1.0 Factual Background
Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks, along with four other former officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and an international banknotes printer named Crane Currency (“Crane”) were charged and subsequently indicted by the Grand Jury for Montserrado County, Republic of Liberian on March 4, 2019 (the “March 2019 Indictment’’) on allegations of the commission of multiple offenses, including Economic Sabotage, Criminal Facilitation, and Criminal Conspiracy. The Defendants were arrested and detained at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP), but subsequently released upon the filing and service of separate criminal appearance bonds.
While the case was pending trial under the March 2019 Indictment, the Prosecution in September 2019 unveiled another indictment (the “September 2019 Indictment”) against the same above-named Defendants, indicting them for the same offenses contained in the March 2019 Indictment plus the charge of Money Laundering. The Defendants were again arrested and detained at the MCP, but subsequently released on the orders of the then Justice in Chambers, His Honor Yussif D. Kaba, following another lengthy legal battle for this court to consolidate the two indictments and have the defendants released from detention on the strength of their existing criminal appearance bond filed and justified under the March 2019 Indictment. The two indictments (the March 2019 Indictment and the September 2019 Indictment) were consolidated and the case ruled to trial. Regular trial commenced in the November Term, A.D. 2019, but following the conclusion of the Prosecution’s first witness on the direct, the presiding Judge, His Honor Blamo Dixson, recused himself from the trial for reasons best known to himself and ordered a new trial.
On January 9, 2020, the Prosecution filed a three-count Motion and entered Nolle Prosequi in favor of Crane Currency that was granted by this Court, thereby dismissing all charges against Crane Currency. Similarly, in April 2020, the Prosecution filed another Motion and entered Nolle Prosequi in favor of four of the defendants, Charles Sirleaf, Richard Walker, Joseph Dennis and Dorbor Hagba, but with prejudice against the State as to Charles Sirleaf; thus, leaving Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks as the only defendant to be tried for the commission of the multiple offenses contained in the Indictment.
Furthermore, while the case was pending trial under the consolidated indictment, and after the Prosecution repeated requests for continuance had caused the Court to threaten to dismiss the case for failure to proceed, the Prosecution moved the Court to dismiss the indictment in favor Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks and momentarily unveiled another indictment on June 8, 2020, when the case was assigned for commencement of trial, and indicted for the third time Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks along with (i) four former members of the Board of Governors of the CBL; namely: David M. Farhat, Melissa A. Emeh, Elsie Dossen Badio, and Kollie Tamba; and (ii) three of the CBL officials in whose favor Nolle Prosequi was entered in April 2020; namely: Dorbor M. Hagba, Former Director of Finance, Richard H. Walker former Director for Banking, and Joseph Dennis, former Director for Internal Audit.
Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks along with the other persons charged by the June 8, 2020 indictment were arrested and brought under the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court on June 8, 2020 whereupon Milton A. Weeks prayed this Court and the Court granted his application to reinstate and maintain his March 8, 2019 Criminal Appearance Bond to secure his temporary release and appearance as and when directed by this Honorable Court.
Upon the case being duly assigned for commencement of trial on June 29, 2020, the prosecution again entered Nolle Prosequi in favor of Dorbor M. Hagba, Richard H. Walker, and Joseph Dennis without prejudice to the State and moved the Court for separate trial for Co-Defendants Milton A. Weeks, David M. Farhat, Elsie Dossen Badio, and Kollie Tamba, since Melissa A. Emeh is without the biliwick of the Republic. The Defendants waived their right to trial by jury and opted for a bench trial, and the Court granted same.
Trial finally commenced on June 29, 2020 .
1.2 Summary of the indictment
The key allegations in the indictment are summarized or restated verbatim in the discussion of each specific allegation.
1.3 Testimonies of Witnesses for Prosecution and Defendants
During the trial, the prosecution produced two (2) general witnesses, five (5) subpoenaed witnesses and one (1) rubutal witness, while Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks produced two (2) general witnesses and eight (8) subpoenaed witnesses. A comprehensive summary of the witnesses’ testimonies is attached to this memorandum as Annex-1 while relevant excerpts of the said testimonies are quoted, referenced and/or used in the discusions of the issues.
Based on the foregoing facts and circumstances, Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks finds the following issues determinative of this matter:
1. WHETHER OR NOT THE PROSECUTION’S EVIDENCE ESTABLISHED BEYOND AND TO THE EXCLUSION OF REASONABLE DOUBT ANY CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY BETWEEN CO-DEFENDANT MILTON A. WEEKS AND CRANE CURRENCY AND/OR THE OTHER DEFENDANTS TO CONCEAL, STEAL, TAKE AWAY, AND EXERCISE UNAUTHORIZED CONTROL OVER ANY AMOUNT OF THE TEN BILLION LIBERIAN DOLLAR BANK NOTES PRINTED BY CRANE CURRENCY, INCLUDING AN ALLEGED ADDITIONAL L$2.645,000,000.00?
2. WHETHER OR NOT THE JULY 19, 2017 LETTER FROM THE LEGISLATURE TO CO-DEFENDANT MILTON A. WEEKS, ALTHOUGH NOT A JOINT RESOLUTION OF THE LEGISLATURE, CONSTITUTED FULL LEGISLATIVE AUTHORIZATION OF THE CBL TO PRINT NEW BANKNOTES AND THEREUPON “REPLACE THE LEGACY NOTES (LIBERTY) COMPLETELY WITH THE NEWLY PRINTED BANKNOTES SO THAT THERE WILL BE A SINGLE TYPE OF LIBERIAN CURENCY”?
3. ASSUMING WITHOUT ADMITTING THAT THE CBL FAILED TO OBSERVE THE “REQUEST” FOR INFORMATION OR CONTIDITION CONTAINED IN THE THIRD PARAGRAPGH OF THE JULY 19, 2017 LETTER RELATIVE TO THE AUTHORIZED PRINTING OF THE BANKNOTES, IS SUCH FAILURE A CONDUCT PROSCRIBED BY THE PENAL CODE OF LIBERIA?
4. WHETHER OR NOT THE PROSECUTION’S EVIDENCE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT THAT CO-DEFENDANT MILTON A. WEEKS RECYCLED AND REINFUSED IN THE LIBERIAN ECONOMY MUTILIATED LEGACY BANKNOTES WITHOUT ANY LEGISLATIVE APPROVAL; THEREBY COMMITTING ECONOMIC SABOTAGE?
ISSUE #1: WHETHER OR NOT THE PROSECUTION’S EVIDENCE ESTABLISHED BEYOND AND TO THE EXCLUSION OF REASONABLE DOUBT ANY CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY BETWEEN CO-DEFENDANT MILTON A. WEEKS AND CRANE CURRENCY AND/OR THE OTHER DEFENDANTS TO CONCEAL, STEAL, TAKE AWAY, AND EXERCISE UNAUTHORIZED CONTROL OVER ANY AMOUNT OF THE TEN BILLION LIBERIAN DOLLAR BANK NOTES PRINTED BY CRANE CURRENCY, INCLUDING AN ALLEGED ADDITIONAL L$2.645,000,000.00?
Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks answers this question in the negative.
It is the law hoary with age in this jurisdiction that the burden of proof rests upon the party who alleges a fact, and the standard of proof required to sustain a conviction on such allegation is the production of the best evidence which the case admits of. Chapters 25, Section 25.5 & 25.6, Civil Procedure Law, Liberian Code of Laws Revised (1LCLR). Where such evidence is produced, it must also be in such quantum and of the degree of probative value that satisfies the requisite standard of proof which, in criminal cases such as this, is proof beyond and to the exclusion of reasonable doubt. Heith v. Republic; 39 LLR 50 (1998).
The term burden of proof is a generic term “used to describe two related but distinct concepts: the burden of production and the burden of persuasion. To satisfy the burden of production is also sometimes referred to as making out a prima facie case” while the “burden of persuasion aspect of the burden of proof describes the obligation of party to introduce evidence that persuades the factfinder, to a requisite degree of belief”. 29 Am Jur 2d, Evidence, Section 155. Section 55 of 29 Am Jur 2d continues: “The Burden of persuasion has two components; first, the fact a party must plead and prove in order to prevail on a particular issue, and second, how persuasively it must prove those facts.”
Applied to the instant case, the burden of proof obligation of the Prosecution consisted of the following:
1. Producing adequate evidence to make out a prima facie case relative to each count of its indictment and/or allegations; and
2. Ensuring the adequacy and persuasiveness of the totality of its evidence such as to prove each element of the crime charged beyond and to the exclusion of reasonable doubt.
Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks submits that the Prosecution miserably failed to meet its basic burden of production, not talking about the higher burden of persuasion or “risk of non-persuasion”.
Regarding the burden of production, Co-Defendant Weeks says that the Prosecution miserably failed to produce any piece of evidence that supports the following allegations contained in the indictment:
1. that he and/or the other defendants conspired with Crane Currency to print 13,004,750,000, which includes an excess of L$2.645,000,000.00;
2. that he and the other directors and officers of the CBL concealed, colluded and connived to defraud the Government of the Republic of Liberia by criminally understating the excess amount printed; and/or
3. that he alone or in concert with others did steal, take away, and exercise unauthorized control over the said 2.645,000,000.00 at the detriment of the Government of the Republic of Liberia.
Regarding proof of the alleged L$ 13,004,750,000, which includes an excess of L$2.645,000,000.00, the prosecution had to produce evidence proving that (i) Crane Currency did print, ship and deliver the alleged quantity of banknotes; and (ii) the CBL received the banknotes from Crane Currency or agent(s) of Crane Currency, and did place the banknotes in its vault or otherwise exercised control over them.
To meet its burden of production relative to the charge of conspiracy and other charges contained in the Indictment, the Prosecution produced seven witnesses comprising of two (2) general witnesses and five (5) subpoenaed-special witnesses. The Prosecution general, principal witnesses were Messrs Baba M. Boakai of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and Mr. Amos Goba of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), both of whom were members of the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) that investigated the matter and produced what is termed the PIT Report of February 8, 2019 (“PIT Report”). Basically, these two witnesses testified to the findings, observations and conclusions of the PIT Report.
Significantly, the Prosecution introduced no evidence that (i) Crane Currency printed banknotes in excess of L$15.5 billion and/or (ii) that Crane Currency shipped and delivered to the Central Bank of Liberia banknotes in excess of L$15.5 billion. It is obvious and a matter of judicial notice that the CBL could not receive from Crane Currency what was not printed by Crane Currency. As a matter of law, the failure of the Prosecution to have made out a prima facie case on this allegation excused Co-Defendant Milton Weeks from producing evidence beyond his specific denial of it.
However, in order to develop the record and, more importantly clear his name, Co-Defendant Weeks opted to respond to this allegation by using principally the following four (4) exculpatory species of evidence:
1. Crane Currency Official Response to the PIT Report on the allegation of the L$2.645,000,000.00 printed in excess of the L$10 billion banknotes;
2. the CBL October 2, 2018 Press Release on its assessment of monies printed and delivered by Crane Currency to the CBL between 2016 and 2018;
3. the Kroll Independent Review Regarding Allegations of the Disappearance of New Liberian Dollar Banknotes, and
4. the Minister of Justice/Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia January 10, 2020 Opinion, which absolved Crane Currency of all criminal liabilities in respect of the printing and delivery of Liberian dollar banknotes between 2016 and 2018.
