Liberia: Sirleaf, Weeks and Hagba Unable To Secure Bond; Spent First Night In Central Prison
Monrovia – Charles E. Sirleaf, Deputy Governor for Operations, Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), Dorbor Hagba, Director of Banking, CBL, Milton Weeks, former Executive Governor, CBL, have spent their first night behind bars at the famous Monrovia Central Prison — South Beach.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
The three are charged with multiple criminal offenses along with Richard Walker and Joseph Dennis, who are yet to be arrested.
Walker, according to Police, is out of the bailiwick of Liberia while Dennis has not yet been identified.
Police charge sheet shows that the arrest was made following an investigation conducted from report of the alleged missing 16 billion Liberian dollars banknotes that were printed and imported into the country by the CBL.
In the Writ of Arrest for the five defendants, it is stated, “That during the period January, AD. 2016 up to and including February, A. D. 2018 in the City of Monrovia, Montserrado County, Republic of Liberia, Co-defendant, Charles E. Sirleaf while serving as Acting Central Bank Governor, purposely with the wicked criminal intend, connived and conspired with other officials of the Central Bank of Liberia and the aforesaid co-defendants all of whom un-authorizingly and intentionally printed and caused the printing of excess Liberian Dollars banknotes (L$146,250,000.00) for which the amount of US$401,469.58 was paid to Crane Currency by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) on the 5 billion Liberian Dollars Banknotes printing and US$433,898.14 for the excess Liberian Dollars printed (L$359,750,000.00) on the 10 billion transactions, and additionally failing to account for L$2,645,000.00, which the said defendants out of deception criminally converted to their personal use and benefit with the intent to deprive the government and its citizens thereof.
The Writ further stated that the alleged act of the defendants “being unlawful, wicked, illegal, criminal and intentional is in violation of the statute laws of the Republic of Liberia to include sections 15.80, 15.81 and 10.4 of the Reversed Penal Law of Liberia there and then crimes herein the defendants did do and commit.”
Accordingly, the investigators spoke with defendants Sirleaf and he was represented by Cllr. Esther Barclay, senior legal counsel of CBL.
What does the Charge Sheet say?
The Police charge sheet claims that Sirleaf consented that he signed the first contract, which was consummated in 2016 with the Swedish company, CRANE CURRENCY, when he served as Acting Executive Bank Governor. This was during the regime of his mother, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Charles Sirleaf further told investigators that he and defendant Weeks signed the 2017 contract but denied having criminal culpability as to the money printed during the two years.
However, police say defendant Sirleaf’s criminal culpability was established based on the report done by the Presidential Investigation Taskforce (PIT).
Police charge sheet furthers that Defendant Sirleaf refused to give any statement in the presence of his lawyers, adding that his previous statement to PIT should be used.
The actions on the part of the defendants have the propensity to cause serious economic instability, undermine the government and caused its citizen to rise up against it.”
What Happened At the Court
In the jammed pack Monrovia Magisterial Court with no air conditioner Monday, March 4, lawyers of the three defendants along with their clients, sat for over an hour awaiting Stipendiary Magistrate J. Kennedy Peabody to acquaint the defendants with their rights on the charges.
Cllrs. Daku Mulbah, Edwin Martin represented state prosecutors while Abraham Sillah, James A.A. Pierre represented defendant Weeks; Cllr. Augustine Fayiah represented defendant Hagba, and Cllr. Johnny Momoh represented defendant Sirleaf.
Our reporter observed that the defendants were served a copy of the Writ of Arrest while on the prisoner’s bench in the court.
Magistrate Peabody told the defendants that the charges are bailable and they are entitled to a bail.
“You are also entitled if you choose to request the state to produce the evidence against you preliminarily here. You have got rights to speak or be silent,” he said.
Judge Peabody asked the defendants to satisfy the statute by filing the appropriate criminal appearance bond to commensurate with the crime charges.
Bond Not Secured
After 15 or so minutes, the defendants could not secure their bonds, something that Judge Peabody said if they refuse to proffer the required criminal appearance bond, they should be turned over to the sheriff of the court who will have them incarcerated at the Monrovia Central Prison until they file said bond.
Cllr. Sillah, defendant Weeks’ legal counsel, said his client did not have a valid bond to secure his incarceration.
“I can say this is not about my case, this is just any case. My client never had a valid bond and I can’t compel the judge to use his discretion to free my client, because in such matter judge’s discretion are respected,” Cllr. Sillah.
He disclosed that a valid bond will be secured but couldn’t disclose the day on which they are going to secure his client’s so that he can be bailed out of prison.
While the defendants were on their way, the wife of defendant Sirleaf broke in tears while sisters of defendant Weeks were seen nodding in rejection.
One bystander shouted: “All the money your stole, y’all ain’t get some to file your bonds?”