Liberia: Heritage Partner and Associates Defends Binyan Kesselly against Appearance Before Asset Recovery Team
Monrovia – The Heritage Partner and Associates, (HPA) Inc., the law firm representing the legal interests of Mr. Binyan Kesselly, former Commissioner of Liberia Maritime Commission (LMC), has told Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson, Chairman, Special Independent Prosecutor (SIP), Assets Investigation, Restitution and Recovery Team (AIRReT), that their client won’t appear before him because of “unlawful publication of his name as a ‘person of interest’.”
“Our client will therefore not come to Liberia simply because of your unlawful publication of his name as a ‘person of interest’, when he is yet to be advised of the offense he is accused of or suspected of committing consistent with the law of the land,” Cllr. Abrahim B. Sillah, Sr., Managing Partner at HPA, said in an August 5th letter to Cllr. Johnson.
In the HPA’s letter, copy of which is in possession of this newspaper, Cllr. Sillah further stated that because of Chairman Johnson’s AIRReT’s declaration that former Maritime Commissioner Kesselly is now under “formal investigation,” their client, by and thru them was asserting to the fullest extent of the law, his right against self-incrimination as accorded him by Article 21 of the Liberian Constitution (1986) as well as his statutory rights established by Chapter 2 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia, particularly Section 2.3 which forbids the AIRReT and other law enforcement agencies of the Government of Liberia from interrogating him, unless “He is advised of ‘the nature of the offense of which he is accused or suspected’; and he is accorded the right ‘not…to make any statement or admission regarding the offense of which he is accused or suspected’.”
Cllr. Sillah’s HPA’s letter was in response to an August 1st letter from Asset Recovery team.
Cllr. Johnson writes: “The Assets Investigation, Restitution and Recovery Team (AIRReT) extends it compliments and hereby rejects Hon. Binyah Kesselly’s request to be questioned through your office while he is out of the bailiwick of Liberia. This is a former [formal] criminal investigation, and moreover, this investigation cannot allow Hon. Kesselley [Kesselly] who is subject of the investigation and now in the United States of America to be asked questions through his lawyers to represent him in Liberia. It is unprecedented in the conduct of any criminal investigation, and we don’t intend to indulge in such act.
Therefore, it is seriously considered that you advise your client to come to Liberia and face the investigative team while you provide legal assistance to him.”
Commissioner Kesselly’s legal team told Cllr. Johnson: “Actually, we and/or our client did not ask that you interview him through our office. Instead, in an effort to be respectful of the Government’s process and seek clarity on this issue, our client’s request was that you provide him, through us, copies of the referenced General Audit Commission (GAC) Audit and Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) Reports (the ‘’Reports’’), including all pieces of relevant information and the alleged ‘’multiple questions’’ that you claimed grew out of the Reports, and which may have informed the inclusion of his name in the “Partial official List of “Persons and Institutions of Interest”. This request was consistent with his right to adequate notice so that he may, if required, respond more substantively to any concerns you may have.
“Now that you have informed us, per your response to our notice and inquiry, that our client has been placed under formal criminal investigation, he has not only a constitutionally and statutorily protected right to the requested information, but also the right against self-incrimination, which includes the right not to submit to any questioning.”
The Heritage Partner and Associates, which copied Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, Jr and Cllr. Sayma Syrennius Cephus, Solicitor General with the letter, than told Cllr. Johnson that their client won’t come to Liberia and appear before him because of “unlawful publication of his name as a ‘person of interest.’”
The Asset Investigation, Restitution and Recovery Team is charged with the responsibility of investigating, restituting and subsequently recovering funds that were embezzled, and misappropriated from the Liberian government as revealed by reports by the General Auditing Commission, (GAC) and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
The Ministry of Justice few weeks ago released a list of individuals classifying them in categories of indicted, persons of interest and others to aid with corruption investigation informed by a GAC and LACC audit report.
Those the report named consist of some current heads of ministries, agencies, and other senior former government officials that are linked to the alleged embezzlement and misappropriation of government funds.