Judge Carey Drops Criminal Charges

By: R. Joyclyn Wea

 MONROVIA-Criminal Court “C” Judge T. Ciapha Carey has for now dropped criminal charges against the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC).

In December of 2022, an indictment was drawn against Madam Davidetta Browne Lassanah, chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) charging them with what it terms a violation of the code of conduct for Public Officials, and predicate offense to money laundering (insider trading and market manipulation).

Madam Lassanah was subsequently served a writ of arrest on December 24, 2021 a day after it was issued of Criminal Court “C”, she tendered a criminal appearance bond which was duly approved by the trial Judge.

During the ruling on early April 28, 2022, Judge Carey granted the motion to dismiss the criminal charge against the NEC Chairperson without prejudice to the state, that is the state can at any time go after her or re-indict her for the crimes charged with.

This is because Judge Carey holds and finds that the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of this case, over the thing involved, over the person of the defendant, and also because the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) lacks legal capacity to take unto itself the function of the ombudsman in assuming original jurisdiction to investigate alleged violations of the code of conduct.

Judge Carey maintained that it lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter and the thing involved “Insider trading” and the “code of conduct” and that it is only the office of the ombudsman that can preside and award penalties in such cases.

Section 12.2 of the COC says the office of the ombudsman shall receive and investigate all complaints, in respect to the adherence to the code of conduct.

In this case, the court says there is a determination of guilt and violation by the private and public officials and employees of government, said violation shall be submitted by the ombudsman to the LACC or other relevant agencies of the three branches of government and civil society organizations in order to develop regulations for the COC.

The court says, for the LACC to acquire the capacity to investigate and prosecute alleged violations of an act that is in breach of the COC, the LACC must receive from the ombudsman a report which contains a finding or determination of guilt against the accused, only then can the LACC conduct criminal investigation and prosecution for violations of the act which is criminal under the laws.

While the LACC argued that “Insider trading” is listed as a predicate offense to money-laundering under chapter 15, section 15.3 of the Anti-Money Laundering and terrorist financing act of 2012, the court holds that it did not cite any provision of the said chapter 15 or any other provisions of the money laundering and terrorist financing act where ‘insider trading” is defined or criminalized.

With this dismissal of the indictment, these proceedings are abated and discontinued forthwith; also, the defendant has been discharged from further answering in these proceedings as though the said case was never initiated.

The court at the same time ordered that Madam Lassanah criminal appearance bond filed at the time of her arrest, be returned to her.

Meanwhile, the state through the LACC has taken exception to Judge Carey’s verdict and announced an appeal to the Supreme Court.

 

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