Matilda Parker’s Trial: The Real Story

441

 

 

 

By  Alston V. Nyumah

From 2016, I have been an ardent follower of the case between Madam Matilda W. Parker, Christina Paelay and the Government of the Republic of Liberia. Even though I am afar, but as a proponent of Justice who wishes to see a change, I shall continue to shed a light on germane issues relating to Liberia. Hence, after getting some very disappointing updates on this case, and a leaked case file from sources associated with Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), I thought to weigh in on this matter.

In the past, I wrote and published two articles.  The Hard Truth In Parker’s Case I https://www.newsghana.com.gh/the-hard-truth-in-parkers-case-i/ and Conspiracy in Midday:  Madam Matilda W. Parker will Triump http://gnnliberia.com/2016/03/06/conspiracy-in-midday-madam-matilda-w-parker-will-triumph/.

Like I said in one of my earlier articles, “one of the main reasons for Liberia’s slow-paced development in this modern era is conspiracy in public service. Any government that wraps itself in a blanket of hearsay and hatred is bound to fall.”  To update new readers, allow me to recap the situation before I provide my disturbing and disappointing updates:

1. On April 23, 2015, Madam Matilda W. Parker and Christina Paelay were suspended by the former President of Liberia while Parker was on official mission to the Netherlands which was approved by former President Sirleaf.   The suspension pronouncement was made by Sirleaf herself, after the playing of the National Anthem, which was unprecedented.

2. Parker/Paelay are being accused of creating two fake contracts in 2011, hiring Deneah Martin Flomo to cash all the checks, give the money to Comptroller Paelay, and no work was performed.

3. The Final LACC report (cited by Madam Sirleaf in the suspension pronouncement referenced in Point 1) dated April 14, 2015 was never shared with Parker / Paelay for review or feedback, until after their indictment and the first sitting of court in December 2015. We all know that when we go to the police station charged with a petty offence, you are given a copy of the charge sheet.   In my mind, this report was never shared because of its nonexistence. In court, it was revealed that the voluntary statements and interviews of several persons were captured after the final date of the report.  If the LACC final report was dated April 14, 2015, how was it possible for the following to have occurred and be included in the report.

a. Col. Ashford Peal of the Liberia Seaport Police (LSP) was interviewed on May 22, 2015

b. Mr. Nathaniel C. Gbarba was interviewed on July 22, 2015

c. Sunday G. Wright was interviewed on July 13, 2015

d. Jeffery George was interviewed on May 28, 2015 and July 9, 2015

e. Patrick M. Konneh was interviewed on July 10, 2015

f. Otis V, Kah was interviewed on July 15, 2015

g. Emmanuel Z. Davies was interviewed on July 10, 2015

h. Prince Jegbedai was interviewed on July 14, 2015

Skeptics would say that maybe the date on the report was an error or there may have been multiple versions to the report.  In court, witness Blamo Koffa, was asked if the report had additional versions for which he responded in the negative.  If the date was an error, it could not be beyond April 23, 2015, because in her suspension pronouncement, Sirleaf stated that the suspension was based on the LACC Final Report.  Based on the above interview dates, we wonder what report was used by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to suspend Madam Parker and Christina Paelay on April 23, 2015.

4. The LACC report, unlike other professional reports like GAC, was never submitted to the accused for feedback.  We observed that the report was not even signed by the Head of the LACC, Cllr James Verdier, nor any of the Commissioners.  It was only signed by the Chief Investigator, Blamo Koffa and the two junior investigators.

5. During the case, the house of the former NPA Comptroller (Christina Paelay) who was also indicted along with Parker was vandalized by a joint team from LACC, Ministry of Justice (MOJ), etc. This incident was formally reported to the Minister of Justice (Benedict Sannoh) in July 2015; and to former President Sirleaf, and the Independent National Human Rights Commission of Liberia in early December 2015 in writing.  To date, the complaint filed by Paelay’s lawyer is yet to receive acknowledgement or redress. Additionally, the maid from Parker’s house was beaten by several men with ski-masks in an attempt to take her house keys. The case was also reported to the police station near Spriggs Payne Airport, but there has been no investigation up to now and the officers even refused to issue a police report.

