Following last Wednesday’s legal argument at the Temple of Justice’s Criminal Court ‘C’, an acquittal or conviction judgment into the much talked about Central Bank of Liberia LD$2.6 billion case involving four of its former officials has finally been reserved for Tuesday, August 25, 2020.
The four ex-CBL officials, David Farhat, Elsie Dossen-Badio, Kollie Tamba and Milton Weeks, are on trial for multiple offenses ranging from economic sabotage, theft of property and misuse of public fund.
Prior to Judge Gbeisay pronouncing the date for reserved judgment, defense lawyer Counselor Abraham Sillah argued that his client Milton Weeks did not conspire nor connive with Crane Currency or any another co-defendant to steal any amount of the banknotes printed.
Counselor Sillah told the court that the decision to prosecute the four ex-CBL officials is wrong, because the said amount does not exist in the real world of the CBL’s interaction with Crane Currency. Counselor Sillah noted that the allegation is a smear campaign and blame game launched by the prosecution to divert the attention of the Liberian public from the notorious mismanagement of the country money.
Regarding proof of the alleged L$ 13,004,750,000, which includes an excess of L$2,645, 000,000.00, the prosecution had to produce evidence proving that (i) Crane Currency did print, ship and deliver the alleged quantity of banknotes; and (ii) the CBL received the banknotes from Crane Currency or agent(s) of Crane Currency, and did place the banknotes in its vault or otherwise exercised control over them.
To meet its burden of production relative to the charge of conspiracy and other charges contained in the Indictment, the Prosecution produced seven witnesses comprising of two general witnesses and five subpoenaed-special witnesses. The Prosecution general principal witnesses included Messrs Baba M. Boakai of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and Mr. Amos Goba of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), both of whom were members of the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) that investigated the matter and produced what is termed the PIT Report of February 8, 2019 (“PIT Report”). Basically, these two witnesses testified to the findings, observations and conclusions of the PIT Report.
Significantly, the Prosecution introduced no evidence that (i) Crane Currency printed banknotes in excess of L$15.5 billion and/or (ii) that Crane Currency shipped and delivered to the Central Bank of Liberia banknotes in excess of L$15.5 billion. It is obvious and a matter of judicial notice that the CBL could not receive from Crane Currency what was not printed by Crane Currency. As a matter of law, the failure of the Prosecution to have made out a prima facie case on this allegation excused Co-Defendant Milton Weeks from producing evidence beyond his specific denial of the allegation.
However, in order to develop the record and, more importantly clear his name, co-Defendant Weeks opted to respond to this allegation by using principally the following four exculpatory species of evidence: Crane Currency Official Response to the PIT Report on the allegation of the L$2.645, 000,000.00 printed in excess of the L$10 billion banknotes; the CBL October 2, 2018 Press Release on its assessment of monies printed and delivered by Crane Currency to the CBL between 2016 and 2018; the Kroll Independent Review Regarding Allegations of the Disappearance of New Liberian Dollar Banknotes, and the Minister of Justice/Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia January 10, 2020 Opinion, which absolved Crane Currency of all criminal liabilities in respect of the printing and delivery of Liberian dollar banknotes between 2016 and 2018.
Co-defendant Milton Weeks’ Summary of Response
According to the summary of co-Defendant Milton Weeks’ response, he applied and used each of the above-named four exculpatory species of evidence to show beyond and to the exclusion doubt the falsity of the Prosecution’s allegations.
Astonishingly, the Prosecution’s two principal witnesses confirmed that Crane Currency served the Prosecution a written response to the allegations contained in the PIT Report wherein Crane Currency emphatically denied (i) printing banknotes in excess of L$15.5 billion; (shipping and/or delivering to the CBL banknotes totaling L$15.5 billion; and (iii) being in any collusion, conspiracy or any other illegal relationship with Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks and/or any other person. The Prosecution’s witnesses, however, denied the veracity of Crane Currency’s responses because it contained what they described as material contradictions.
Elaborating on the so-called contradictions in the Crane Currency’s response, Witness Baba M. Boakai averred on the cross examination that Crane Currency, through its Regional Director, Peter Brown, said that a particular shipment was cancelled and later shipped under different Airway Bill and on a different flight, when in fact the investigation had already discovered that the same Peter Brown had informed the CBL through Mr. Richard Walker that once the Airway Bill, Packing List or invoices are prepared or made, they remain valid and that even if the shipment is made or later taken on another flight, those documents do not change.
Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks denied the alleged contradiction(s) in Crane Currency’s response. The records show that Crane response went far beyond the validity of packing lists or Air Way Bill (AWB), but specifically resisted the PIT findings and conclusion that L$2.6 billion was printed, shipped, delivered and received by the CBL under the terms of the second contract for the printing of L$10 billion banknotes.
Further, the Crane Currency’s Response specifically stated that the PIT findings and conclusion in respect of the L$2.645 billion are incorrect because the PIT double counted the last shipment of banknotes that were due for delivery to the CBL via Brussels Airlines; and it (Crane Currency) in fact shipped and delivered to the CBL a total 251,220,000 pieces banknotes to Liberia during 2016 – 2018, and that the face value of these 2.5 billion pieces of banknotes was 15.5 billion.
Crane Currency detailed in its consolidated response a breakdown of the denominations as per the contract, which is already in evidence, and fully accounted for the L$15,506,000,000. Crane conducted a forensic examination of its Packing Lists (produced by Crane Currency to notify the customer of what is in the shipment leaving the print works), Air Way Bills (produced by the Airline to record what should be transported) and Air Cargo Manifests (produced by the Aircraft crew to record what has actually been transported on a particular aircraft). By comparing these actual records of deliveries made against the PIT Report Section 5.2.2d, Crane Currency identified areas where the shipping records do not support the conclusions made in the PIT report.
Based on the defense presenting its summary of response, the defense therefore pleaded: “WHEREFORE AND IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING facts and the law controlling, Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks prays your Honor and this Honorable Court to adjudge Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks NOT GUILTY of all the crimes contained in the indictment and for with he is on trial and order that he should never be held to answer to any of these crimes/charges in respect of this matter now and forever;
“Restore his liberty and order his Criminal Appearance Bond returned to him and that the lien placed on the properties of his Sureties be removed as though such lien was never placed on the said properties;
“Discharge his Sureties of any and all obligations imposed upon them by this Honorable Court and by operation of law in respect of their undertaking to guarantee and ensure his appearance in court as and when required or commanded by this Honorable Court;
“Dismiss the Writ of Ne Exit Republica ordered issue and issue by the Clerk of the Monrovia City Court to prevent Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks from leaving the bailiwick of the Republic of Liberia and restore his right to liberty and freedom of movement within and without the Republic at any time of his choosing;
Order the Sheriff of this Honorable Court to return to Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks his passport and all other documents submitted to the Sheriff’s office on the orders of this Court to guarantee his appearance as and when required and/or commanded by this Court; and grant unto Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks all further relief as shall be deemed just, legal and equitable under the circumstances of this case.”
But in reaction, the Prosecution, headed by Solicitor General Syrenius Cephus, said the court should convict the defendants because they conspired to take the 2.6 Billion Liberian Dollars in question, arguing that the prosecution provided best evidences to the court, contrary to the defense lawyers’ claims… Our Judicial Correspondent reports.