Global Witness Bribery Indictees Crisis Worsens As Appeal Triggers Stay Order On Banks Subpoena

House Speaker Alex Tyler, Senator Varney Sherman and Rep. Morris Saytumah
House Speaker Alex Tyler, Senator Varney Sherman and Rep. Morris Saytumah

Criminal Court “A” Judge Boima Kontoe Monday placed a stay order on the provision of a document it subpoena several banking institutions to give to the court.

The stay order follows an appeal to a motion by Movant to quash the Writ of Subpoena issued by prosecution lawyers requesting several banks to produce bank statements of United States dollar accounts belonging to individuals and institutions named in a Global Witness report.

“Wherefore and in view of the laws, fact and circumstances of these motions and the resistance thereto, movant’s motion as consolidated is hereby denied and the resistance thereto sustained,” Judge Kontoe said, according to court document.

However, Movant’s legal counsel immediately announced an appeal to the Supreme Court, something that prompted the institution of a Stay Order on the Subpoena.

With the stay order, the requested banks will not have to respond or act in keeping with the subpoena pending the ruling of the high court.

It can be recalled that the Global Witness in its May 11 report alleged that some past and current government officials received bribes of over US$958.000 from Sable Mining, a UK-based mining company, to change the mining laws of Liberia to enable it invest in the iron ore rich Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County.

In the report, the global corruption watchdog accused House Speaker Alex Tyler, former National Investment Commission Chairman Richard Tolbert, Morris Saytumah, former Minister of State and sitting Senator of Bomi County and Willie Belleh, former Chairperson of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission, among others, of receiving bribes labeled “Consultancy fees” through Sable Mining’s Liberian lawyer Cllr. Varney Sherman.

In connection with the allegation, Criminal Court “A” subpoenaed International Bank (Liberia) Limited, Eco Bank Liberia Limited, Guarantee Trust Bank Liberia Limited and Global Bank Liberia Limited to produce the bank statements of the accused covering the period January to September 30, 2010.

Other banks requested by the court include Afriland Bank, United Bank for Africa, Access Bank and the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI).

The banks were requested to appear before Court “A” on May 23 to produce the bank statements of the defendants intended to aid ongoing investigation of the alleged bribery scandal.

In an argument earlier, Prosecution lawyer Cllr. Daku Mulbah stated that the motion to quash the subpoena filed by lawyers representing the accused should be ignored, denied and dismissed.

Cllr. Mulbah prayed the court to ignore and dismiss the motion because the movants failed to show which fundamental principle of law has been violated and also because of the vagueness of Count 6 of the movants’ motion.

However, the defense lawyers claimed that there is no case before the court and that the counsels of the accused were not notified of the subpoena as required by law.

They also argued that the confidentiality of any individual’s account at a bank and transaction with a bank is a fundamental underlying basis for banking in Liberia and most parts of the world.

The defense lawyers further said that the confidentiality of the accused accounts with those banks are sacrosanct as the law provides that the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) shall not, unless lawfully required to do so by law or by a court of law, reveal to any person information as about the affairs of any individual customer.

They, therefore, prayed the court to deny and quash the writ of subpoena because there is no case before it, and that granting the motion will be an error and a violation of the rights of the accused.

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About Cholo Brooks 17198 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.