6. The indictment against the accused claims that payment was made for work not performed. Yet, the voluntary statement signed by the Port Manager of Greenville Port, dated January 2015, states that the wrecks (blocking the pathway of the dredger) was removed by a company whose name he could not remember, because it was executed in 2011; and the contract was done at the Head Office. Additionally, he stated that the Security Assessment work was performed. Now, considering that the work to be performed was ordered by the former President of the Republic of Liberia in a harsh letter to Parker which instructs her to “take such action as is necessary to expedite the removal of sunken vessels and dredging the Port of Greenville, including the termination of present arrangements and entering more viable alternative arrangements, as necessary.”  The letter goes on to say that “…. these delays, apparently due to your lack of attention to such matters, are clearly undermining Government’s development agenda and can no longer be tolerated.” Clearly this is not a project that the former NPA MD and Comptroller would select to cheat on. Remembering that the allegation is that the contract was executed but the work was never done; I further intrigued to see in the leaked LACC File a letter from the Ministry of State (MOS) assigning Gyude Moore to the project to keep the President updated.  Along with the letter from MOS is the email response from Parker to the President on the letter giving her clear instructions to act.  Additionally, our investigation revealed that the wreck removal contract was for the removal of two pieces of wrecks blocking the pathway of the dredger that was supposed to come to dredge the Port of Greenville to allow the Port to reopen after approximately 14 years.  We have confirmed that the dredger entered and dredged, and the Port of Greenville was reopened.  How would the dredging have been possible if the wrecks were not removed?

6. As an avid follower of this case, the continuous delay is glaringly an attempt to undermine justice and fairness. The Jurors in this case was sequestered at the Temple of Justice, with 24-hours surveillance.  We observed with anticipation the Government of Liberia bring witnesses with no establishment of proof, until it was obvious by their questions that even the Jurors were beginning to lean towards a not guilty verdict.   Directly after the sixth witness, Judge A. Blamo Dixon of Criminal Court ‘C’ received, investigated and denied the application of the prosecution lawyers to disband the jury on grounds of tempering and exposure (because of lack of adequate proof, but most especially because they failed to deliver the original evidence of the note allegedly sent to the Jurors, as required by law).  An appeal was filed before Justice Wolokollie on February 19, 2016 by State lawyers. Justice Wolokollie, without inviting both defense and prosecution lawyers to a conference, issued a writ to stop the trial and disbanded the jury. This is against legal best practices.  By law, once the jury is disbanded (or sent home), they can no longer return; and the case must be restarted.

I was privilege to get a copy of a leaked investigative file from LACC on the Parker/Paelay Case.   Below are a few of the many updates that I found disturbing, and cannot believe they were kept hidden:

In a Voluntary Statement, Morris Dukuly, the Vice Chairman of the Board of the National Port Authority admitted that he signed the Wreck Removing contract in question, (along with Parker and Paelay) because Chairman Binyah Kesselly (Commissioner of Maritime) had travel.  In Dukuly’s Voluntary Statement to the LACC he stated “… that the Board had been informed that there was an urgency about removing wrecks at the Greenville Port because of the obstruction they placed in the way of port operations, including the vital economic activity of logging.”  He also admitted to co-signing all checks above $50,000USD related to this contract, per the NPA policy.

Nathaniel Barnes was Chairman of the Board of NPA from April 9, 2012 – April 25, 2014.  In his Voluntary Statement, Chairman Barnes admitted that the security contract in questions was signed by and between the Management of the NPA and Denmar Enterprises during the period that he served as Chairman of the NPA Board of Directors.  He disclosed that during this period he and the other Board members were briefed about the need for the service, and they then gave the Management permission to hire a consultant.  In so doing, he signed an addendum to the contract to indicate his consent for the provision of security consultancy services considering the fact that he was not available on the day the MOU was signed by Management and the Security Consultant.

LACC states that the Public Finance Management (PFM) Regulations disallow an individual to receive a check in his/her name if the contract is issued to the corporation.   The LACC Case File shows that the NPA Comptroller provided a letter of request from the CEO of the Company authorizing this transaction in addition to the supporting PFM Law: Page 25:   Section B.28.Payees “A payment shall be made only to the person or persons named on the payment voucher or to their representatives duly and legally authorized in writing to receive the payment.”

