmaceutical services to the country’s population. But those street drug peddlers are still predominant on the Liberian market eventhough there have been vital reforms in the health sectors which have improved the way health services are delivered to people in the country.

Libel Per Se Absorbs Whistle-Blower

MDD Togba Says he’s not deterred Though the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) is still conducting investigation of an alledged fraud surrounding the rehabilitation of the new office building of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), the whistle-blower Movement in Defense of the Downtrodder (MDD) and its Executive Director Alfred G. Togba, Sr. has been found liable of liber per se against the CBL. Jourors in the Case Last Thursday returned from their chamber of deliberations with a verdict which charged the Defendants to pay to the CBL L$250M for damages done by a handbill issued as press statement which, according to the prosecuting counsel, imputed the CBL to theif, bribery and corruption. The case had been before Judge Yusus Kaba at the Civil Law Court for about two week, where both the defense and prosecuting counsels paraded several witnesses to prove and disprove that a libel was committed by the MDD for releasing in the media a statement which was libelous on its face. On April 12, 2012 AD, during the final argument between the defense and prosecuting counsels before the court and jury, the defense counsel in person of Atty. S.L. Lofem Kaneah, Jr. and Atty. Gayflor Zayzay prayed an acquittal verdict for the defendants while the prosecuting counsel in person of Cllrs. Emmanuel B. James, A. Kanie Wesso, Rose-Marie Banks James, Esther Barcley and Joseph Jallah, argued that the defendant liable for the libel it commited. Each side argued for an hour before the jury retired into its delivery room and came back with the verdict of liability to which the defense is expected to file a motion for retrial in about four days after the verdict was passed. The defense counsel during their final argument cautioned the jury to be mindful in deciding the verdict for the case because the allegation of corruption which had prompted the lawsuit was still being investegated by the LACC. The defense counsel said the libel lawsuit should have been after the LACC concluded its investigation which could have inflicted actual damages on the plaintiff, CBL. Defense counsel further argued that if the defendant was convicted, such verdict may butress or contradict the outcome of the LACC investigation, thus opening a Pandora box which will have government institutions sueing individuals who intend to speak agains corruption. The counsel lamented that the plaintiff was hiding behind the lawsuit because it the verdict was rendered in favor of the CBL it would make the LACC investigation into the corruption allegation irrelevant. They however raised qualm over the appearance of Cllr. Francis Johnson Allison to testify in the case rather than the investigator who was investigating the MDD accusation against the CBL. During the defense witness testimony, defendant Togba alledged that the CBL got a US$3M kickback of the initial US$6M given to the contractors for the completion of the CBL office buliding to which the prosecution noted they were going to present a rebuttal witness. Failure on the part of the prosecution to produce a rebuttal witness to the allegation, the defense argued that, that was a clear admittance that such action did happened. The defense counsel noted that they were not in court to do the work of the LACC but rather to prove that there was no libel commited. Earlier the prosecution counsel argued that the alegation made against their client by the MDD was based on hearsay with no concrete researched edvidence to prove such statement. The prosecutions counsel exonerate the governor of the CBL from acts of corruption during his present life time saying that the MDD was trying to tarnish and damage such reputation. They argued that some people who wanted to get into government use individuals and institutions like the MDD to castigate those in the position that they want to occupy. Prosecutions counsel added that the condemnation of CBL officials to by the MDD in its press statement clearly indicates that the group was being funded by some individuals that does not mean well for the country. Arguing further, they said the defendant was an extortionist who targeted government officials with threats of blackmail. According to them (prosecution) if the jury did not fine the defendant liable for his actions and go unpunished, he would not desist from maligning other people’s character. They argued that if whistle-blowers can say anything without concrete prove, it would be a bad presidence for the state and could bring many reputable individuals and institutions to disrepute. Citing Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution which states “Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof...” the prosecution meantained that the defendant had abused such right by defaming the character of the plaintiff. The defense counsel stated and restated that the MDD had committed no libel against the plaintiff and at such the case must be rule in favor of its client to insure that odinary Liberian got justice. However, Judge Yusuf Kaba when he charged the jury said that libel can occur in two forms; libel pro code which reflects quantified damages and liber per se which does not quantify the amount of damages that was done. He told the jury, before they could when into deliberation room, to focus on the press release issued by the MDD and edvidences surrounding since in civil cases the superior species of evidence determines who the verdict will favor. Speaking to the defendant Togba after the reading of the verdict which states that he is guilty of libel, he said the trial was a test for the jusicial system and the verdict have proven that ‘there was no justice for the poor.’ He said the just ended lawsuit was intended to silent the advocacy against acts of corruption. “I am not deterred. This was just an energizer for us. There are more Alfred Togbas other than me. I may go to jail today but it will not stop the advocacy against corruption in this country,” Mr. Togba said.