Four of the five officials from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) who were charged with economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, facilitation and Solicitation have been cleared of the charges leveled against them by the Liberian government, while one of five defendants, former Governor of the CBL will remain and face further investigation.
According to the court, those been cleared of the charges and are now considered as free citizens include, the former Deputy Governor for Operations Charles Sirleaf, Director for Finance Dorbor Hagba, Director for Operations Richard Walker and Deputy Director for Internal Audit Joseph Dennis.
During their trial, the five indicted Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officials for the alleged missing L$2 billion banknotes pleaded not guilty, “We are not guilty,” said all five defendants while they were in court.
Before the latest or new charge of Money Laundering was added to the defendants’ burdens, they were already battling the charges of Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy, Facilitation and Solicitation in court.
The non-guilty plea announced by the defendants’ means that they have taken issue with State Prosecutors to prove the charges they have leveled against them.
Following the defendants’ not guilty’ plea, Montserrado County Attorney Cllr. Edwin Martin in an interview with this newspaper yesterday, said the prosecution welcomed the non-guilty plea announced by the defendants and assured that they are in possession of evidence that will convict the defendants. He called on the legal team of the defendants not to create any unnecessary conditions that could delay the trial.
During hearing, the defense lawyers filed two motions to extend the existing criminal appearance bond of the defendants on the additional charge of money laundering, and another motion to release co-defendant Joseph Dennis from detention on medical grounds.
The defense counsel has requested the court for an extension of the existing criminal appearance bond to have the defendants prevented from filing an additional bond for the new charge of money laundering but the motion was thrashed out by the court with the Judge indicating that said motion is unprecedented and had no legal basis.
“There is no motion in our law known and styled ‘Motion to Extend Existing Criminal Appearance Bonds’ to an additional charge of money laundering. The said motion is unprecedented and is contrary to our law and practice,” added Judge Blamo Dixon, Presiding Judge of the Criminal Court ‘C’.
On the issue of the motion to release Co-defendant Joseph Dennis on medical grounds, it was endorsed by the court after Chief Prosecutor Solicitor General Syrenius Cephas had interposed no objection to the Defense Counsel’s request.
Dennis was released to his lawyer with an order from the Judge to write a promissory note to the court to take charge of his client.
Co-defendant Dennis was advised by the court to file the appropriate bond with the period of one week while he seeks medical attention.
“The indictments in the case alleged the defendants are on trial allegedly for the amount of L$2,645,000,000 if that is multiplied by two then the amount of bail will be L$5,290,000,000, if the five is divided by L$5, 290,000,000 that means each of the defendants will post a bond of L$1,058,000,000,00,” the Judge stated.
Dennis was the second Co-defendant in the case to be released on medical grounds. The first released on medical ground was Charles Sirleaf, who is also the son of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Co-Defendant Sirleaf was detained on order of the prosecution on August 19 but later released on medical ground.
At the close of the hearing, three of the defendants, former Governor Milton Weeks, Director of Finance, Dorbor Hagba, Director of Operations were ordered reprimanded at the Monrovia Central Prison until they can file a new bond for the latest charge of money laundering
The case was ordered adjourned by Judge Blamo, who stated that the case will resume based on a notice of assignment.
The Defense Counsel also during the trial asked the court for time to consult their clients whether they will want a jury or bench trial. The latter trial is where the Judge serves as a Judge and jury defacto.
The request for time for the Defense Counsel was endorsed by the Judge, despite Prosecution lawyer Martin stating that request was done in bad faith. According to him, the defense counsel had ample chance to have determined whether their clients will be judged by jury or not.