Liberia: Solicitor General Syrenius Cephas Served as Lawyer for Ellen Corkrum and Sought Dismissal of Charges

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Ellen Corkrum added Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephas as one of her lawyers when she filed a motion to dismiss the indictment in April 2016

MONROVIA – The controversy over why the Government of Liberia dropped charges against the Ellen Corkrum, former head of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), who allegedly siphoned over US$200,000, continues to deepen.

She was also accused of illegal transfer of US$56,750 of LAA funds to her romantic partner Melvin Johnson, and his firm Melvin Johnson and Associates (a law firm in the State of Georgia, United States of America) allegedly for services rendered in connection with the security system at Roberts International Airport (RIA), which services were neither performed by Johnson or his firm.

Ironically, the Minister of Justice Cllr. Frank Musah Dean who is also the Attorney General of the Republic has distanced himself from the decision, telling members of the Senate that it was the decision of the Office of the Solicitor General.

While the Solicitor General, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephas is to make a second appearance before the Senate to explain circumstances that led to the dismissal of the indictment, FrontPageAfrica has unearthed that Cllr. Cephas was one of the lawyers who represented the interest of Ms. Corkrum, thereby raising eyebrow on his involvement with the motion to dismiss the case.

In 2016, Ms. Corkrum notified the Court that she was hiring the services of Cllr. Cephas as one of her legal representatives and prayed the court to add his names to the records.

This notice was attached to a motion to dismiss the indictment due to failure to trial.

In his recent letter to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. Cephas stated “A careful review of the records of the case shows, that the previous government entered a Nolle Prosequoi in favor of a number of defendants involved in this matter prior to our ascendancy, and we in recent times, did the same due to the absence of Madam Corkrum and to avoid being seen as pursuing a “selective prosecution.”

However, reacting to his claims, the former Solicitor General, Cllr. Bettie Lamin Blamo expressed shock over Cllr. Cephas’ assertion.

She responded: “While I would have ordinarily ignored these patently false allegations trumped up apparently for some sinister objective, I am however constrained to respond for the record and the benefit of the public that is sought to be misled. For clarity, I will respond to the allegations individually.”

She recalled that the case was brought against Ellen Cockrum, Melvin Johnson, Momar Dieng, Diaspora Consulting, Musa Bility and two banks- LBDI and First International Bank (FIB), with the bank’s complicity being principally in the content of the provision of services related to facilitating deposit and withdrawal of the stolen funds.

According to her, Co-Defednat FIB confessed judgment, and restituted the amount of $56,750.00 that it had transferred to Melvin Johnson’s United States account at the instance of Ellen Cockrum, and the court accordingly issued a suspended sentence in favour of the co-defendant First International Bank (FIB);

While the Solicitor General, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephas is to make a second appearance before the Senate to explain circumstances that led to the dismissal of the indictment, FrontPageAfrica has unearthed that Cllr. Cephas was one of the lawyers who represented the interest of Ms. Corkrum, thereby raising eyebrow on his involvement with the motion to dismiss the case.

LBDI pleaded not guilty, but later accepted to cooperate with the Government and serve as a witness in the case;

In consideration of and ONLY on the basis that LBDI will cooperate and serve as witness in the case, the Government decided to enter Nolle Prosequi in favor of LBDI.

“You, Cllr. Cephus, served as one of several counsels for co-defendant LBDI at the time, and thus certainly know the consideration, purpose and object for which charges were dropped against LBDI; the object and purpose being far removed from that of a ‘selective prosecution’” she stated. 

According to her, the charges were dropped against LBDI specifically without prejudice to the Government. Dismissal without prejudice means, if LBDI did not cooperate, the Government reserved the right to re-file charges.

No Nollee Prosequi was entered in favor of Musa Bility. Instead, the charges against Musa were dropped by the Court based on a motion filed by Musa Bility.

Cllr. Blamo: “You are aware and are also in notice of the court records available in your office that Bility filed a motion to dismiss the indictment for the Government’s failure to prosecute the case within two terms after indictment as is provided for under Section 18.2 of the Criminal Procedure Law. The Government vigorously resisted Bility’s motion, but the court granted Bility’s motion over the objection of the Government.

“You are aware and are also in notice of the court’s records available in your office, that the indictment against Co-defendant Melvin Johnson was never dropped/dismissed by the former Government. As a matter of fact, we filed a formal complaint against Melvin Johnson before the Georgia Bar of which he was a member and requested his extradition along with Cockrum.

“You are aware and are also in notice of the court records available in your office, that the indictment against Co-defendant Diaspora Consulting, LLC and Momar Dieng was never dropped/dismissed by the former Government.”

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