Justice Deferred – In US$10.7m Debt Case

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The Commercial Court at the Temple of Justice, presided over by Judge Eva Mappy Morgan has indefinitely suspended the US$10.7 million debt case filed by a Lebanese businessman against the Liberian Government.

Alliance and Prestige Motors, representing an American and German auto dealer in Monrovia sued the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for refusing to pay for vehicles and spare parts supplied government in 2003 and up to March 2008.

Judge Eva Mappy Morgan ruled the US$10.7m debt case to trial in 2015 a year after it was filed in 2014.

Since then, the case has had serious of legal hiccups and impediments, followed by two separate assignments issued by the court but failed to take off based on its own assignments.

The Court ruled the US$10.7 million debt case to trial, after nearly nine months of legal arguments between state and the companies’ lawyers on whether or not the court had jurisdiction over the matter.

Last month, the court ordered an assignment for hearing on November 21, 2017, but failed, and a subsequent assignment on December 1, also failed. Court official told a crowded courtroom, that lawyers will be inform on the new date for hearing.

The Commercial Court was established 2011 by the National Legislature as a specialized court to adjudicate cases arising of commercial transactions, since the Debt Court is limited in its financial scope of jurisdiction.

The debt case has generating huge interest in the international community, especially among the German and American companies which supplied the vehicles and spare parts to the Alliance Motor and Prestige Motor in Monrovia.

A special European emissary and lawyer said “it is a bad signal for investors to seem not to trust a country’s judiciary in seeking redress to action growing out of commercial transaction.” He hopes the delay is not intended to baffle justice.

The special envoy who preferred anonymity said “such delay is dangerous and financial consequences would be grave, should an alternative action be taken to seek legal redress in foreign jurisdiction,” which he said “is under consideration.”

Alliance and Prestige Motors are owned and managed by Lebanese businessman George E. Haddad.

The Ellen’s administration has not denied the debt claim, but according to lawyers, the presidency has since been baffling the case, and the likelihood is that it wants to pass the financial burden on to the new government.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), has been make frantic effort to easy Liberia’s domestic debt burden but the country remains hugely indebted.

The IMF recently again assisted the Liberian Government under its Extended Credit Facility (ECF) program, with yet another US$20.7 million intended to settle domestic debts.