The NPA provided a No Objection for Emergency Waiver for Port Security Projects letter dated March 3, 2009 from the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) (signed by Keith K. Jubah) authorizing the entity to sole source ISPS related projects, along with the supporting PPCC Law found on Page 9: Non-application (3) (a) of the Public Procurement and Concession Act (PPCA) . This provision says “This PPCC Act shall however not apply to International agreements concluded between the Government of Liberia and other countries or international organizations (such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – International Shipping and Port Security (ISPS) Code) for general or specific projects where these agreements provide for specified procurement rules and procedures.

In his Voluntary Statement, Mr. Deneah Flomo states that he has two incorporators, Tonieh Freeman and Marvinna Flomo, both in the USA. However, his Articles of Incorporation shows four other incorporators besides himself:

1. A APPC (owned solely by former Protempore Gbehzonghar Findley),

2. Tonieh Freeman,

3. Marvinna Flomo, and

4. Leela Flomo.

Tonieh Freeman (the Incorporator) is the stepson of Cllr. Augustine Toe, the LACC Commissioner in charge of the Parker / Paelay Case investigation and Godson of Betty Lamin Blamo, former Solicitor General RL, lead prosecutor on this case.  It is a clear conflict of interest.  Both Toe and Lamin should have recused themselves from the investigation and trial.

Mr. Flomo stated that the former NPA Comptroller accompanied him to Global Bank to encash a check, and thereafter was accompanied by another man and the driver. The NPA, during the tenure of Matilda Parker have never had a banking relationship/account with Global Bank, thus this statement is false.   

On Page 2 of his Voluntary Statement, Mr. Flomo provided a list of checks that he claimed were encashed by him and the former NPA Comptroller.  In the LACC file was NPA check 2046207 for $13,750, listed third on the list, shows “FOR DEPOSIT ONLY” on the back.  This means that this check was never cashed, but instead was deposited, resulting in another false statement by the State Witness.  The back of this check shows that the bank Mr. Flomo deposited the check in was Global Bank.   Per his statement in the paragraph above, why would the NPA Comptroller need to accompany him to his personal bank for identification?

Mr. Flomo states in his Voluntary Statement that he was introduced to the Comptroller by someone called Matthew. My personal view is that if, someone introduced me, and I was awarded a contract of $800,000 USD, I would definitely know their last name.   Additionally, as popular as MD Parker is, I am of the opinion that she would not give an $800,000 deal to a complete stranger.  I believe this testimony explains why Parker/ Paelay were not given an opportunity to perform a positive identification on this witness, nor were they ever given the opportunity to take the stand.  I personally believe that this man is a fake.

The LACC accused the NPA of awarding a contract to a firm that lacked experience in wreck removal.  However, before DMF Group of Companies took over to remove wrecks from the Port of Greenville, Buchanan Renewables (BR), a wood chip company, had a contract for the removal of all wrecks in all ports within the Republic of Liberia. This contract was awarded in 2008 (prior to the MD Parker’s administration) by the NPA (through a request from the Republic of Liberia).  Unlike the BR contract which had no Performance Bond (nor penalty for non-performance)  MD Parker made the contractors of the two contracts in question, to execute 100% Performance Bonds along with each agreement although the law requires a maximum of 35%; this meant that if the Contractors had defaulted, the entity would have been paid a 100% refund.

As I reviewed the LACC Case File, below are a few of the glaring errors that I identified.  These errors I feel should have been identified by a well-intended LACC or Government of Liberia legal team of ten lawyers.

1. Parker and Paelay were never given the opportunity to perform a positive identification on the State Witness whose testimony has resulted in the country spending thousands of dollars on a dead-end case that had over 10 active government lawyers.

2. Three of the witnesses (Kah/ Davies / Konneh) interviewed by the LACC, and two (Davies / Konneh) that have already testified in court came from the Port of Buchanan.  Per the information provided to LACC by the NPA in November 2014, an addendum to the contract removed Buchanan Port from the security contract after the Authority included China Union in the request.  Why was the country’s resources wasted on these three witnesses?