Here is a summary of how Co-Defendant Milton Weeks responded to, applied and used each of the above-named four (4) exculpatory species of evidence to show beyond and to the exclusion doubt the falsity of the Prosecution’s allegations.
1. Crane Currency Response to PIT Report:
The Prosecution’s above-named two principal witnesses confirmed that Crane Currency served the Prosecution a written response to the allegations contained in the PIT Report wherein the said Crane Currency emphatically denied (i) printing banknotes in excess of L$15.5 billion; (shipping and/or delivering to the CBL banknotes totaling L$15.5 billion; and (iii) being in any collusion, conspiracy or any other illegal relationship with Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks and/or any other person. The Prosecution’s witnesses, however, denied the veracity of Crane Currency’s responses because it contained what they described as material contradictions.
Elaborating on the so-called contradictions in the Crane Currency’s response, Witness Baba M. Boakai averred on the cross that Crane Currency thru its Regional Director, Peter Brown, said that a particular shipment was cancelled and later shipped under different Airway Bill and on a different flight, when in fact the investigation had already discovered that the same Peter Brown has informed the CBL through Mr. Richard Walker that once the Airway Bill, Packing List or invoices are prepared or made, they remain valid and that even if the shipment is made or later taken on another flight, those documents do not change.
The above-mentioned statement was also repeated by witness Amos Goba.
Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks denied the alleged contradiction(s) in Crane Currency’s response. The records show that Crane response went far beyond the validity of packing lists or Air Way Bill (AWB), but specifically resisted the PIT findings and conclusion that L$2.645,000,000.00 was printed, shipped, delivered and received by the CBL under the terms of the second contract for the printing of L$10 billion banknotes.
Further, the Crane Currency’s Response specifically stated that the PIT findings and conclusion in respect of the L$2.645,000,000.00 is incorrect because:
1. the PIT double counted the last shipment of banknotes that were due for delivery to the CBL via Brussels Airlines; and
2. It (Crane Currency) in fact shipped and delivered to the CBL a total 251,220,000 pieces banknotes to Liberia during 2016 – 2018, and that the face value of these 251,220,000 pieces of banknotes was 15,506,000,000LRD.
Crane Currency detailed in its consolidated response a breakdown of the denominations as per the contract, which is already in evidence, and fully accounted for the L$15,506,000,000. Crane conducted a forensic examination of its Packing Lists (produced by Crane Currency to notify the customer of what is in the shipment leaving the print works), Air Way Bills (produced by the Airline to record what should be transported) and Air Cargo Manifests (produced by the Aircraft crew to record what has actually been transported on a particular aircraft). By comparing these actual records of deliveries made against the PIT Report Section 5.2.2d, Crane Currency identified areas where the shipping records do not support the conclusions made in the PIT report.
Crane Currency specifically indicated that:
1. For the 2016 Contract there is agreement between the shipping data and the PIT Report conclusions. On a line-by-line basis there is agreement that L$5146,25 MLRD was shipped and received by the CBL; and
2. For the 2017 Contract the following records show agreement between 13 shipments and 10 line items in the PIT Report list:
i. 8 shipments match exactly with the PIT list at a total value of 6909,75 MLRD;
ii. 2 shipments with a value of 225 MLRD match the single PIT list entry of 450 MLRD; and
iii. 3 shipments with a value of 2025 MLRD, 270 MLRD and 232,5 MLRD match a single PIT list entry of 2527 MLRD.
However, for the 2017 Contract, the PIT Report counted deliveries by two Brussels Airlines flights that were in fact cancelled. As a result, the PIT Report double-counted deliveries (i.e., counted (i) the flights that were cancelled and (ii) the flights actually made) and in so doing overstated the total number of banknotes delivered to Liberia by 2645 MLRD. In particular, Crane proved in its Consolidated Response that:
i. The PIT incorrectly stated that 2700 MLRD and 417,5 MLRD (totaling 3117,5 MLRD) in banknotes were delivered by Crane Currency to the CBL; but
ii. The shipping and packing records agree that in fact only 472,5 MLRD of banknotes were delivered to the CBL.
Crane Currency said that this error resulting from avoidable doubke counting led the PIT to erroneously conclude that Crane shipped 2645 [3117,5 – 472,5] more banknotes than Crane actually shipped and the CBL actually received.
Crane Currency explained in its consolidated response that the double-counting likely occurred as a result of Brussels Airways rearranging their air cargo movements due to the following:
1. Between December 13 and December 21, due to issues at Brussels airport, two air shipments totaling 3117,5 MLRD were cancelled.
2. Brussels airport staff divided these two planned air cargo loads into three new air cargo shipments. Two of the shipments, for 472,5 MLRD and 620 MLRD, were shipped by Brussels Airlines to Monrovia in a different configuration than originally planned.
3. In order to deliver the remainder of the goods before an announced strike at Brussels airport, the remaining volume of 2025 MLRD (AWB UKL-100019284) was delivered on-board a chartered aircraft from Ukrainian Air Alliance. For completeness, this is the same flight that also contained two separate shipments: 270 MLRD (AWB UKL-10019295) and 232,5 MLRD (AWB UKL- 10019306).
The relation between these cancelled and rearranged air shipments was also further explained in a POWER POINT PRESENTATION made by Co-Defendant Weeks, which the PPT Report and the packing lists showed that the pallet numbers are exactly the same in the double counted records) are in evidence.
In further corroboration of his testimonies relating to the overprinting and delivery charge which Crane Currency fully thrashed in its response, Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks subpoenaed Global Logistics Services/NAS to produce and testify to the AWB and the Air Cargo Manifests for the above-described three shipments. Accordingly, Mr. Philip N. Yeoh, Jr., Supervisor/GLS/NAS appeared in court and under oath produced and submitted to the Court the following documents:
1. the Air Cargo Manifest for on 13th December, 2017 with Airway Bill No. 08271290800 with 12-pallets;
2. Air Cargo Manifest for 17th December 2017, with Airway Bill No. 08271509200 with 3/12 pallets received on that day; and
3. Air Cargo Manifest for 21st December 2017, with Airway Bill containing 9 pieces or 9/12 pallets. He averred that the AWB for 17th December, 2017 was mentioned on the Air Cargo Manifest of December 21, 2017 with 9/12 pallets received.
Witness Philip N. Yeoh, Jr., furthered testified that (i) the 13th December Air Cargo Manifests and the 17th December 2017 Air Cargo Manifests came on S.N. Brussels Airlines, while (ii) the 21st Air Cargo Manifest came on a Ukraine Chartered Airline, but he could not say how the shipment was transferred from S.N. Brussels to the Ukrainian Airline. He said, they only noticed that the Airway Bill that was mentioned on the December 17th Manifests from S.N. Brussels was also mentioned on the 21st Manifest of the Ukraine Airline. He explained that the Airway Bill is a record that shows what is to be transported on the Airline or Aircraft and it also stands as a contract agreement between the shipper and the airline; while Air Cargo Manifest is a record that shows the listing of shipment on board the aircraft.
On the cross examination, Mr. Philip N. Yeoh, Jr., testified that there is no pallet number on the Air Will Bill because the shipment was loaded in bulk number; and that he cannot remember any investigation team going to their office to ask for these documents. (See Certified Minutes of Court, 71st Day Sitting, Thursday, August 6, 2020, Sheets 1-6)
The testimonies of the cargo handler and the Air Cargo Manifest/Air Way Bill-i.e., Mr. Philip N. Yeoh corroborate the testimonies of Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks and Crane Currency that ‘’the PIT Report counts deliveries by two Brussels Airlines flights that were in fact cancelled. As a result, the report double-counts deliveries (the flights that were cancelled and the flights that actually happened) and overstates the total number of banknotes delivered to Liberia by 2645 MLRD.
2. CBL October 2, 2018 Press Release:
In furtherance of Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks’ defenses to the allegations in the indictment, the defense subpoenaed, introduced and admitted into evidence the above-mentioned press release. The pertinent part of the Press Release reads thus:
1. ‘’That the new Management of the Central Bank of Liberia, informs the Liberian Public that it had concluded an internal assessment of monies printed and brought in Liberia between 2016 and 2018.
2. According to the record of the CBL, the total amount of money printed and placed in the reserved vaults of the bank was Liberian Dollars 15.5Billion for the period 2016 – 2018. This amount was verified from the CBL own Internal Documents and documents received from Crane Currency of Sweden (the contracted printer).
3. The Central Bank of Liberia wants to clarify to the general public and our partners in progress that there is no 16billion Liberian Dollars missing as had been erroneously reported in the media. The CBL has no records showing that monies printed under its authority have not yet being delivered into its reserved vaults. Record of Crane Currency of Sweden, which was contracted to print the money, show that Crane delivered Liberian Dollars 15.5 billion though the Freeport of Monrovia and the Robert International Airport between 2016 and 2018, and that all these monies were logged by the CBL and delivered into the reserved vaults of the CBL’’. (Emphasis ours)
Although the Prosecution averred that this Press Release was issued at the time the investigation was ongoing and the PIT Report (page 37) acknowledges that position, the CBL did not change its position following the issuance of the Report on February 8, 2019, more than one year and 6 months, and even maintains the contents of the Press Release that ‘’According to the record of the CBL, the total amount of money printed and placed in the reserved vaults of the bank was Liberian Dollars 15.5Billion for the period 2016 – 2018’’, when it produced the copy and testified to same and other documents during the trial.
3. Minister of Justice/Attorney General January 10, 2020 Opinion
Additionally, Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks also subpoenaed the Minister of Justice & Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, Jr., who also served as the Chairman of the PIT Steering Committee (and approved the PIT Report based upon which the Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks is being tried) to produce his January 10, 2020 opinion.
Cllr. Dean appeared and produced copy of his January 10, 2020 opinion issued after the issuance and publication of the PIT Report (February 8, 2019) which categorically states as follows:
“…the Government of Liberia has conducted exhaustive review of all information connected with allegations of additional or missing bank notes supplied by Crane Currency. Having reviewed information additional to that contained in the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) Reports, including the detail of packing lists, air cargo manifests and airway bills, the Government of Liberia accepts that Crane Currency … accurately and honestly accounted for, audited, invoiced and was paid for every banknote delivered on both orders. Crane Currency did in fact deliver the correct number and value of bank notes, as set out in two (2) delivery contracts and subsequent documented agreements between Crane Currency and the Central Bank of Liberia. It is clearly documented that every bank note manufactured by Crane was delivered to and accepted by the Central Bank of Liberia and that Crane was paid the correct amount for the bank notes delivered’’.
The Minister of Justice/Attorney General January 10, 2020 Opinion was informed by his subsequent exhaustive review and consideration of all -information additional to that contained in the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) Reports, including the detail of Parking List, Air Cargo Manifest and Airway Bills, while the PIT limited and restricted its review of shipping documents to the parking lists, and deliberately disregarded the overwhelming evidence provided by Crane Currency.
