Liberia: Musa Bility’s Lawyer Slams Solicitor General for “Gross Violation of the Law”
Monrovia – The recent travel ban placed on Businessman Musa Bility and eight other defendants over corruption allegations, has been termed as violation of the country’s law.
The criticism of the Solicitor General’s latest travel ban came Tuesday, February, 18, during legal arguments between Bility’s lawyer and that of state prosecutors. The arguments were held at the Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice.
The arguments among the two parties were centered around state prosecutors February 6’s petition to the lower Magisterial Court to place a travel ban on the nine defendants, while the Defense counsels were calling on the lower court to dismiss the petition, which they have referred to as the “gross violation of the fundamental rights of the defendants.”
Those placed on the latest travel ban based on the Justice Ministry’s request were Ellen Corkrum, Melvin Johnson, Musa Bility, Momar Dieng, Jeremi Tegli, Justin Ouguagua, John Davies, President, LBDI Bank and Gloria Menjor also of LBDI.
The Writ of Ne Exeat Republica issued on the defendants stated that the defendants were about to leave the country for foreign parts much to the surprise of state prosecutors and that the Magistrate of the Monrovia City Court having been duly satisfied upon the application filed by the state had orders a writ of Ne Exeat Republica issued.
“You are hereby commanded to arrest the living body of Ellen Corkrum and other defendants of the City of Monrovia, Montserrado County Republic of Liberia to be brought before the court,” stated the writ.
Defending the government’s travel ban, City Solicitor David Wilson argued that the travel ban was issued on the defendants because the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) was conducting an investigation with the defendants therefore it was not prudent for the defendants to travel out of the country while the LACC investigation is on-going.
“Your honor, the travel ban was issued by the Ministry of Justice based on request made by the LACC to the Ministry that the defendants were undergoing investigation,” said Wilson.
“The court can only have a jurisdiction over defendants who have been charged and brought under the jurisdiction of the court. It was very improper for the court to issue a Writ of Ne Exeat Republica when the defendants are not before the court.”– Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi
In counter arguments to resist the travel ban Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi and Atty. KunKunyon Wleh Teh from the International Law Group (ILG) stated that state prosecutors are abusing the Writ of Ne-Exeat Republica in the wrong context.
“Solicitor General Cephas and Montserrado County Attorney Edwin Martins are playing a double standard game. The two of them represented Ellen Corkrum and that of John Davies as well,” argued Massaquoi.
Cllr. Massaquoi argued that the Monrovia City Court does not have jurisdiction over an alleged pending investigation being conducted by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.
“The court can only have a jurisdiction over defendants who have been charged and brought under the jurisdiction of the court. It was very improper for the court to issue a Writ of Ne Exeat Republica when the defendants are not before the court,” Massaquoi further argues.
Also lawyers from the Sherman & Sherman, who represented the President for the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment John Davies, said that there is no notice before the court that the defendants are under investigation at the LACC.
“Your honor what will this court rely upon to ban the defendants from traveling? This is violation of the rights of the Defendants,” said the John Davies lawyer.
Magistrate Jomah Jallah reserved ruling in the matter and invited the head of the LACC to appear in court on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at 9 a.m. to clarify whether the defendants are undergoing investigation but both Massaquio termed Magistrate Jallah’s ruling as improper; adding “The Magistrate cannot say he reserved ruling at the same time inviting the head of LACC this is improper.
The nine defendants were indicted in 2013 by the state and charged with multiple crimes, including economic sabotage for their alleged failure to account for funds provided by government to rehabilitate the Roberts International Airport (RIA).