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‘Stay Order’ Amidst Transfer of Judge: Longing For Justice

Perhaps one of the biggest cases; if not the biggest corruption case which the Liberian Government under the gavel of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wants to win is the Sable Mining case being tried at  Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.

Approximately two years to the end of the regime of President Sirleaf, top officials of government, former and current from both the Executive and Legislative Branches, have been brought into the lamplight for corruption charges as a result of a shady concession deal which they allegedly aided and abetted for kickbacks.

Though the amount of United States dollars captured in the report of Global Witness, a UN-based rights firm that unearthed this trouble is said to be $950,000.00, the head of presidential taskforce constituted by President Sirleaf when the issue flagged, debunked critics’ argument that it was not about the money reportedly received as kickbacks to alter an already existing law on concession that matters.

The Head of the Task Force, Cllr. Fonati Koffa, once confided in the In Profile Daily   that the money reportedly received by top government officials as such was not really the issue, but the intent to mortgage precious resources of the country for the benefit of very few citizens matters so much to the extent that those accused needed to face the full weight of the law, no matter who they might have been.

“If the deal has worked out, Sable Mining would have extracted billions of dollars worth of iron ores from Mount Wolozgisi and probably those who helped in making the deal possible would only settle down for US$10m against the interest of the Liberian people,” the Task force Head was quoted as saying at the time.

It seems the case has generated much public interest because those indicted such as Cllr. Varney Sherman, now Senator of Grand Cape Mount County, former House Speaker Alex Tyler of Bomi County, former Minister and Deputy Minister of Lands, Mines & Energy, Dr. Eugene Shannon and Ernest C. B. Jones, former National Investment Commission Chairman Richard Tolbert, among others , have been seen as untouchable personalities  who would not have been linked to corruption saga and dragged to court for trial.

Of recent, the case reached a boiling point when prosecution team filed a complaint to the Supreme Court, requesting a writ of certiorari against Cllr. Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay, the then presiding judge at Criminal Court “C” where the case has been tried.

The complaint  that sought a writ of certiorari  came against the backdrop that  Judge Gbeisay  temporarily marked  the ‘ spreadsheets and e-mails’ presented by prosecution witness, Heine  Van Niekerk, as evidences to prosecute the indictees. The lawyers representing the government have argued that the decision was an error on the part of Judge Gbeisay hence he should rescind such ruling but the presiding judge did not honor the request.

In the midst of the complaint filed before Associate Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, who is currently in chambers, a stay order has since been placed on further hearing into the case at Criminal Court “C” until the Supreme Court hangs down opinion on the complaint.

Meanwhile, in the wake of this legal standoff, Judge Gbeisay has been transferred to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Kakata, Margibi County on reassignment, while   Judge Yussif Kaba  has replaced him.

Up to the transfer, Justice in chamber Banks did not issue the writ of certiorari against Judge Gbeisay as the prosecution lawyers craved for and the case is stall under the stay order, thus indicating some sort of a grave setback to ensuring a speedy resolution to the bribery saga.

Notwithstanding, the transfer of Judge Gbeisay is said to be a normal legal practice, especially when  a term of court under which a judge is assigned comes to a close and a routine exercise or rotation has to take effect under the law.

Though it is unknown how prosecution team in the Sable Mining Case intends to greet the transfer of Judge Gbeisay, an inside source indicated that if the writ of certiorari were served the transferred judge, prosecution lawyers would have had an option to ask him to recues himself from further adjudicating the case due to what they claimed is a grave error attributed to him as presiding judge; writes Lewis K. Glay 0886469835/lglay.inprofile@gmail.com