4. PIT Double-Counted Deliveries
Regarding the PIT Double Counting of the banknotes shipped and delivered to the CBL by Crane Currency, the Prosecution’s lone rebuttal witness, Isaac C. Davies, confirmed that although the Parking Lists dated December 10, 2017, with a face value of L$417,5m banknotes and that of December 12, 2017, with a face value of L$620m banknotes carry the same Air Will Bill, the PIT recorded them as two separate transactions and only used the packing lists; not the Air Way Bill, to calculate the all the banknotes printed, shipped and received by the CBL. (See Certified Court’s Minutes, 79th Day’s Sitting, Monday, August 17, 2020, Sheets 3-4) He said the following on the direct and cross examinations:
‘’As I said, the calculation was done solely and surely based on the packing list, ….’’
‘’With the issue the Airway Bill like I usually stated in my statement, I said we used the Packing List to calculate the total money that was brought into country’’.
The witness answered in response to this question as follows:
‘’Mr. Witness, by that answer, am I correct to say that the PIT then recorded the two Packing Lists as two separate consignments of banknotes that were shipped and received by the CBL on Airway Bill 082-71509200. Am I correct to say that?’’
A. ‘’Yes, we considered it as two separate transactions’’.
As the result of the Attorney General January 10, 2020 opinion and its conclusions, as stated hereinabove, the Government of Liberia dropped all charges and dismissed the indictment against Crane Currency, and undertook not to pursue legal action of any kind against the company either now or in the future in regard to the aforementioned charges, a full indication of the Government’s finding and conclusion that Crane Currency never conspired with Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks or any other person with respect to printing and/or delivery of the Liberian Dollar banknotes.
Furthermore, the Director for the Internal Audit Department of the CBL, Mr. Adolphus D. Forkpa who testified for the Prosecution failed to state any incriminating conduct or evidence against Co-Defendant Milton A Weeks during his direct examination and even while on the cross examination. In fact, in response to a cross-examination question as to whether the CBL Internal Audit Reports he submitted contained any allegation that Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks made unauthorized withdrawal from the CBL vault, Mr. Forkpa responded as follows: ‘’What I can say is that Internal Audit position regarding the work we do is reflected in the report. I will not be able specifically tell you yes or no but the record of the Internal Audit will be able to tell you exactly the outcome which was reported to the management for decision making’’. (See Certified Minutes of Court, 52nd Day Sitting, Monday, July 13, 2020, sheet 5)
Further responding to another question as to whether his review of the Internal Audit Reports find any evidence the co-defendant Milton A. Weeks personally received any amount of the 10billion Liberian Dollars banknotes, personally converted same to his personal use and/or misapplied any of such amount, the witness responded as follows: ‘’The Internal Audit Report speaks for outcome of our audit; if you did not see anything of that you are asking that means it did not come to our attention’’. (See Certified Minutes of Court, 52nd Day Sitting, Monday, July 13, 2020, sheet 5).
Significantly, the CBL Internal and External Audits Report adduced and admitted into evidence by Prosecution (‘’PCBL/1 & 32’’) and Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks (‘’DM/8 & 9’’) contain no evidence to support the allegations in the indictment, and the Production failed to produce even a scintilla of evidence that link the defendant to any of the crimes charged in the indictment.
The incontrovertible fact presented by all of the above species of evidence adduced at the trial and admitted into evidence by Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks and the inescapable conclusion compelled thereby is this:
1. Crane Currency violated no known Liberian law and committed no crime in its dealings with the CBL and Co-Defendant Milton A Weeks in the printing, shipping and delivery of Liberian dollar banknotes;
2. The Prosecution having established conclusively that Crane Currency did not commit any crime or conspire with anyone under Liberian law, it is factually and legally impossible that it would conspire with or Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks would conspire with it relative to the printing of the banknotes or any other matter as a matter of Liberian law;
3. Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks did not and could not have conspired, colluded, and connived with Crane Currency and/or any of the other Co-defendants to (i) conceal the actual amount of Liberian dollar banknotes printed, and/or (ii) take away, or steal any amount of the banknotes printed, shipped and/or delivered to the CBL; and
4. The alleged additional L$2.645,000.000.00 does not and did not exist in the real world of the CBL’s interaction with Crane, and that the allegation thereof is but a smear campaign and ploy by the Prosecution to play the blame game and divert the attention of the Liberian public from the actual, obvious and notorious mismanagement of the country limited finances.
The Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia has opined in a litany of cases that ‘’A judgment of conviction in a criminal case must be supported by proof of all elements of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt’’. Heith v. Republic, 39 LLR 50 (1998). ‘’In order to convict a person in a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the guilt of the accused with such legal certainty as to exclude every reasonable hypothesis of his innocence: and all material facts essential to constitute the crime must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Otherwise, the accused will be entitled to a discharge. The Court further opined in Davis v RL, 40 LLR 659 (2001) Syl. 3, 9 & 10 that ‘’the evidence in a criminal case against an accused must be conclusive, and if it be circumstantial it should be so connected as to positively connect one element within another for a chain of evidence sufficient to lead the mind irresistibly to the conclusion that the accused is the guilty party. Where the accused presents proof or evidence as to raise a strong doubt regarding the substance of the prosecution’s case, the latter is under a duty to rebut such evidence or the conviction will be overturned’’.
4. Email Exchanges between Richard Walker & Peter Brown:
Furthermore, the Prosecution’s evidence regarding the overproduction of Liberian Dollar banknotes consists solely of an email correspondence between Mr. Peter Brown of Crane Currency and Richard H. Walker of the CBL, as testified to by the Prosecution two general and principal witnesses- Messrs Baba M. Boakai and Mr. Amos Goba. Messrs. Boakai and Goba, testified that Mr. Richard Walker, Director of Banking of the CBL, was aware of the excess amount printed by Crane Currency solely based on the following email exchanges dated January 3, 2018:
‘’From: Brown, Peter [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 10:10AM
To: Richard H. Walker [email protected]
Further to our exchange of correspondence yesterday, Crane’s final stock is listed below. On the L$20 we encountered a technical problem that resulted in the order being short from the contracted volume by 750,000 pieces. On the five other denominations the contracted volumes were achieved and a slight excess of each is to hand as follows:
L$5 250,000 pieces
L$10 250,000 pieces
L$50 320,000 pieces
L$100 1,500,000 pieces
L$500 410,000 pieces
In terms of face value, this stock represents:
The shortfall in L$20 production represents L$15,000,000 in face value.
Crane will be pleased to send all of this over-production to CBL and, in view of the recent transportation problems, the company offers this additional stock free of charge.
We await the Bank’s instructions and shall act accordingly.
With best regards
Regional Sales Director (Africa)
+14782 Tamba, SWEDEN
Email: [email protected]’’
The response email from Richard Walker of the same Wednesday, January 3, 2018 at 11:08 reads thus:
‘’From: Richard H. Walker
Sent: Wednesday, January 3, 2018 11:08
To: Brown, Peter
Cc: Charles Sirleaf; Miatta O. Kuteh
Subject: RE: Reconciliation
Dear Mr. Brown,
Thank you for your email which exactly agrees with our schedule of receipt and expected delivery. Now, you speak of the over-production showing an aggregated quantity of 2,730,000 pieces, translating to L$374,750,000,00. I shall revert to you soon with Management’s decision.
Meanwhile, a quick question. We run the risk of twenties being short on the market. Is your production line running into any difficult to have twenties deno printed? (See Court’s Marked Exhibit DM/3 in bulk, confirmed and reconfirmed by this Court)
Deno qty Value (Del & Exp) Value by Deno per contract Variance
500 5,740,000 2,870,000,000 2,870,000,000.00
100 50,000,000 5,000,000,000 5,000,000,000.00
50 15,000,000 750,000,000 750,000,000.00
20 49,250,000 985,000,000 1,000,000,000.00 (15,000,000.00)
10 35,000,000 350,000,000 350,000,000.00
5 6,000,000 30,000,000 30,000,000.00
9,985,000,000 10,000,000,000 (15,000,000.00)’’
Certainly, the above-quoted email exchanges evidence no conspiracy or the printing of banknotes in excess of the L$10,359,750,000.00 both Crane Currency and the CBL declared and their respective records bear out. Stated in other words, the email exchanges between Peter Brown and Richard Walker further prove beyond reasonable doubt that (i) there was no conspiracy to print excess amount of Liberian dollar banknotes, and (ii) ONLY L$10,359,750,000.00 Liberian dollar banknotes were printed by Crane Currency under the second contract for the printing of the L$10 billion Liberian dollar banknotes, accounting for an excess of L$359,750,000.00; and (iii) ONLY L$10,359,750,000.00, was shipped, delivered and received by the CBL between 2017 and 2018.
Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks further submit that in the above-quoted email exchanges, Peter Brown informed Richard Walker of (1) Crane Currency’s final stock position as per the second contract for the printing of the L$10 billion, which is clearly reflected in the table above; and (2) noted that there is a variance of L$15,000,000.00 (shortage) in the printing of the L$20 banknotes due to technical problem, but that variance is cured (covered) by the overproduction of L$374,750,000,000.00 in denominations of L$5, 10, 50, 100, 500‘’, which Crane Currency offered to send to the CBL ‘’free of charge’’, subject to the payment of the cost of transportation. Peter specifically states as more fully seen in the email exchanges above, ‘’On the L$20 we encountered a technical problem that resulted in the order being short from the contracted volume by 750,000 pieces’’.
‘’The shortfall in L$20 production represents L$15,000,000 in face value’’.
‘’Crane will be pleased to send all of this over-production to CBL and, in view of the recent transportation problems, the company offers this additional stock free of charge’’.
Therefore, when the variance or shortfall in the L$20 banknotes representing a face value of L$15,000,000.00 is deducted from the overproduction of L$374,750,000,000.00 in denominations of L$5, 10, 50, 100, 500‘’ stated herein above, you will derive at the actual amount printed in excess of the L$10 billion, which is L$359,750,000.00; that is, (L$374,750,000,000.00 – L$15,000,000.00= L$359,750,000.00), and when you add the amount printed in the above table L$9,985,000,000 plus the overproduction of L$374,750,000,000; you will derive at the total amount printed by Crane and delivered to the CBL; that is, L$9,985,000,000 + L$374,750,000,000 = L$10, 359,750,000.00.
It is therefore crystal clear that the above-quoted email exchanges between Peter Brown and Richard Walker do not refer to any alleged excess of L$2.645,000.000.00 Liberian dollar banknotes, but rather the overproduction of L$359,750,000.00, which was justified by Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks without any rebuttal from the Prosecution.
Regarding the overproduction of Liberian dollar banknotes by Crane Currency, Mr. David K. Vinton testified as an expert witness and averred that the printing of banknotes is a specialized process that involves multiple steps, and so, over production is common in the industry. He stated that the percentage for over production is about plus or minus 1.5 percent, and when there is over production, the printer will give the customer/client the following options:
i. to destroy the excess banknotes; or
ii. ask the client to buy the excess banknotes.
