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.

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