Africa News Bulletin

Liberia: State Lawyers Contest against Separate Trial for Ecobank in US$5M Case

Lawyers representing the government and Ecobank Liberia limited have wrapped up their question and answer portion of the movant’s request for a separate trial, leaving the Criminal Court ‘C’ to resolve the major issue of whether the bank conspired with other co-defendants, including the Secretary of the Liberian Senate, Nanborlor Singbeh, to dupe two Czech Republic investors of US$5 million.

Both sides indicated that Judge Ciapha Carey should use his sound judgment to be backed by the law in deciding the controversial motion for severance and separate trial.

No date was set up immediately by Judge Carey, as to when he would deliberate on the matter after the parties (movant and respondent) rested with their respective defenses.
If Carey ruled in favor of the co-defendant bank, according to the prosecution, the judge would clear the way for the dismissal of the entire indictment, because, the movant and the other defendants were indicted jointly and severally for multiple criminal offenses, including economic sabotage, theft of property, forgery, criminal conspiracy, and criminal facilitation.
“Hence, were this court to severance co-defendant Ecobank from the rest of the defendants, will collapse the said indictment, therefore, the motion for severance and separate trial must be denied and dismissed,” the head prosecutor and Assistant Minister for Litigation at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Counselor Wesseh A. Wesseh, lamented during the argument.

Cllr. Wesseh also argued that the indictment is cleared in that co-defendant Ecobank did collude and conspire with co-defendant Nanborlor Singbeh and others to deprive the private prosecutors (Martin Miloschewsky and Pavel Miloschewsky) of their tangible properties, (the US$5 million).

However, the bank’s lawyers argued that “Nowhere in the indictment, out of which the motion grows, is it mentioned that any of the other defendants, named movant, participated in any act of economic sabotage, theft of property, forgery and criminal conspiracy as charged in it (indictment).”

They added, “So movant is entitled to be severed and tried separately from the other defendants named in the indictment, subject of the motion for severance and separate trial, as a matter of law.”
The indictment alleges that during the periods of June 2013 up to and including July 2019, in the city of Monrovia, Montserrado County, “you, Ecobank Liberia, planned, conspired and duped private prosecutors, Pavel Miloschewsky and Martin Miloschewsky of Czech Republic, out of US$5,062,419.10, thereby depriving the private prosecutor out of their tangible properties.”

Out of the US$5 million, the prosecution has repeatedly claimed that US$2.5 million in cash was wired and transferred from the Czech Republic to the co-defendant Ecobank.

While, US$102,000 was wired and transferred to Afriland First Bank, with the remaining money allegedly transferred through mining equipment and machines to co-defendant Singbeh for the establishment of a subsidiary mining company, the MHM Eko Liberia.

Interestingly, the bank’s lawyers also argued that to prove conspiracy, one of the alleged conspirators must mention in their various testimonies that the rest of the conspirators were involved in the alleged commission of the crime.

“It is the movant’s statutory right to be granted severance and separate trial, especially, so when the evidence gathered by the police and the Grand jury fails to show that movant ever participated in any act of economic sabotage, theft of property, forgery, criminal conspiracy, and criminal facilitation as charged in the indictment out of which the motion grows.”

Accordingly, the bank lawyers argued that the movant has a defense different from the other co-defendants, and if the movant is tried along with these co-defendants, movant rights would be prejudiced.
But, Cllr Wesseh argued, the indictment is an allegation, and, they are prepared to show and prove with the quantum of evidence, during the trial, as to how co-defendant Ecobank colluded and conspired with the other defendants to deprive the private prosecutors of their money, which was wired, transferred and banked with co-defendant Ecobank.

“Co-defendant Ecobank was jointly indicted along with the other defendants for the crimes and further, their defenses are not hostile and will not be prejudiced as the co-defendant was jointly indicted along with the others, which the respondent will show at trial,” Cllr. Wesseh confidently argued.

Section 14.6 of the criminal procedure law of Liberia provides that: “Two or more offenses may be charged in the same indictment or complaint in a separate count for each offense if the offense charged, whether felonies or misdemeanor or both, are based on the same act or transaction or two or more acts or transactions connected or constituting part of a common plan.”

That further, section (2), continues and says that “two or more defendants may be charged in the same indictment or complaint if they are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction or the same series of acts or transactions constituting an offense or offenses. Such defendants may be charged in one or more counts together or separately and all of them need not be charged in each count.”

Section 6.5 (1) of the Civil Procedure Law of Liberia provides that a court may order a severance of claims or issues to avoid prejudice of the defendant’s statutory rights; and if severance is ordered, the court shall retain jurisdiction of all parties.

These are some of the laws Judge Carey is expected to rely on to make his determination into the matter.

Liberian Observer

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