He furthered that considering budgetary constraints, it is advisable to take the second offer, and buy the banknotes. He said that the decision to procure the excess banknotes is a management decision. However, the Prosecution did not rebut the testimonies of the expert witness; hence, these justifications established a prima facie evidence that the CBL decision to accept the excess banknotes and pay the cost for transportation therefor was justified.
In view of all of the above, which evidence the patent failure of the prosecution to prove the charge of conspiracy, concealment and theft vis-à-vis the variances between the allegations in the indictment and the Prosecution’s evidence adduced at trial plus the overwhelming proof of Co-Defendant Weeks defense and pieces of exculpatory evidence that remained unchallenged, Co-Defendant Weeks submits that he is entitled to and should be granted a judgment of NOT GUILTY or ACQUITTAL on all the charges.
Moreover, the Prosecution miserably failed to establish a prima facie case of Criminal Conspiracy, Criminal Facilitation, Theft of Property, and Fraud on the Internal Revenue of Liberia against Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks, and its failure to prove or establish any of the constituent elements of the crimes charged in the indictment warrants NOT GUILTY VERDICT/JUDGMENT as a matter of law in this jurisdiction. Under our Penal Code, Chapter 10, Sub-Chapter “D”, Section 10.4(1)(2)(3)(4), Criminal Conspiracy, provides that:
(1) ‘’Offense. A person is guilty of conspiracy to commit a crime if, with the purpose of promoting or facilitating its commission, he agrees with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of conduct which constitutes the crime, and any one or more of such persons does an act to effect the object of the conspiracy’’. Conspiracy is therefore is an agreement by two or more persons to commit any [criminal] offense,” with a corresponding “overt act to further the object of the conspiracy. The Authoritative Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th Edition, page 375, defines the term ‘’conspiracy’’ as ‘’an agreement by two or more persons to commit an unlawful act, coupled with an intent to achieve the agreement’s objective, and action or conduct that furthers the agreement; a combination for an unlawful purpose. Conspiracy is a separate offense from the crime that is the object of the conspiracy.’’ To sustain the allegation of conspiracy, and/or Criminal Facilitation, there must be proof of certain constituent elements of the crimes, such as (i) agreement between two or more persons to commit an unlawful act, (ii) the intent to commit the unlawful act, and (iii) the overt act or conduct of the parties or at least one of the parties to achieve the agreement objective.
In the case Browne et al., v RL 22 LLR 398 (1973), although not analogous to the facts of this case; however, the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia clearly detailed the distinct elements of the crime conspiracy and opined that ‘’… there must be a combination of two or more persons to constitute a conspiracy; one may plot or plan alone, but he cannot conspire alone. There must be a real agreement, combination or confederation with a common design; mere passive cognizance of the crime or unlawful act to be committed or mere negative acquiescence is not sufficient. The agreement, however, need not be of any special form; it need not be in writing or in any other express form’’. Evidently, there is and there can be no conspiracy and/or the commission of any crime, given that the CBL, which is the custodian and beneficiary of the monies printed declares that it conducted an internal assessment of monies printed and brought in Liberia and the total amount of money printed and placed in the reserved vaults Liberian Dollars 15.5Billion; and that ‘’… it has no records showing that monies printed under its authority have not yet being delivered into its reserved vaults. Moreover, the January 10, 220 Opinion of the Minister of Justice & Attorney General is sufficient proof that no crime was committed by Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks for which he may be held under the circumstances of this case.
It is also important to note from the records the following exchanges between Witness Baba Boaika and the Judge during the Court’s questions period:
Q. ‘’Mr. witness, finally, the indictment based on your investigation report charged the defendants, among other crimes of thefts. Did your investigation uncover whether any of the defendants in the dock received public money and converted to their own use?’’
A. ‘’The investigation established that for the printing of the 10billion Liberian Dollars, an excess amount of 2,645,000,000.00 was printed received under the supervision of Governor Weeks and cannot be accounted for. The investigation however did not establish that Co-defendants David Farhat, Elise Badio, Emeh, Tamba received and converted m0ney printed by the CBL for their own use and benefit’’. (See Certified Minutes of Court, 44th Day Sitting, Wednesday, July 1, 2020, page 9)
The Prosecution second witness, Mr. Amos Goba, sought to corroborate the testimonies of Mr. Baba Boakai in respect of the allegation of theft of property when, during the cross examination, he had the following exchanges with the defense counsel:
Q. ‘’Mr. Witness did the investigation establish that Co-defendant Milton Weeks personally receive any amount of the money in respect of the 5billion and 10billion and converted same to his personal use?’’
A. ‘’No, but Hon. Milton Weeks served as the Executive Governor for the Central Bank of Liberia between May 2016 and up to and including the time of his resignation. Hon. Milton Weeks also signed the contract for the printing and shipment of the 10billion. So, therefore, he does not have to necessary take money personally but the fact that he was in charge during the process, that’s while he is being held liable to account’’. (See Certified Minutes of Court, 48th Day Sitting, Monday, July 6, 2020)
The above-quoted testimonies of the Prosecution’s two principal witnesses speak volume of a material variance between the specific allegations in the indictment as well as the PIT Report, and the evidence adduced at the trial. The fact of the matter is that the Prosecution did not establish the essential elements of theft of property to warrant and sustain a conviction of Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks on such charge. “A person is guilty of theft of property if he:
“(a) Knowingly takes misappropriates, converts, or exercises unauthorized control over, or makes an unauthorized transfer of an interest in the property of another with the purpose of depriving the owner thereof’;
“(b) Knowingly obtains the property of another by deception or by threat with the purpose of depriving the owner thereof or purposely deprives another of his property by deception or by threat”; or
“(c) Knowingly receives, retains or disposes of property of another which has been stolen, with the purpose of depriving the owner thereof.” Reliance: §15.51, Penal Law.
From the above-quoted definition, to constitute theft of property, there must be proof, beyond and to the exclusion to reasonable doubt, that Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks and the Co-defendants knowingly took the property not belonging to them, and which belongs to another, and converted or exercised unauthorized control thereby depriving the true owner thereof. The theory of the state’s case, as we gathered, is that the defendants, without authority, acting together, connived, concealed and took away L$2.645,000,000.00 from the CBL Reserved Vault, and converted same to their own use, thereby depriving the true owner, GoL. But the Prosecution miserably failed to establish a prima facie case that (i) the imaginary L$2.645,000,000.00 was printed, delivered and received by the CBL, and (ii) more importantly, the essential elements of the crimes charged that, any one of the Defendants, including Milton A. Weeks, knowingly took, misappropriated, converted, or exercised unauthorized control over, or made an unauthorized transfer of any amount of the LS$10 billion, including the alleged the L$2.645,000,000.00.
The Prosecution’s principal witnesses averred that Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks is being prosecuted for theft of property, economic sabotage and other heinous crimes simply because the imaginary L$2.645,000,000.00 banknotes were received under his supervision as Executive Governor of the CBL, and he signed the contract for the printing of the L$10 billion. These mere allegations do not amount to proof for they are not the best evidence that the case admits of and have no probative value. For the Prosecution’s ill-fitted theory to lie, it must prove beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt that:
i. the amount alleged to have been stolen was printed, shipped, delivered, received and placed in the CBL Reserve Vault;
ii. state who stole the money, how it was stolen from the CBL reserved vault, who authorized the withdrawal or transfer of the money; and
iii. more importantly, produce documents from the CBL that evidenced the unauthorized withdrawal of any amount of money from the bank’s reserved or operational vault, including the amount said to have been stolen.
Regarding the charge of Misuse of Public Money, Property or Records, the Prosecution alleges in Count 2 of the indictment that ‘’they … collude and conspire, to defraud the Government of Liberia by executing a contract to print Liberian dollar banknotes in the amount of 10,000,000,000, at the cost of US$10,121,689.20 but went ahead without any justification and paid Crane Currency the total of US$10,555,587.12; US$4333,898.14 dollars in excess’’.
Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks confirmed that US$433,898.14 was paid and the Prosecution’s evidence established that Crane Currency received this amount of money to cover the cost for air transport of three consignments of the L$10 billion banknotes. Witness Weeks averred that the payment of the 433,898USD was purely due to change in the mode of transportation. The contract originally envisaged all shipments being made by sea. However, due to exigencies associated with the need to get the banknotes to Liberia faster, some of the planned shipments were converted from sea to air. Obviously, air transport is more expensive than sea transport. The actual amount that was paid for the printing of the banknotes was exactly as per the contract. The difference is purely due to cost of transport owing to change in the mode of transport of some of the shipments. These testimonies of the witness are supported by Crane Currency’s response to the PIT Report and the email exchanges between Peter Brown and Richard H. Walker in respect of the shipment of the banknotes by air.
Our criminal law provides “that [a] defendant in a criminal action is presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved; and in case of a reasonable doubt whether his guilt is satisfactorily shown, he is entitled to acquittal.” § 2.1, 1 LCLR, Criminal Procedure Law.” In so judging a person, therefore, the law requires that the jury satisfy itself that the prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the offense for which conviction is sought. Gouykro v. Republic, LLR 102, 107 (1952); Johnson v. Republic,  LRSC 11; 15 LLR 66 (1962), anything to the contrary, warrants an ACQUITTAL of the defendant.
ISSUE #2: WHETHER OR NOT THE JULY 19, 2017 LETTER FROM THE LEGISLATURE TO CO-DEFENDANT MILTON A. WEEKS, ALTHOUGH NOT A JOINT RESOLUTION OF THE LEGISLATURE, CONSTITUTED FULL LEGISLATIVE AUTHORIZATION OF THE CBL TO PRINT NEW BANKNOTES AND THEREUPON “REPLACE THE LEGACY NOTES (LIBERTY) COMPLETELY WITH THE NEWLY PRINTED BANKNOTES SO THAT THERE WILL BE A SINGLE TYPE OF LIBERIAN CURENCY”?
Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks answers this question in the affirmative, and specifically says that the July 19, 2017 letter constitutes a full authorization for the CBL to print the banknotes because:
i. the authorization for printing of the banknotes and replacing “legacy banknotes (liberty) with the newly printed banknotes” was one of three “decisions” listed in the first paragraph of the letter; and
ii. the enumeration of the three “decisions” is followed by the categorical language that “with the power assigned to the Legislature under Article 35(d) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, this shall constitute your legal and sufficient authority.”
At the onset, it is important to note the requirement for legislative authority for printing of the banknotes, and the Prosecution’s allegation concerning lack of the required authorization.
The Act to Authorize the Establishment of the Central Bank of Liberia, as amended, provides that the CBL has the authority and function to ‘issue legal tender and banknotes and coins upon the approval of the legislature.’’ Based upon this provision of the CBL, the Prosecution alleges in Counts 13 of the indictment that Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks and the other Co-defendants ‘’… authorized printing without obtaining any approval and authorization, in the form of resolutions each from both houses, because they decided to conceal and conspire and did conceal and conspire to unduly usurp and arrogate unto themselves the constitutional power and authority granted the legislature under Article 34(d) simply to engage in the illegal disbursement of public money, criminal conspiracy, and theft of property and thereby cause and did cause financial chaos, and public unrest in the Liberian economy’’; thereby, committing the crime of ‘’Economic Sabotage: Fraud on the Internal Revenue of Liberia/Misused of Public Money, Property, or Record/Theft/Illegal Disbursement of Public Money in violation of Chapter 15, Sub-Chapter F, Section 15.8-, 15.81, and 15.82 of the New Penal Law of the Republic of Liberia’’.
