Friday, June 15, 2012

LACC Empowered to Prosecute

The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission’s (LACC) power to prosecute corruption cases was yesterday unveiled by Judge Yussif D. Kaba, at Criminal Court “C” when he handed down a ruling on a motion growing out to the lawsuit involving former Director of Police Beatrice Munah Sieh Browne and others. Madam Sieh Browne, Col. Harris Manneh Dunn, former Deputy Commissioner for Administration, Prince O.A. Akinremi Proprietor of Ultimate Investment & Holding Company, Kaymah N. Zeon and Nebo Garlo, former physical auditors of the Ministry of Finance were all indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County for economic sabotage, theft of property criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy. According to the indictment, during the period of October 2008 the above defendants in total violation of the statutory laws of Liberia made and provided with criminal and wicked intent to deprive the Government of Liberia of US$199,800 through the Liberia National Police (LNP). The indictment states that the defendants carry on the act “knowingly, feloniously, purposely, criminally, maliciously willfully and intentionally. LACC’s allegation against the defendants stated that the Government of Liberia was made to pay for LNP uniforms which the police issue the delivery note confirming the receipt of the uniforms when they were neither delivered nor supplied to the Emergency Response Unit (ERU). The complaint was filed to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for the individuals involve to be prosecuted under the laws of Liberia to set deterrent against such act. On September 30, 2011, the MoJ issued a clearance certificate which stated that the ministry had conducted an investigation into the allegation against the defendants but did not gather sufficient evidence to proceed with the prosecution of the matter. The certificate: “this document therefore serves as a clearance, absolving Mr. Prince O. A. Akinremi and Ultimate Investment and Holding Company, Madam Beatrice Muna Sieh Browne, Col. Harris Dunn and Ms. Martha B. Sonpon, Chief of Logistics LNP, from the charges, as the Ministry of Justices has concluded that it cannot win the case with the evidence available…” The LACC not being satisfied with the position adopted by the MoJ one year later filed an application to the First Judicial Circuit, Criminal Assizes “A” presided over by his Honor James W. Zotaa praying said court to permit it to enter the room of deliberations of the Grand Inquest. The purpose was to pray for a presentment growing out to the report which was submitted the MOJ and against which the said ministry issued clearances to the defendants; out of those prayers came the indictment of economic sabotage, theft of property criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy. However, the defendants thru their legal counsels on June 1, 2012 filed in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the LACC due to the lack of capacity by the commission to sue. According to the movants motion, under the law, the sole prosecuting arm of the Government of Liberia (GoL) is the MoJ. The movants said the statue establishing LACC named one function of the commission is the right to cause the prosecution of all cases on corruption is the manner provided in its acts in coordination with MOJ. They added that the LACC was informed and rather that augmenting the evidence and demonstrating that the evidence were acquired illegally, the commission proceeded to obtain the indictment in question and attempting to further prosecute the defendants which the motion regard as contrary to the law. The LACC thru their legal representation responded the movants were either deliberately mis-interpreting the law or the movants lacks appreciation of the law. Though the respondent agreed with the movant that the new executive law confer sole prosecutorial authority on the Ministry of Justice, it said the act establishing the LACC at section 15.1 withdrew the exclusive authority for the prosecution of corruption cases in this jurisdiction from the Ministry of justice. The respondent denied ever receiving any request from the ministry of justice for the augmentation of the evidence presented to the ministry or and information relative to any of the evidence submitted to the ministry as being obtained illegally. His Honor Kaba in his ruling said in addition that by the statute establishing the LACC and following the theory of recency of law, the court under the circumstances as exist in this matter the LACC is competent, is potent and possesses the legal authority, right and power to prosecute the case. Judge Kaba: By prosecution, it is the intent of the lawmakers that the same commences from the process of obtaining an indictment up to and including the final determination of this matter. Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, this court hereby denied the Moto to Dismiss and ordered this matter be proceeded with in keeping with the law.”

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