Monrovia, Liberia- The name of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has surfaced on a list of expected witnesses proffered by Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, in the ongoing trial of former National Port Authority (NPA) managing director Matilda Parker and her Comptroller, Christina Paelay.
If she will appear, Madam Sirleaf’s testimony will be about a letter that she wrote, instructing then Minister of State for Presidential Affairs (Chief of Office Staff), the late Dr. Edward B. McCain, for Parker to expedite the removal of sunken vessels and dredging of the Port of Greenville in Sinoe County of which prosecution claims over US$800,000 was paid by Parker, though the work itself was never done.
Hearing of the matter has been scheduled for Tuesday, September 17, at Criminal Court ‘C.’
Up to press time last night, the court had yet to confirm as to whether Madam Sirleaf will be part of the first batch of witnesses to testify against Parker and her Comptroller, Christina Paelay.
Both Parker and Paelay were indicted in 2015 of multiple crimes that included economic sabotage, theft of property and criminal facilitation and conspiracy, based on a final investigative report of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) into the payment of the US$800,000.
The LACC’s report claimed that Parker and Paelay awarded contracts without the approval of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) on behalf of the NPA for wreck removal projects at the ports of Monrovia, Buchanan and Greenville and of which she made fraudulent payments in the amount of over US$800,000 to co-defendant Deneah M. Flomo for work not performed.
It was Flomo’s Deneah Enterprise that the LACC claimed Parker hired to perform the unfinished project, and based on that report, Madam Sirleaf suspended Parker and Pealay and subsequently forwarded them to court for criminal prosecution, although there was no complaint from her focal person to suggest that Parker did not remove the wreck.
Madam Sirleaf’s one-page letter, dated June 12, 2011, laid out that Parker should take such action as is necessary to expedite the removal of sunken vessels and dredging of the Port of Greenville, including the termination of present arrangements as well as entering more viable alternative arrangements as necessary.
Madam Sirleaf’s letter, warning Parker about delays associated with the project, warned that, “Apparently, your lack of attention to such matters are clearly undermining government’s development agenda, and can no longer be tolerated.”
The letter, along with a second letter sent on August 11, 2011, and signed by McCain, had its reference, “Dredging the Port of Greenville.” A copy of the letter is in the possession of the Daily Observer and provided the clearest view yet of Ellen’s interest for the work to be performed.
That communication says, “As we draw to the close of the calendar year, and the end of the current administration, Her Excellency has included priorities she want involved over the next 90 days.”
It continues, “She has heightened the dredging of the Port of Greenville as one of such projects.”
In conclusion, McCain added, “In view of this, the Ministry of State has assigned Mr. W. Gyude Moore as its focal person to work with the NPA on expending the project and keeping the President updated with progress.” Mr. Moore was the Minister of Public Works.
“The question now is, should prosecution seek to compel [Madam Sirleaf’s] testimony with a subpoena, the arguments advanced in the letter could ultimately form the basis of a courtroom battle that would probably reach the Supreme Court,” two leading lawyers, who were overheard arguing among themselves, said.
Parker had repeatedly claimed that the contract was for the removal of two pieces of wrecks that were blocking the pathway of the dredger that was supposed to come to dredge the Port of Greenville so as to allow the Port to reopen after approximately 14 years of dormancy.
She also said that the work was performed contrary to the LACC’s findings, because ships, including those belonging to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), docked at the Greenville Port prior to the allegation.
The arguments contradict those of Mr. Moore’s findings that the wreck was removed pointing to the fact that ships, including those owned by UNMIL, were docked at the Greenville Port.
The arguments have underscored the legal battle line drawn now between the government and lawyers representing defendants Parker and Paelay.