The evidence produced by both parties relative to the issue of legislative authorization of the printing is concise and not much debated, except for differences in interpretation.
Both the Prosecution and Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks agreed that the CBL and the Legislature had extensive discussions regarding the printing of the banknotes during 2016 and 2017, and that as a result of those discussions, the Legislature sent the CBL a letter dated July 19, 2017, apprising the CBL “that in separate discussions on the declining state of the Liberian Economy, the Legislature has made the following decision”, which decisions were listed and included the authorization to replace the old legacy (Liberty) banknotes with newly printed banknotes. While the fact and content of the July 19, 2017 letter is not denied by either party, the Prosecution says that the language did not constitute a complete authorization for printing of the Liberian dollar banknotes, but Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks takes the contrary position.
Answering issue #2 therefore requires restating the content of the July 19, 2017 letter, and then providing a literal and/or logical interpretation of the various paragraphs and the letter as a whole. Below is the subject July 19, 2017 letter from the legislature:
‘’THE HONORABLE HOURSE OF THE REPRESENTATIVES
P. O. Box 9005
July 19, 2017
Hon. Milton Weeks
Central Bank of Liberia
Dear Mr. Executive Governor:
We present our compliments and by directive of the Plenaries of the Senate and House of Representatives respectively (IN SESSSION), apprise you that in separate discussions on the declining state of the Liberian Economy, the Legislature has made the following decision to wit:
1. That the Government of Liberia should continue to use the United States dollars and Liberian Dollars until at such time when the Country’s export base has increased significantly;
2. That the Central Bank of Liberia is hereby requested to replace the legacy notes (Liberty) completely with the newly printed banknotes s that there will be a single type of Liberian currency, thus facilitating proper control of the money supply; and
3. That the Central Bank of Liberia is authorized to introduce coins in lower denomination into the economy to allow fractional transaction which could help to minimize inflation;
In view of the above, and with the power assigned to the Legislature under Article 35(d) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, this shall constitute your legal and sufficient authority.
Meanwhile, the Legislature would request that you furnish this body with the appropriate details of the volume and denomination of the replacing banknotes prior to the printing and the minting of coins.
Please accept the renewed assurances of our highest consideration and esteem.
Mildred N. Sayon
J. Nanborlor F. Singbeh, Sr.
Liberian Senate’’ (Emphasis added)
Before an evaluation or interpretation of the July 19, 2017 letter, it is important to get a full background of the letter as testified to by Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks and was not denied, challenged or rebutted by the prosecution.
In his testimonies, Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks gave a detailed account of events and engagements with the Legislature that resulted and informed the Legislature decision contained in the subject instrument. He averred that there were a number of issues that confluence at the same time that necessitated the printing of the L$10billion. Firstly, in late 2016, the GoL through the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP) informed the CBL that they would be unable to continue to sell US Dollars to the CBL due to acute foreign exchange constraints. All foreign exchange the CBL was able to utilize came from the Foreign Exchange that was sold to CBL by the GoL.
Following this decision of the GoL, the CBL as a means of generating foreign exchange to continue to be able to service its customers, introduced what is referred to as “25% surrendered on inward remittances”. The total amount of inward remittances; that is personal remittances using the likes of Western Union and MoneyGram, was averaging about 240Million United States Dollars per annum The 25% surrendered therefore translated into roughly 60Million United States Dollars or 5million United States Dollars per month. This amount had to be paid to individuals receiving inward remittances by the Commercial Banks. The commercial banks were strained in being able to pay their customers due to the fact that roughly only 20% of the total currency in circulation was in the banking system. The commercial banks therefore, were constantly agitating for the CBL to make currency available. At this same time, there were significant agitations from the public and the Legislature, complaining about what was termed as three difference currencies being used at the same time in Liberia. The three currencies referred to were the United States Dollars, the Old or Legacy Liberian Dollar Notes and the Newly Printed Enhanced Banknotes (L$5 billion).
Engagement with the Legislature for Printing of Additional L$ Banknotes:
The witness averred that by early 2017, the CBL was summoned on numerous occasions to explain to the Legislature what the CBL was doing to correct this supposed anomaly. During those discussions, there was a general concession over time that the CBL could not by fiat stop using the US Dollars abruptly. However, it was the general concession that most of the mutilated banknotes at that time, were legacy notes and it would make sense to replace all of the legacy notes. These various discussions with the Legislature culminated in the House of Representatives (HoRs) establishing a specialized committee to work with the CBL on this issue. It also resulted in numerous Executive Sessions at the Legislature on this matter. By early May 2017, the CBL was again summoned to the Legislature to find a solution to this matter. As Executive Governor, he requested his Deputy Governor for Economic Policy to have the Research Department do an analysis of the quantity of legacy banknotes still in the system and what it would cost to replace those notes.
Upon receipt of the analysis, the CBL engaged the Senate in Executive Sessions and received a favorable response to the suggestion that three things be done, that: (i) ‘’we maintain the United States Dollars for the time being as legal tender’’; (2) ‘’we replace all the legacy notes; and (3) because there have been agitation on the smallest denomination of notes being 5dollars, we introduce lower denomination coins that could be used to make fractionalized payments’’. The witness furthered that based upon the positive response received from the Senate, the CBL wrote a letter to the President Pro-Temple of the Liberian Senate in May of 2017, confirming the discussions that had been held in the Senate’s Executive Session, during which the CBL was requested to advise the Senate on how much Liberian Dollars Banknotes would be printed to replace all of the legacy notes and what is the cost to print that amount. That the May 2017 letter to the President Pro-Temple provided this information in which the CBL confirmed that 10billion should be printed and estimated the cost at 10.4Million USD. (See Court’s marked Exhibits ‘’DM/1’’ & ‘’DM/2’’)
The May 2017 letter was also addressed and delivered to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emmanuel Nuquay, providing the same information. The witness narrated that by early June 2017, there were more interactions with the Legislature especially with the specialized committee appointed by the House Plenary to look into this matter; that additional requests were received from the Legislature, seeking additional information; that some of these communications were sent through the Office of the Chief Clerk of the HoRs. The information being requested to assist the Legislature in reaching the decision included such items as the amount of currency in circulation, the amount of the 5billion still being held in the reserved vault, etc. The witness said that all the information was provided to the Legislature either in writing or through meetings held with the Legislature, and the CBL received assurances that its advocacy would be considered. ‘’Then on July 19, 2017, the CBL received a letter from the Legislature, signed by the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate, instructing us on the very same three items: (1) That we should maintain the use of the USD (2) that we should replace all legacy banknotes and (3) that we should introduce coins’’, he said.
These testimonies of the witness Weeks were not rebutted by the Prosecution, but were corroborated by one of the prosecution’s witnesses and signatory to the July 19, 2017 instrument, Hon. J. Nanborlor Singbeh, Sr., Secretary of the Liberian Senate, who testified that as matter of procedure, the Senate does not unilaterally authorize but the Legislature; and due to the fact that the printing of currency or monetory issues are of high security nature, some discussions with the CBL were made in Executive Sessions and meeting in Executive Session carries no record but in open plenary; the secretarial was mandated to communicate with the CBL based upon numinous executive meetings. The witness further testified and said, ‘’as I stated earlier and to hold further, standing committees in the Senate or the Legislature are clothed with authority to deal with matter of substance appertaining with the oversight responsibility of their committee. I will like to say again that numerous meetings were held in Executive Session, in committee room and in open plenary. What I do remember is an instruction or directive given to the Secretarial to send a communication to the CBL on the printing of banknotes to replace the legacy notes’’. (See Certified Minutes of Court, 51st Day Sitting, July 9, 2020, sheet 4-5)
The witness clarified on cross examination that, giving the fact that Article 35 of the Liberian Constitution does not have subsection, their reference to Article 35(d) in the July 19, 2017 instrument was an inadvertence, and that they meant Article 34(d) since Article 34(d) refers to the authority of the legislature to authorize the issuance of currency and mint coins. He said, ‘’… You are correct that due to the devil printer, Article 35(d) was mistakenly inserted for Article 34(d)….’’ (See Certified Minutes of Court, 51st Day Sitting, Thursday, July 9, 2020, sheet 6) Further, in response to a question whether the July 19, 2017 instrument from the legislature authorized the printing of the second batch of Liberian Dollars Banknotes, the witness responded as follows: ‘’The Chief Clerk and myself as you rightly stated, obtained instruction from both plenaries to communicate with the CBL their decision with a caveat as expressed in the last paragraph of our communication. If it were not the decision of both houses, then we would have been reprimanded’’. (See Certified Minutes of Court, 51st Day Sitting, Thursday, July 9, 2020, sheet 6)
Notwithstanding the corroborated testimonies of Co-defendant Weeks as to the events that resulted to and informed the decision of the Legislature contained in the July 19, 2017 letter addressed to Milton A. Weeks, the Prosecution contends that the instrument did not grant the CBL Legislative approval for the replacement of all legacy banknotes in circulation with newly printed banknotes and/or authorization to print such new Liberian dollar banknotes SOLELY because the instrument is not a Joint Resolution of both the HoRs and the Liberian Senate as was done in the case of the Legislative approval for the printing of the L$5 billion Liberian dollar banknotes in May 2016, meaning that the authorization required by the CBL Act could be granted ONLY by a joint resolution of the Legislature. The only evidence provided by the Prosecution for this legal contention was the testimonies of former Speaker Nuquay who, on this point, had the following exchange on the cross examination:
Q. ‘’Mr. Witness, you have tried to impress this court that a joint resolution of plenary of both houses is the only means through which the Legislature to authorize the printing of currency. Does the Legislature have any formal or written procedure in dealing with the request of authorization for printing money? (See Certified Minutes of Court, 57th Day Sitting, Friday, July 17, 2020, sheet 1)
This was the only evidence-testimonial or documentary-provided by the Prosecution to prove its allegation that the otherwise absolute and complete authorization contained in the July 19, 2017 Letter is not valid because not expressed as a resolution.
Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks contends that the Prosecution’s allegation and/or argument is/are untenable and not proved for the following reasons:
1. The Prosecution has not denied that the July 19, 2017 Letter conveyed a clear “decisions“ by “the Senate and House of Representatives respectively (IN SESSSION)” for the CBL to print new banknotes to replace the old Liberty banknotes, and also that said letter constituted the CBL “legal and sufficient authority”;
2. The CBL Act simply provides that the CBL’s issuance of “legal tender and banknotes and coins” be “upon the approval of the Legislature”, and there is no requirement as to the form in which such approval may be granted;
3. It is settled law that substance prevails over form, and that this law is most applicable here where the content and objective of the authorization is clear, and the contention is simply on the failure to have used a form, which form is not even mandated or required by law;
4. The Prosecution has failed to prove or show any Liberian law to the effect that a legislative action or conduct other than a legislation must be by way of a resolution or an enactment;
5. A joint resolution is essentially a legislation which requires presidential assent, and the Prosecution has failed to (i) demonstrate a legislative intent or logical inference that the provision of the CBL Act for legislative authorization of printing of banknotes is to be implemented in each case by enactment of a legislation (Joint Resolution); and/or (ii) produce any evidence of previous joint resolution(s) passed to authorize printing of banknotes prior to the instant case;
6. The requirement for resolution is provided in Articles 35 of the Liberian Constitution (1986) and where it states that “each bill or resolution which shall have passed both Houses of the Legislature shall, before it becomes law, be laid before the President for his approval. If he grants approval, it shall become law. If the President does not approve such bill or resolution, he shall return it, with his objections, to the House in which it originated”;
7. There is no provision whatsoever in the Liberian Constitution or any other Liberian law that requires the Legislature to use “resolution” as the sole means of taking the following actions and/or decisions: (i) to impeach and convict government officials; (ii) to confirm presidential nominees; (iii) to hold individuals in contempt of the legislature ; and (iv) to summon executive officers and others in furtherance of their oversight functions.
8. The standing rules of both Houses of the Legislature provide for executive sessions to discuss confidential matters and further provide that decisions from such executive session need not be made public.
The foregoing clearly shows that the Prosecution has no basis, legal or otherwise, for its contention that the explicit authorization given the CBL by the Legislature, and which authorization has not been denied or rescinded by the Legislature, is invalid simply because the Legislature chose to convey the authorization through a means other than a resolution.
A final point needs to be made about the fullness or sufficiency of the legislative authorization contained in the July 19, 2017 letter, and that point relates to the language of the third paragraph of the letter, which reads as follows:
“Meanwhile, the Legislature would request that you furnish this body with the appropriate details of the volume and denomination of the replacing banknotes prior to the printing and the minting of coins”
Although the Prosecution did not allege this and/or offer proof related thereto, a witness of the Prosecution in person of Mr. Baba Boakia suggested that the authorization was “partial” apparently because of the requirement for information contained in the third paragraph of the letter. Co-Defendant Weeks has taken the liberty to address the relevance or relationship between (i) the above-quoted language of the third paragraph of the July 19, 2017 Letter and (ii) the absolute language of the decisions and authorizations contained in the first two paragraphs of the said July 19, 2017 letter.
The July 19, 2017 instrument clearly states in its first paragraph that the two houses of the Legislature did have “separate discussions” and based thereon “the legislature …made the following decisions”, the second of such three decisions was ”to replace the legacy notes (Liberty) completely with the newly printed banknotes that there will be a single type of Liberian currency, thus facilitating proper control of the money supply”.
Following the clear enumeration of the three (3) specific decisions, the second paragraph of the Letter then mandated the CBL to implement the decision with the following explicit authorization:
“In view of the above, and with the power assigned to the Legislature under Article 35(d) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, this shall constitute your legal and sufficient authority.”
Co-Defendant Milton A Weeks submit that the first and second paragraphs of the July 19, 2017 letter together stated (i) the decision of the Legislature for printing of the new bank notes; and (ii) the absolute and sufficient authority for the CBL to implement the printing decision along with the other decisions. In this regard, it is worth noting that no one-neither the Legislature nor any other public or private person-has questioned the sufficiency of the authorization granted the CBL for implementing the other two decisions.
Co-Defendant Weeks further maintains that each of (i) the decision to print the banknotes and (ii) the authorization of the CBL to implement the printing decision was neither conditional nor partial, and that there was no conditional language in the two paragraphs.
Co-Defendant Weeks says that paragraph three (3) of the July 19, 2017 letter also did not state a condition to the decision or authority stated in the letter. In this regard, Co-Defendant respectfully requests Your Honor to take judicial notice of the fact that the third paragraph did not start with any conditional or contrasting term/word. The word “meanwhile” denote simultaneity; meaning “at or during the same time”, it is not a statement of a condition precedent or subsequent. The third paragraph of the July 19, 2017 Letter started by the word “Meanwhile”; therefore, imposed no condition precedent or subsequent, but meant that the authorized implementation of the decision would be done while or at the same time the CBL was providing the Legislature with information concerning the printing. Certainly, the CBL would not have been able to provide the requested information unless it had begun the authorized printing. Hence, the most the prosecution can go to make a plausible argument is that the legislature authorized the printing but did not intend the printing to be completed without receiving the requested information; contending instead that the request for information constituted a condition precedent for authorization of printing is baffling, at best, just as any suggestion that failure to have provided the information retroactively invalidated the “decision” already taken and “authorization already granted before the letter of July 19, 2017 and were conveyed by the referenced letter.
Additionally, it is important to note that the information requested by the legislature did not concern printer selected, cost of printing and the time of printing and delivery, which are the most critical questions. And the reasons why some of this information was not requested is because the CBL had earlier provided the information, including the quantity needed to replace the Liberty banknotes and the estimated cost of the printing. Hence, the information requested in the third paragraph related to denomination, which is arguably and evidently only for information purposes since the CBL Act nor any law entitles the Legislature to such information, especially if not made as a condition prior to their authorization of the printing.
Finally, Co-Defendant Weeks submit that to the extent the July 19, 2017 letter could plausibly be interpreted as requesting essential information before completing the printing, the language to that effect was ambiguous and such ambiguity ought to be interpreted against the Legislature/Government that wrote the letter consistent with the well-established common law principle of contra proferentum.
The Prosecution also contends and witness Nuquay testified that the Legislature use of the phrase ‘’… newly printed banknotes ….’’; in count two of the Legislature’s decision contained in the July 19, 2017 letter, refers to the L$5 billion printed in May 2016; NOT the printing of additional or new Liberian dollar banknotes. He said, ‘’Beside, count two of the very communication clearly instructed the CBL to replace legacy notes with newly printed banknotes and the newly printed banknotes mentioned were the 5billion Liberian Dollars which had been printed and brought to the Country’’ (See Certified Minutes of Court, 56th Day Sitting, Thursday, July 16, 2020, sheets 5-6). Co-defendant Weeks says that it is inconceivable and a practical impossibility for the phrase ‘’ … newly printed banknotes ….’’ as used in the context of the letter to refer to the L$5 billion because the analysis requested and submitted to Legislature, including the HoRs’ Specialized Committee clearly detailed and stated that:
i. ‘’the amount of currency in circulation (Liberian dollars) at end-March, 2017 was L$12.6 billion,
ii. 3.7 billion of the 12.6 billion in circulation was the LS$5 billion printed in May 2016 (as at May 1, 2017);
iii. the remaining L$1.3 billion of the L$5 billion was in the CBL vault;
iv. while the remaining L$8.9 billion constituted legacy notes in circulation as of the report period. The analysis noted that, ‘’it is important to note that currency the outside banks accounted for L$10.95 billion or 87 percent of currency in circulation (See Court’s marked Exhibit ‘’DM/2’’).
Hence, the Legislature, including the HoRs, knew or had reasons to know that L$3.7 billion of the L$5 billion printed in May 2016 was already in circulation as at May 1, 2017, and ONLY L$1.3 billion was available in the CBL vault. Moreover, the CBL May 1, 2017 Analysis proposed the printing of L$10 billion and estimated the cost at USD10.4; how could the Legislature have intended L$1.3 billion to completely replace L$8.9 billion legacy banknotes in circulation?
Co-defendant Weeks submits that the July 19, 2917 instrument constituted Legislative approval because, it further states, ‘’In view of the above, and with the power assigned to the Legislature under Article 35(d) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, this shall constitute your legal and sufficient authority. Of Course, as indicated hereinabove, Hon. Singbeh clarified that, ‘’… Article 35(d) was mistakenly inserted for Article 34(d)….’’ Certainly, Article 34(d) of the Liberian Constitution (1986) grants the Legislature the constitutional power ‘’to … issue currency, mint coins, and to make appropriations for the fiscal governance of the Republic, ….’’ Therefore, it is only logical to say that the July 19, 2017 letter was a Legislative approval granted the CBL in keeping with Article 34(d) of the Constitution, and the 2014 Amendment of the CBL Act of 1999, because if the Legislature did not intend to grant such approval, then what was the object for invoking and citing Article 34(d) of the Constitution?
The Prosecution further contends and witness Nuquay testified that the phrase, ‘’the volume and denomination of the replacing banknotes….”, in the last paragraph of the July 19, 2017 instrument, which reads: “meanwhile, the Legislature would request that you furnish this body with the volume and denomination of the replacing banknotes prior to the printing and minting of coins”, again, refers to the ‘’volume and denomination’’ of the L$5billion Liberian dollar banknotes printed in May 2016 and NOT ‘’the volume and denomination …’’ of additional Liberian dollar banknotes to be printed. (See Certified Minutes of Court, 56th Day Sitting, Thursday, July 16, 2020, sheets 5-6). Co-defendant Weeks says that the quoted phrase and the paragraph did not and could not have referred to the L$5 billion because witness Nuquay testified to, identified and confirmed the May 2016 Resolution of the Legislature, approving the printing of the L$5 billion (Court’s marked Exhibit ‘’PBCL/3’’) and the Resolution clearly states on its face the following:
i. denominations (500, 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5);
ii. the quantities (pieces); and
iii. the amounts.
The Legislature, therefore, could not have requested the volume and denomination of the L$5 billion Liberian dollar banknotes in 2017, when that issue had already been dispensed with in May 2016.
It is worth noting that the Prosecution’s 4th Subpoenaed witness Emmanuel Nuquay lied under oath and materially contradicted the Prosecution’s 1st Subpoenaed witness, Nanborlor Singbeh. Witness Nuquay said he had ‘’no information absolutely on the printing of L$10billion by the CBL’’, and ‘’no knowledge of any engagement between the CBL and the HoRs subsequent to the printing of the 5billion Liberian Dollars Banknotes’’; when he was confronted with a copy of Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks’ May 2017 letter, mentioned hereinabove, and addressed to him, numbered CBL/E-Gov/NAW/661/2017 (Strictly Confidential), on the estimated cost for printing L$10 billion at US$10.4 million, he averred that he could not immediately recall receiving such communication, but that doesn’t mean the communication was not submitted to the Legislature. ‘’… communications to the Speaker are meant for Plenary discussion because …, Plenary is the highest decision making body of the House of Representatives and not the Speaker’’. Contrary to Nuquay’s lack of knowledge theory, witness Singbeh testified and said, ‘’I will like to say again that numerous meetings were held in Executive Session, in committee room and in open plenary. What I do remember is an instruction or directive given to the Secretarial to send a communication to the CBL on the printing of banknotes to replace the legacy notes’’. (See Certified Minutes of Court, 51st Day Sitting, July 9, 2020, sheet 4-5)
In further contradiction to Nuquay’s lack of knowledge theory, witness Singbeh testified in response to a question on the cross and in making reference to the July 19, 2017 instrument said, ‘’as you can clearly see from the letterhead of this instrument and in cognizance with the practice and the Constitution, all financial instruments emanate from the House of Representatives’’. Singbeh’s testimony is strictly in consonance with Article 34(d)(i) of the Constitution (1986), which grants the Legislature the authority to ‘’issue currency’’ and further states that, i) ‘’all revenue bills, whether subsidies, charges, imposts, duties or taxes, and other financial bills, shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills’’. (Emphasis added)
Contrary to his lack of knowledge theory, witness Nuquay confirmed that the Legislature directed and the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate, wrote the July 19, 2017 instrument to the CBL, requesting the CBL to do three key things, one of which is ‘’…to replace the legacy notes (Liberty) completely with the newly printed banknotes ….’’ Co-defendant Weeks therefore submits that these contradictions are material and create a reasonable doubt in the mind of any man of ordinary intelligence and observation as to the credibility of witness Nuquay since he was the Speaker of the House of Representatives and is presumed to be aware of decisions made by the Plenary of the House.
