The government of Liberia under the leadership of the outgoing Liberian Leader, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in her usual quest to put dark cloud over the investment climate for potential investors of the likes of the longtime businessman, George Haddad who have over the years invested in the Liberian economy, has again become a victim of political chicanery.
This was exemplified today, December 1, 2017 at the Commercial Court at the Temple of Justice, Capitol Hill, when the case of US$10.7 Million owed Mr. Haddad’s group of Companies, the Prestige and Alliance Motors was called for the trial.
Interestingly, the Presiding Chief Judge of the Commercial Court, Judge Eva Mappy Morgan who was supposed to have presided over the matter was conspicuously absent from the Court for reasons best known to herself.
The case, which was earlier assigned for December 1, 2017 was intended to allow all party litigants to adequately prepare themselves to appear at today’s hearing; but the visible absence of the Chief presiding Judge including the prosecution team of the government allegedly indicated that it is deliberately baffling this case in order to frustrate the businessman, George Haddad.
It can be recalled that last week, Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan of the Commercial Court re-assigned the hearing into the case for Friday, December 1, 2017 amid plea by state lawyers of the Liberian Government’s un-readiness to proceed with the trial.
State lawyers represented by Cllr. Augustine C. Fayia, at the call of the case last Tuesday, November 21, at 10 a.m. pleaded with the court for continuance (time) to enable them (State lawyers] to review the case files and consult the relevant government authorities including the Minister of Finance & Development Planning.
Presiding Judge Morgan rejected the plea from the state lawyer to suspend the case, however, following consultations with the parties in Chambers; she reassigned the case for today, Friday, December 1, and advised all parties to take note of the new assigned date for the hearing of the case.
Earlier, lawyers representing the Alliance and Prestige Motors owned by the Lebanese businessman, vehemently opposed the request to suspend the case and said it is done in bad faith and intended to baffle the case.
“The continuous request by state prosecutors to shelve the trial was designed primarily to frustrate and deny the companies justice in keeping with the law,” said Cllr. Moses Paegar, lead lawyer for the Alliance and Prestige Motors.
The Alliance and Prestige Motors, representing American and German auto dealers in Monrovia, had sued the Government of Liberia for allegedly refusing to pay for vehicles and spare parts supplied the government in 2003 and up to March 2008.
The action of damage for wrong by businessman Haddad against the Government of Liberia was first filed at the Commercial Court in 2014.
The case was first heard in 2015 by the Commercial Court where state lawyers filed a motion, and questioned whether the Commercial Court had the legal authority over the matter, which occurred between 2003 and 2008 when the court was established in 2011.
Alliance and Prestige Motors lawyers debunked the state lawyers’ claims that though the Commercial Court was established in 2011 by an Act of the National Legislature as a specialized court to adjudicate cases arising of commercial transactions nevertheless when the transaction occurred.
Commercial Court Judge Morgan denied the state lawyers’ motion on ground that the court was established for all cases arising from commercial transactions.
According to lawyers representing the companies, the US$10.7 million vehicles and spare parts supply has since accumulated huge interest due to the alleged failure by the current Government of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to pay in the last 10 years of her administration.
The lawyers representing the companies have argued in court that the debt case has generated huge interest in the international community, especially the German and American companies, which have supplied the vehicles and spare parts to the Alliance and Prestige Motors in Monrovia.
Also the companies’ lawyers argued that the Ellen Administration has not denied the debt claim but accused the presidency of baffling the case with the intend to pass on the financial burden to the next leadership of the country.
The Alliance and Prestige Motors lawsuit for damage against the government is being made at the time when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had assisted the Liberian Government under its Extended Credit Facility (ECF) program with yet another US$20.7 million intended to settle domestic debts.
Some Liberians who spoke to our reporter regarding the delay of the case, expressed disappointment in the Liberian Government for its failure to settle its arrears with the businessman for the provision of vehicles and spare parts to the government.
“How do you expect for this man’s business to grow? It is very shameful on the part of this Government,” Esther Daniels a Liberian businesswoman speaking to the GNN Liberia pondered.
Also speaking on the issue was another concerned Liberian businessman, Aaron Toe who said that the Liberian Government under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has always frustrated dozens of business people especially some foreign owned businesses that have huge investments in this country, stressing, “It is disheartening on the part of this Government to always deny investors of their rights. For instance, this current hullabaloo between the Alliance and Prestige Motors, and the government is becoming a “thorn in the flesh”, because this case is almost running now for twelve years and justice is increasingly held at bay from the complainants.