-As S/G Fumbles In Telling Senators Under Whose Instruction Charges Against Ellen Cockrum Were Dropped; Senators Accused Him Of Being Disrespectful To His Boss Minister Musa Dean; Remains Under Oath
What appears to be a ‘political and legal disaster’ is reportedly awaiting Solicitor General Saymah Syrenius Cephus as he fumbles to justify to members of the Liberian Senate under whose instruction charges against former Liberia Airport Authority Managing Director, Ellen Cockrum were dropped after being indicted by the Liberian Government.
The Liberian Government during the administration of then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf indicted Madam Cockrum and others for economic sabotage.The indictees include former Board Chairman of the Liberia Airport Authority, Musa Bility, former Liberia Airport Authority Managing Director, Ellen Cockrum, the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment and the Diaspora Consulting Engineering Group.
They were indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County in 2013 for crimes ranging from Economic Sabotage, Theft of Property, Criminal Conspiracy and Misapplication of Entrusted Property.
However, in early December 2019, Criminal Court ‘C’ granted a motion of NolleProsequoi to drop charges against Madam Cockrum after charges were earlier dropped against the rest of the defendants.
Cllr. Cephus appearing the plenary of the Liberian Senate said careful review of the records of the case shows, that the previous government entered a NolleProsequoi in favor of a number of defendants involved in this matter before his ascendancy.
He said they did same due to the absence of Madam Corkrum and to avoid being seen as pursuing a “selective prosecution.”
It can be recalled that the First International Bank was indicted for allegedly conspiring with co-defendants of Corkrum, Melvin Johnson & Associates, to make an unauthorized transfer of funds in the amount of US$56,750 from the account of the Liberia Airport Authority when Corkrum was the Managing Director.Corkrum was also accused of transferring US$269,000 to a fictitious company, Diaspora Consulting, LLC and its CEO, Momar Dieng, through whom she reportedly attended the Kennedy Business School, Harvard University.
Cllr. Cephus’ Disaster’
Appearing recently at the Liberian Senate, Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean said he was not aware of the decision to drop charges against Madam Ellen Cockrum by the Liberian Government.
Based on the revelation from the Attorney General, the plenary of the Liberian Senate invited Solicitor General Saymah Syrenius Cephus to explain in detail what prompted and under whose instruction the decision was taken.
Minister Dean has earlier told members of the Senate that it was the decision of the Office of the Solicitor General.
The Solicitor General was scheduled to appear Thursday February 13, 2020 before that august body, but didn’t distribute a written report to the senators.He was later rescheduled on Thursday February 20, 2020.
Cephus’ Appearance on Thursday:
While taking the witness’ stand on Thursday February 20, 2020, the Solicitor General told members of the Senate that he can ‘confirm and affirm’ that the Justice Minister is aware of the decision to drop charges against the former LAA boss.
According to him, the minister was briefed before and after the decision was taken and he was instructed by the Minister to go on various stations to make the necessary charities.
At some point in his deliberations, the Solicitor General said the prosecution team has extra discretionary power to take such decision. After questioning him on several occasions to show internal memo from his boss regarding the decision, Cllr. Cephus couldn’t show anything, but said it was based on information, referencing Assistant Minister for Litigation, Wesseh A. Wesseh and Cllr. Arthur Johnson as witnesses that the Minister was aware of the decision.
“The motion was dismissed because Ellen Cockrum was not in the bailiwick of Liberia. Under our law we cannot judge in abstention. Minister Dean is in the know and I can confirm and affirm this. The prosecuting arm has discretionary power,” Cllr. Cephus said.
His Neutrality In Question:
It has been established that the Solicitor General was one of the lawyers representing the interest of Madam Ellen Cockrum. Since the dismissal, Liberians have raised concerns over the neutrality of Cllr. Cephus.
At the same time, madam Cockrum notified the Court that she was hiring the services of Cllr. Cephus as one of her legal representatives and prayed the court to add his names to the records.
“My name was added as additional lawyer for Madam Cockrum. This is not considered as conflict of interest because I didn’t preside over a case. The matter never entered a plea. I am not presiding; it’s the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, LACC. I didn’t file a motion,” Cllr. Cephus told members of the Liberian Senate on Thursday February 20, 2020.
Cllr. Cephus Accused of Undermining Minister Dean:
After dilly-dallying the senators for several minutes without memo to show whether the Minister was aware of the dismissal of the case, and repeatedly calling his boss Professor Musa Dean instead of Minister Dean, Senators Gbleh Bo Brown of Maryland County, and Oscar Cooper of Margibi perceived him to be undermining and disrespectful to his boss.
“We don’t want the repeat of what happened at the National Bureau of Concessions,” Senator Gbleh Bo Brown.
Senator Oscar Cooper said “You showed here that you are disrespectful to your boss by calling him professor instead of addressing him properly. Your briefing didn’t say Minister Dean is aware of your decision in the Ellen Cockrum’s case. Your briefing is not convincing for people to go through.”
Cllr. Cephus Rushed in Bathroom:
When the questions and analysis of his decision became tense, Cllr. Cephus immediately appealed to the Presiding, Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph to quickly use the bathroom. This brought laughter and murmuring from bystanders in chambers who had gone to witness the hearing.
Cllr. CephusRescheduled Again:
Now what is believed to be a disaster occurred when Cllr. Cephus was placed under oath for the second time as he couldn’t explain in detail under whose instruction the decision to drop the charges was reached? After cross-examination for three hours, Cllr. Cephus was still placed under oath while the matter was sent to the Judiciary Committee to further investigate and report in one week.