The Prosecution also alleges in Count 12 of the indictment that:
‘’the CBL Board of Directors in flagrant disregard to the constitutional authority vested in the legislature under Article 34(d) to … mandated Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks to enter into a contract on June 12, 2017, with Crane Currency to print 10,000,000,000 Liberian dollars banknotes at the cost of US$10,121,689.20(US Ten Million One Hundred Twenty One Thousand Six Hundred Eighty Nine Dollars and Twenty Cents) before receiving the July 19, 2017 communication. This means the contract had been sealed and printing of the new L$ banknotes had begun without obtaining a Joint Resolution from the Legislature long before the July 19, 2017 communication’’.
Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks provided clarity of the facts and circumstances that led to the execution of the contract with Crane Currency and narrated that the printer had advised that it could have taken between four to six months from the time an order is placed until the currency is delivered. He furthered that the CBL had recognized that there are two periods during the calendar year when there is acute demand for currency. Those two periods are around July 26 and December 25. He averred that the CBL’s projection pointed to a growing demand for currency both in 2016 and 2017 around the Christmas times, and the high demand for currency resulted in commercial banks inability to meet public demand. It was therefore determined that the CBL makes sure to try to be able to meet the demand in 2018. That based on the interactions with the Legislature and the assurances of their understanding of the CBL’s advocacy, he did, in anticipation, of the approval that he believed to be eminent, proceeded to sign the contract with Crane Currency in June of 2017. He said, ‘’this was in the interest of ensuring that the economy would avoid shocks to the system. You may recall that even a few months ago, there was a shortage of Liberian Dollars in the banks which precipitated the CBL printing an additional 4billion Liberian Dollars’’. ‘’… that was done with no criminal intent but rather in the interest of preserving the economy and avoiding shocks to the system giving the long period required between ordering and delivery and based on the fruitful and positive interaction with the Legislature that led us to believe that the approval was eminent’’.
It is worth noting that like the contract with Crane Currency for the printing of the L$10 billion banknotes signed by Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks, the contract with the same Crane Currency for the printing of L$5 billion banknotes signed by Mr. Charles Sirleaf, was executed and signed prior the Mr. Sirleaf receipt of the approval from the Legislature. The records show that the L$5 billion was signed on the 6th day of May, 2016 and the Resolution was executed on the 17th day of May, 2016.
Again, the Prosecution did not rebut this testimony of Mr. Weeks; thus, making a prima facie evidence or justification for the administrative action taken. Furthermore, the execution of the contract prior to receipt of the Legislative approval does not usurp or arrogate the function of the Legislature or violate any known law; most especially so, when the objective for taking such action was met without any established misconduct on the part of the defendant. It is settled law that ‘’where the accused presents proof or evidence as to raise a strong doubt regarding the substance of the prosecution’s case, the latter is under a duty to rebut such evidence or the conviction will be overturned’’. Hence, the allegation should and ought to be dismissed.
Our criminal law provides: “that [a] defendant in a criminal action is presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved; and in case of a reasonable doubt whether his guilt is satisfactorily shown, he is entitled to acquittal.” § 2.1, 1 LCLR, Criminal Procedure Law.” In so judging a person, therefore, the law requires that the jury satisfy itself that the prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the offense for which conviction is sought. Gouykro v. Republic, LLR 102, 107 (1952); Johnson v. Republic,  LRSC 11; 15 LLR 66 (1962).
ISSUE #3: ASSUMING WITHOUT ADMITTING THAT THE CBL FAILED TO OBSERVE THE “REQUEST” FOR INFORMATION OR CONTIDITION CONTAINED IN THE THIRD PARAGRAPGH OF THE JULY 19, 2017 LETTER RELATIVE TO THE AUTHORIZED PRINTING OF THE BANKNOTES, IS SUCH FAILURE A CONDUCT PROSCRIBED BY THE PENAL CODE OF LIBERIA?
Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks answers this question in the negative, and specifically submits that a mere failure of an executive officer to provide requested information is not a basis for criminal liability.
The law of the land is that “no person shall be made subject to any law or punishment which was not in effect at the time of commission of an offense, nor shall the Legislature enact any bill of attainder or ex post facto law. Art. 21 (a), Liberian Constitution (1986). Further Section 1.5(1) Penal Law, Title 26, Liberian Code of Laws Revised provides, under the heading ‘’All offenses statutory”, states that “No conduct constitutes an offense unless it is a crime or infraction under this title or another statute of Liberia’’. These laws require that the Co-Defendant be found not criminally liable for failure to have provided the Legislature information if such failure is and/or was not defined as a crime for which a specific penalty was prescribed in the Penal Code or any other statute.
Co-Defendant Milton Weeks submits that he did not deliberately fail to provide the legislature any requested information and, to the extent that he is found to have failed, such failure is not an offense under the Penal Code of Liberia.
Regarding his denial of failure to have provided any requested information, Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks testified at length to the facts, circumstances and events that informed the Legislature’s decisions contained in the July 19, 2017 Letter and the actions he and the CBL took to implement the authorized printing of the banknotes. He averred that based on the positive response received from the Senate, the CBL wrote a letter to the President Pro-Temple of the Liberian Senate in May of 2017, confirming the discussions that had been held in the Senate’s Executive Session, during which the CBL was requested to advise the Senate on how much Liberian Dollars Banknotes would be printed to replace all of the legacy notes and what is the cost to print that amount. The CBL responded by letters dated (i) May 24, 2017 to the President Pro-Temple of the Liberian Senate and (ii) May 29, 2017 to the Speaker of House of Representatives respectively, in which the CBL confirmed that 10billion should be printed and estimated the cost at 10.4Million United States Dollars. The witness averred that the CBL pointed out in those letters that the CBL had not put the 10.0 million USD in its budget of 2017 and suggested that the Government might consider, including this amount in the upcoming fiscal budget.
The witness testified to more interactions with the Legislature in early 2017, especially with the specialized committee appointed by the House Plenary to look into the matter. He said that there were a number of additional requests received from the Legislature, seeking additional information, and some of these communications were sent through the Office of the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives. He noted, ‘’the CBL received assurances that its advocacy would be considered. Then on July 19, 2017, the CBL received a letter from the Legislature, signed by the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate, instructing us on the very same three items: (1) That we should maintain the use of the USD (2) that we should replace all legacy banknotes and (3) that we should introduce coins’’.
Additionally and as stated hereinabove, the testimonies of Co-Defendant Weeks were corroborated by the Prosecution’s witness, Hon. J. Nanborlor F. Singbeh, Secretary of the Liberian Senate, and Dr. Mounir Siaplay, Former Deputy Governor for Economic Policy, CBL. Dr. Siaplay produced and testified to the CBL Internal Memorandum on the amount of legacy banknotes in circulation at as May, 2017, and a copy of the May 24, 2017 letter from the CBL to the former Present Pro-temple of the Liberian Senate in respect of the CBL’s advocacy for the printing of additional banknotes. He furthered that on May 2, 2017, he accompanied the Executive Governor Weeks as part of a team from the Central Bank to the Liberian Senate, where a presentation was done regarding the purposed replacement of the legacy banknotes by Executive Governor Weeks. Thereafter, he was instructed by Executive Governor Weeks to recount the presentation/discussion that was held at the Liberian Senate on May 2, 2017 in the letter dated May 24, 2017. These testimonies were not rebutted by the Prosecution.
The July 19, 2017 Letter was therefore a culmination of all the interactions, discussions and assurances of approval testified to and not rebutted. The indicia of authenticity, sufficiency and conclusiveness were further buttressed by the letter being signed by the authorized officers of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as these are the officers through whom the correspondence between the CBL and the legislature had been conducted.
Giving all of the above-mentioned interactions between the CBL and the Legislature, as well as the absolute and categorical language of the decision and authorization contained in the July 19, 2017 Letter, Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks and the CBL Board of Governors honestly interpreted the July 19, 2017 Letter as providing the required Legislative approval for the printing of the proposed L$10 billion, and that said approval was not subject to any condition precedent or subsequent. The interpretation and conclusion of Co-Defendant Weeks was reasonable. Co-Defendant Weeks therefore submits that his reasonable interpretation of the July 19, 2017 letter, even if judicially determined to be erroneous, excuses him from any civil and criminal liability as a matter of law absent any criminal intent or extenuating circumstances, which have not been alleged and/or proved in this case.
Co-Defendant Weeks also plead his constitutional right against ex post facto law and retroactive punishment. He specifically submits that assuming he failed to have provided the Legislature information concerning the volume and denominations of the banknotes authorized by the legislature to be printed, such failure caused no damage and, more importantly, did not and is not a crime under Liberian law for which he may be found guilty in a criminal prosecution.
ISSUE #4: WHETHER OR NOT THE PROSECUTION’S EVIDENCE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT THAT CO-DEFENDANT MILTON A. WEEKS RECYCLED AND REINFUSED IN THE LIBERIAN ECONOMY MUTILIATED LEGACY BANKNOTES WITHOUT ANY LEGISLATIVE APPROVAL; THEREBY COMMITTING ECONOMIC SABOTAGE?
Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks answers this question in the negative.
Not a scintilla of evidence – be it documentary or testimonial,-was produced during the course of the trial to prove this grave charge, as none of the Prosecution’s seven paraded witnesses testified to or even mentioned anything about or related to recycling and/or reinfusion of mutilated Liberian dollar banknotes in the economy.
Additionally, the absence of a request for legislative approval of continuing or discontinuing of banknotes already printed under legislative approval is not a crime and cannot be a basis of any criminal prosecution because there is no legal provision whatsoever in the Constitution of Liberia and/or the Central Bank of Liberia Act or any other applicable legislation that requires the Central Bank of Liberia to obtain prior legislative approval for any of such dealing with currency already printed, issued, and in circulation. Section 4 of the Central Bank Act is clear that the Central Bank shall have functional independence, power and authority to, inter alia, “administer the currency law and regulate the supply of money”.
Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks specifically denied and proved its denial of the Prosecution’s allegation in Count 11 of the indictment, which states as follows:
that at “material time divers in 2017 or thereabouts, either out of mischief or deception or both, allegedly ordered the destruction or discarding of some of the legacy banknotes from the vault of the CBL to remove them from circulation but the whole exercise turned out to be a complete charade only invented as a form of trick and artifice by Co-defendant Milton Weeks and the Board of Governors to mislead the public. Thereafter, the exercise was summarily aborted and completely discontinued, and all of the old legacy banknotes which were previously deemed “worthless or useless” and were destined for destruction or burning, were again brought back into the CBL vault, recycled and allegedly reinfused into the economy without any legislative approval’’. (Emphasis added.)
The law is settled that allegation is not proof, and that an allegation must be proved unless not denied. The records is bereft of any proof produced by prosecution to support its allegation restated above.
The records also show that while the Prosecution failed to produce any scintilla of evidence in proof of the above-stated allegations, Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks sufficiently proved their falsity by (i) his own evidence and (ii) use of the Prosecution’s own evidence adduced and admitted into evidence.
Witness Weeks asserted as a general point that ‘’if anyone knows the controls that I put in place for handling of currency at the CBL, especially regarding destruction of mutilated currency, they would not make this allegation. Currency that is destined for destruction is overseen by multiple departments and it is inconceivable for the Executive Governor even less so members of the Board of Governors to be involved in that process. There are multiple controls that ensure the movement of banknotes destined for destruction. The destruction facilities are two floors ground level with limited access and restrictive covenants. The CBL provided the schedule of all mutilated notes that was destroyed to the PIT as I saw in the report. The prosecution submitted that schedule as evidence in this case. That is the only evidence that the prosecution has provided concerning destruction of mutilated banknotes’’.
The witness furthered testified that to his knowledge the only time currency destined for destruction ever moved out of the was when the destruction machine two floors of the ground floors of the CBL broke down due to excessive use, as the CBL attempted to rapidly destroy the mutilated notes. Therefore, he was requested to approve and did approve, on an exceptional basis, for this to be done. He concluded, ‘’I did approve and under multiple layers of security, both from CBL and various state’s security institutions burned those mutilated notes entirety. As I said, the sheer lever of redundancy in the security apparatus, does not allow in any form of faction for an individual or a couple of individuals to be able to dedicate the faith of currency destined for destruction’’.
The Prosecution did not provide any rebuttal to these testimonies of the witness. Hence, these testimonies, by and of themselves, establish a prima facie evidence of his innocence. In Swaray v RL  LRSC 2;15 LLR 149 (8 February 1963), Mr. Justice Mitchell, speaking for the Court and citing 23 C. J. 9 Evidence § 1735,held that “prima facie evidence is that which, either alone or aided by other facts presumed from those established by the evidence, shows the existence of the fact it is adduced to prove, unless overcome by counter evidence; evidence which, unexplained or uncontradicted, is sufficient to maintain the proposition affirmed. Prima facie evidence is sufficient to support a verdict in favor of the party by whom it is introduced where no contraverting evidence is introduced by the adverse party. . . .”
It is worth noting that the CBL presented to the PIT a Schedule and an array of verified CBL Internal Audit Reports evidencing the CBL destruction of mutilated Liberian dollar banknotes from March to August, 2018, and these species of evidence were testified to, identified, confirmed and admitted into evidence at the instance of the Prosecution as Court’s Marked Exhibit PCBL/40. The Schedule of CBL Internal Audit Reports clearly detailed:
i. the dates;
ii. number of bags containing mutilated banknotes;
iii. the amount in each bag;
iv. the denominations of L$5s, 10s, 20s, 50s, and 100s,
v. the destruction site,
vi. the exhibit number; and
vii. the total amount of mutilated Liberian dollar banknotes destroyed during the period mentioned herein.
The Schedule shows that the total of 127,230,000 pieces of Liberian dollar banknotes were destroyed during the period, and that translates to a face value of L$2,694,000,000 Liberian dollar banknotes. Your Honor is kindly requested to take judicial notice of same, and dismiss these unfounded allegations, including the crime with which the accused is charged as a matter of law.
Further, Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks specifically denied and proved its denial of the Prosecution’s allegation in Count 10 of the indictment that :
‘’the sole purpose for executing the “Resolution N0.BR-06/2017,” by the CBL Board of Governors … was to “replace the legacy L$ notes completely with newly printed banknotes and the introduction of coins in lower denominations” … but because Co-defendant Milton Weeks and the Board of Governors had criminal intent, they conspired or colluded and ensured that the L$ legacy notes were not replaced, instead, they openly allowed the parallel usage of both the mutilated legacy notes that were to be replaced with the newly printed L$ banknotes to further defraud the Government of Liberia’’.
The only evidence produced by the Prosecution in support of this allegation is the testimony of Mr. Baba M. Boakai who averred without any proof that the purpose for which the L$10 billion was printed, replacing all existing legacy banknotes, was never met. (See Certified Court’s Minutes, 42nd Day Sitting, June 29, 2020; Sheet 10). Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks rebutted this allegation and asserted that the CBL’s records and research show on average that of the total currency in circulation, 20% or less is actually in the banking system – that is with the commercial banks while the rest of currency in circulation is with the general public outside the banking system. Realizing this and in its attempt to retrieve the legacy notes, the CBL adapted a three-prong approach. First, the CBL itself stopped paying out legacy notes. Second was an instruction to the commercial banks to gradually stop paying legacy notes while the third was to go directly to the public to attempt to retrieve the legacy notes. In pursuing this approach, the CBL established relationships with entities to assists in retrieving the banknotes. For example, the CBL worked with the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) in sending out teams to the various markets where marketers were offered to bring their legacy and mutilated notes to designated locations at the markets to be exchanged for new notes.
He furthered testified that announcements were also made on radio regarding this initiatives. The CBL also sent teams to rural counties to exchange mutilated and legacy notes for the new currency. For example, in Harper, Maryland County, the team setup at the administrative building and sent town criers and announcements on local radio encouraging citizens to come and exchange their old currency. Similar exercises were carried out in various other counties. These initiatives, he said, were aimed at addressing the fact that the majority of the currency is in people hands and not in the banks. This situation actually persist up to today. With regard to the commercial banks, the CBL issued directives to the commercial banks, instructing them to gradually stop paying out legacy notes but to continue to accept legacy notes for deposit.
Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks continued his testimony by narrating how the commercial banks complained and the CBL agreed that the process to manually sort out the new notes from the old notes when customers make deposits was cumbersome. Therefore, the approach that was adapted was for a gradual withdrawal of the legacy notes. ‘’So, in January of 2018, the CBL directed the commercial banks to stop paying out 5dollars and 10dollars legacy notes. Then in March of 2018, the CBL directed the commercial banks to stop paying out 20dollars legacy notes. Then in June of 2018, the CBL directed the commercial banks to stop paying out all legacy notes’’. (See Certified Minutes of Court, 68th Day Sitting, Monday, August 3, 2020, Sheets 1-4). With this three-phase approach, the Management of the CBL believed and expected that we could have withdrawn all of the legacy notes before the end of 2018.
In corroboration of this testimony, Co-defendant requested and the Court granted the request to subpoena the CBL produce and testify to some of the directives issued by the CBL in respect of the three-phase approach to completely replace all legacy banknotes in circulation. In compliance with the subpoena, Mr. Fonsia M. Donzo, Director of the CBL Regulation and Supervision Department produced the subpoenaed instruments and testified to them (Court’s marked Exhibits ‘’DM/7’’ & ‘’DM/13). The witness averred on the cross examination that, the enhanced banknotes and the legacy banknotes are been used simultaneously and at the time the regulation was issued, both currencies were also used simultaneously. He said, ‘’the process was meant for gradual withdrawal of legacy banknotes’’. (See Certified Minutes of Court, 68th Day Sitting, Monday, August 3, 2020, Sheets 1-4)
The Prosecution made no effort to rebut the testimony of the witness and/or that of the CBL official. Indeed and surprisingly, Prosecution produced not a scintilla of evidence to establish and prove the allegation of ‘’criminal intent’’ relative to how Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks and the other Co-defendants ‘’conspired or colluded and ensured that the L$ legacy notes were not replaced’’; how they ‘’defraud the Government of Liberia’’ by openly allowing the parallel usage of both the mutilated and legacy notes that were to be replaced with the newly printed L$ banknotes. More importantly, Prosecution failed to prove the injury sustained by the Government, and the benefit Co-Defendant Milton A. Weeks derived from the conspiracy and fraud.
The Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia has opined time without number that ‘’… it is not for the defendant in a criminal case to, in the first instance, provide evidence of his or her innocence, but rather, that it is for the State, at every stage of the proceedings, to prove the guilt of the defendant; and that unless that guilt is satisfactorily proved, a conviction of guilty cannot be upheld. Sirleaf vs. RL, LRSC 15 (AUGUST, 2012). The Court further opined that ‘’ the prosecution of all criminal matters in our jurisdiction has its foundation in certain basic principles of law, and that in all trials upon indictments in order for the State to convict the prosecution it must prove the guilt of the accused with such legal certainty as to exclude every reasonable hypothesis of his innocence; that material facts essential to constitute the crime charged must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt; otherwise, the accused will be entitled to a discharge’’. Davies v. Republic, 40 LLR 659 (2001)
Further, it is settled law in this jurisdiction that “in a criminal case the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the essential elements of the offense with which the accused is charged ; and if this proof fails to establish any of the essential elements necessary to constitute a crime, the defendant is entitled to an acquittal. The burden of proof is never on the accused to establish his innocence or disprove the facts necessary to establish the crime charged. Although the accused is required to assume the burden of proving the affirmative defense upon which he relies, the burden of establishing his guilt rests on the prosecution from the beginning to the end of the trial, even in a case in which the defendant offers an affirmative defense.” AM. JuR. 2d, Evidence, § 148. The question in criminal cases, therefore, is not one of mere proof, but proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, where an accused has presented proof or evidence as to raise a strong doubt, as regards the substance of the prosecution’s case, the latter is under a duty to rebut evidence, or have a conviction overturned.
WHEREFORE AND IN VEIW OF THE FOREGOING facts and the law controlling, Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks prays your Honor and this Honorable Court to:
A. Adjudge Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks NOT GUILTY of all the crimes contained in the indictment and for with he is on trial and order that he should never be held to answer to any of these crimes/charges in respect of this matter now and forever;
B. Restore his liberty and order his Criminal Appearance Bond returned to him and that the lien placed on the properties of his Sureties be removed as though such lien was never placed on the said properties;
C. Discharge his Sureties of any and all obligations imposed upon them by this Honorable Court and by operation of law in respect of their undertaking to guarantee and ensure his appearance in court as and when required or commanded by this Honorable Court;
D. Dismiss the Writ of Ne Exit Republica ordered issue and issue by the Clerk of the Monrovia City Court to prevent Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks from leaving the biliwick of the Republic of Liberia and restore his right to liberty and freedome of movement within and wihtout the Republic at any time of his choosing;
E. Order the Sheriff of this Honorable Court to return to Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks his passport and all other documents submitted to the Sheriff’s office on the orders of this Court to guarantee his appearance as and when required and/or commanded by this Court; and
F. Grant unto Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks all further relief as shall be deemed just, legal and equitable under the circumstances of this case.