Liberia: Niko Ivanka Sinking Case ‘Abandoned’ by Government

File photo: A woman being helped out of the sinking Niko Ivanka

MONROVIA – The trial of four crew members of the distressed Niko Ivanka vessel charged with the commission of Negligent Homicide, Recklessly Endangering another Person, Criminal Conspiracy, and Criminal Facilitation has been paused temporarily, with the Ministry of Justice facing allegations of deliberately delaying the case.

Report by By Massah Kanneh-Telleh

George McCay, owner of the vessel, and two  Chinese nationals, Alex Tou, Azaan Dahi, Zhong Qixiang commonly known as Jack, and Wesley C.G Moore were arrested and charged for the unauthorized sail of the vessel from the Freeport of Monrovia, but the government through the State Prosecutors are reportedly reneging to proceed with the matter.

There have been three Notice Assignments made since the Criminal Appearance bond was filed on behalf of the defendants with the Sky Insurance, in the tone of Nine Thousand United States Dollars (US$9,000), by their Lawyer, Attorney Rufus Moore, of the Law Offices of Yonah, Obey and Associates, Inc., opposite Ministry of Transport on Carey Street, on September 2, 2021.

Prior to the service of the Notice of Assignments, on September 16, 2021, the State through the City Solicitor, asked for Nolle Prosequoi on behalf of Monroe for lack of sufficient evidence.

The first Notice of Assignment, dated September 27, 2020, commending the Parties to appear in Court at the hour of 11 AM, while the last two Assignments were made for October 20, 2021, same time and the last one was slated for November 9, 2021, same hour. 

However, on receipt of the October 20 Assignment, defense team represented by Attorney Moore,  wrote a Notice of Excuse, informing Court that due to his engagement with another case at the Dept Court,  same time and date as the lower Court, they could not be present at the City Court. 

They furthered narrated in their communication that the Notice of Assignment was received on October 19, 2021 at the hour of 12:58 PM, which made it impossible to get to their defendants and therefore requested Court to defer the hearing to October 27, 2021, at the time they would have completed the trial at the Dept Court.

On the last Court  proceeding, on November 10, the State through  the City Solicitor, Counselor David Wilson, raised a concern that one of the defendants Qixiang was absent in Court and without any justifiable reason provided. 

 Prosecutor added that the case could not  be proceeded with for all the defendants were jointly charged for said reason, Prosecution requested Court to hold defendant Qixiang  in contempt of Court for “Bill jumping” and his criminal appearance bond withdrawn and sureties be arrested until defendant appears in court.

In resistance to Prosecution’s demand to Court, defense provided similar excuse as done in October’s Assignment, that the Notice of Assignment was received on November  9th ,2021 at 11:AM and that the defendant in questioned, could not be reached due to his poor Health.

He furthered that the case could continue because two of the defendants, Tou and McCay were present and added that the court pardoned the absentee defendant.

In response to both parties, Judge Jallah ordered that the defendant be arrested and placed in Court’s custody as the action of the defendant delays such a case that is to be disposed of in thirty days as per the magisterial Court’s rule.

“This Court says that it is Marxism of Law that says that, Justice Delay is Justice Deny, and moreover, this Court is a Court of speedy Jurisdiction, consistent with rue 9 of the Rules and Regulations of the Tariff that provides that No Criminal Matter remains on the Magisterial Court not disposed of within Thirty Days. This Court says the altitude exhibited is subject to Contempt of Court, in as much an Assignment was served and Returns served. This Court hereby orders that said defendant be arrested immediately and brought before Court to show cause if any why he should not be held in contempt and his Criminal Appearance bond cancel. And so order” Judge Jallah

Even though the defense took exception to the Judge’s ruling but no appropriate action to the Circuit up to the publication of this Article. Magisterial Court’s rule 9 provides that  Criminal Cases are to be heard in a period of 30 Days.