3. Witness Sunday Wright who was interviewed as an expert security witness in his Voluntary Statement indicated that his employment with the Port was in January 2013, which was after the completion of both contracts.  This witness, who has already testified, was also a wasted resource.

4. According to Jeffrey George’s Voluntary Statement, he was called in by LACC twice.  During his first visit on May 28, 2015, he stated that he “had no knowledge of DMF Group of Companies and Denmar Enterprise, whatsoever”.  However, on July 9, 2015, he was called again to confirm his initials on the Assessment Report, Bill of Quantities and Projected Wreck Removal Plan submitted by DMF Group of Companies.  During the second visit he acknowledged his signature on the document; however, he stated that his signature was simply an acknowledgement of the document, and no more.  However, a review of the document shows that Cllr. George did not only sign, he OK’ed the document, and forwarded it to the MD’s Office.  In my view, this constituted a review and approval of said document.

5. Cllr George, was Deputy Managing Director of Operations (DMDO) from May 2009 – August 2011, was terminated for inefficiencies by the NPA Board, approximately 30 days after the signing of the Wreck Removal Contract, which provides motive for his deceptive actions (listed in Point 4).  As a matter of fact, according to the LACC Case File, both of the NPA’s Deputy Managing Directors were terminated less than a week apart, on August 26, 2011 (DMDA – Karmo) and August 29, 2011 (DMDO – George), respectively.

6. Nathaniel Gbaba was one of the former NPA DMDO’s and contractors.  In his Voluntary Statement he claimed that he worked as a consultant at NPA from August 2011 – November 2011; and served as DMDO from November 2011 – February 2013.  My assumption is that Mr. Gbaba made this false claim as part of the conspiracy to show continuity of the DMDO role and function after the termination of Cllr. George.  But according to the LACC Case File, the evidence validation showed that these dates are inaccurate.  Gbaba was actually a contractor from October 2011 – March 2012.  As a consultant (according to his contract), he was responsible for Training, Planning/Research, Customer Service, Sales and Marketing.  Mr. Gbaba’s consulting assignment had no operations or security functions.   As a matter of fact, Gbaba was not hired as DMDO until March 20, 2012.  The LACC folder includes his appointment letter, but it also states that Gbaba resigned from the NPA after serving a 3-month suspension for allowing a fully loaded Arcelor Mittal iron ore vessel to leave Port without the proper payment and authorization, and for selling NPA scrap metals without any approval.

7. Section 56: 1. Of the Act establishing the NPA states.  that the Board shall select the Executive Officer who shall be the highest executive officer of the NPA, on such terms and conditions as the Board may think fit.   http://liberlii.org/lr/legis/codes/palt30lcolr515/.  This means, that the NPA MD is hired by and reports to the NPA Board of Directors.  The LACC Case File states that Sirleaf did not give MD Parker an appointment letter in May 2009, when she was hired.  Therefore, if a report came from the LACC accusing the MD of a crime, in my view, Sirleaf should have forwarded it to the Board for action, or met with the Board to discuss the situation.  Her unilateral action, with inadequate facts, seems very personal.

As a passionate follower of the case and based on the facts and circumstances outlined above, I believe it will be prudent for the Government of Liberia to urgently resume this case which has lingered for over three years, thereby violating the defendants’ constitutional rights to speedy trial.  Additionally, the defendants’ human rights have been severely violated without redress as it relates to the damage to Christiana Paelay’s home by state actors, the attack on Matilda Parker’s maid by unknown men in ski-masks and the conspiracy by the State to provide witnesses with fabricated testimonies.

In speaking to several legal luminaries and in my opinion, this case should be dropped or what is normally referred to in Law as nolle prosequi.   This politically motivated case is a waste of government funds which could be diverted to critical priority areas that support the Government’s Pro Poor Agenda.

Source: Alston V. Nyumah

Student (MA), Australian National University

About The Author: Alston V. Nyumah is a Liberian by birth and a patriot. He is a postgraduate student of the Australian National University, pursuing his master’s degree in Financial Management. He can be reached via alstonnyumahanu@gmail.com