By Z. Patrick Solonteh
Since his appointment by President George Manneh Weah in March 2019 as Liberia’s Solicitor General and chief prosecutor, many Liberians are left wondering whether Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus is not intentionally jeopardizing cases against the government as a one-man wrecking crew hellbent on exposing the Achilles heel of the very government he serves.
A case in point is the recent decision of SG Cephas to drop charges against the Central Bank of Liberia officials that were arrested last year, indicted and marshaled to court in handcuffs without proper investigation, in the unauthorized printing of billions Liberian bank notes saga.
The State Prosecutors’ decision to drop charges against four of the five former officials of the Central Bank of Liberia follows claims of their involvement in the alleged missing L$2.6 billion. Cllr. Cephas’ decision to waive the state’s rights to prosecute the former accused also follows the dropping of charges by the Government of Liberia against Crane Currency.
It is noteworthy to indicate that the SG’s earlier indictment of the very officials that he decided to drop charges against was done without proper investigation. Former Deputy Governor for Operations at the Central Banks of Liberia (CBL) Charles Sifleaf and others along with Milton Weeks, then Executive Governor of the CBL were arrested, indicted, sent to court in handcuffs, all of which was very embarrassing. Now Charles and others are acquitted for reasons that the Cephus’ prosecuting team should have known that by law, Charles and others were in subordinate positions to have authorized any printing of money at the CBL. Instead, they were disgraced publicly like common criminals. If those men decide to sue the Government for miscarriage of justice because the chief prosecutor blundered, it would be the right thing for them to do.
In the first place, when did the prosecuting team get to know the function of the CBL Board of Governors and that of the functions of Charles along with the four others concerning who has the authority to authorize the printing of money?
Moreover, what was the rationale behind the state prosecutor’s petition to the Criminal Court “C” to acquit one set of accused, while preparing for prosecution of former Governor Milton Weeks?
Equally confounding is the fact that all of the accused had been cleared of the alleged criminal charges when the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the CBL from the onset of this case confirmed there was no missing money, it further buggers the mind why Cllr. Cephas had to leave out Mr. Weeks in his motion to drop criminal charges against almost all of those indicted.
It is quite befuddling when one also realizes that Crane Currency, the printer that was involved in the alleged unauthorized printing of extra banknotes, has since been acquitted and is now contracted by the current CBL administration to print new banknotes. Why would the Chief Prosecutor drop criminal charges and acquit four of the accused as well as Crane Currency, while the fate of Milton Weeks is left hanging in the balance?
Without even realizing the level of damage he has done to Government, SG Cephas is all about the place bragging how he will go after members of the board, threatening to arrest anyone who will fail to report to his office. Of course, this is Cephas’ modus operandi – issue threats; while achieving nothing at the end of the day. These are some of the reasons why his so-called asset recovery efforts have led to Cllr. Arthur Johnson parting company with him, as he (Cephas) goes about chasing windmills and tarnishing the hard-earned reputation of renowned Liberians without collecting a dime.
Of course, this is the same man who boastfully said he had sufficient evidence to show that the former accused had acted unlawful, wicked, illegal, criminal and intentional and, as such, had violated the laws of the Republic of Liberia. Now, after government had wasted limited resources and valuable time pursuing a lost cause, Cllr. Cephas is brave enough to tell the public that the earlier accused and now acquitted were in subordinate positions, and that he is now ready to go after the head of the snake and not the tail. What a travesty!!!
If we can recall, this was the same SG Cephas who, without consulting with his immediate boss, Justice Minister Musa Dean, dropped charges against Ellen Cockrum who had allegedly stolen $200,000 while serving as Managing Director of the Roberts International Airport. Cockrum fled Liberia to escape justice and later hired Cllr Cephas as her defense lawyer. Upon Madam Cockrum’s return to Liberia last year, and following the Justice Ministry’s decision to re-indict Madam Cockrum, Cllr. Cephas dropped all charges against the accused.
Of course, Cephus should have recused himself from the Ellen Cockrum case, having once served as Cockrum’s lawyer. So where is the moral judgment that sparks behind the bark of our Honorable SG?
Cllr. Cephas should realize by now that one cannot play Russian Roulette with people’s lives just as many former “liberators” played with our lives during the height of the Liberian civil war. A man or woman spends years building their reputation; and for one wrecking ball to damage that reputation without a scintilla of conscience, speaks volume about what is really wrong with Liberia.
Let there be Justice for one and justice for all; for all of them. THE DAMAGE HAS BEEN DONE!!