Cephas Spits Fire On Sanctions -Denies Allegations, Writes President Weah -Blames Minister Musa Dean For Ordeal

MONROVIA – The United States Treasury Report which essentially indicts three key Government officials of corruption and misuse of public office, culminating into their dismissal by President George Manneh, has come under intense scrutiny, not merely by a critical section of the public, but also by the affected officials over that is considered “lack of evidence”. Yesterday, one of the accused, the Chief of Office Staff of the President, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel F. McGill, reacted to the US Treasury allegations, describing them baseless and unfounded, and requesting evidence. In less than 24 hours, another accused person, Solicitor General Sayma Syrenius Cephus, also wrote President Weah not only stating his outright innocence but also requesting evidence as he methodically debunked the report and allegations against him. The Analyst reports.

Three officials of the George Manneh Weah administration accused and sanctioned by the United States Department of Treasury for corruption and abuse of power are, one after the other, exonerating themselves of the allegations, demanding evidence and “a day in court”.

Minister of Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel F. McGill, Solicitor General Sayma Syrenius Cephus and National Port Authority Managing Director were accused and sanctioned by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for what it considered their “involvement in ongoing public corruption in Liberia.” The OFAC contends that the officials were designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world.

President Weah announced the suspension of three officials amid public outcries from those who wanted the president to take that action, even including dismissal on the one hand and those seeking evidence against the accused before any such action.

But barely 24 hours after the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel McGill, wrote President Weah to state his innocence and to demand evidence against him, Solicitor General Cephus took similarly stand, calling on the President to ask the US Department of Treasury to give him his day in court just as he has apportioned the blame on his boss, Attorney General and Ministry of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean as mastermind of his ordeal in the hands of the Americans

     Cllr. Cephus, in a communication to President Weah dated August 19, 2022 wants the entire truth of the matter bordering the allegations of corruption come out, claiming innocence.

“Excellency, I believe that the truth must be spoken,” the Government’s Chief Prosecution Lawyer said. “The Liberian people deserve nothing but the truth, and as one of  the accused persons on the US Treasury Department sanctions list, I too, must be told the truth; must be  confronted with the material  evidence for the alleged  egregious economic  crimes  that I have committed against   my dear country.”

He continued: “I humbly solicit Your Excellency’s kind indulgence to request   a panel of professional investigators from the Economic Community   of West African States(ECOWAS) to probe these grave allegations against me and other public officials.”

The Solicitor General accused his boss, Justice Minister Musa Dean, as being the mastermind of the gossips and hearsays that turned out to be a report implicating him for wrongdoing.

He drew President Weah’s attention to a communication secretly written to the US Ambassador, Michael McCarthy  on  15 January, 2022  by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean Jr.,  alleging that “he has information in  his possession  that contradicts the workings of   his operations as Minister, and was therefore formally “complaining the Solicitor General(Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus) who, according to him, is “ overlapping functions.”

He said Minister Dean in the letter urged Ambassador McCarthy not to take the communication lightly on grounds that “it has the propensity to impede the peace process of our country and the justice system, strenuously arguing, “it is dangerous to have such bad apple in public service.”

However, following the letter, a series of press conferences  were held  by him and these were   aired on radio stations throughout the country,  and subsequently   published in  a number of local dailies, including  Frontpageafrica newspaper,  where  Minister Dean reiterated his allegations, that “he was not in charge of the  Ministry of Justice”  and  that there is a parallel Ministry of Justice being run by the Solicitor-General and Chief Prosecutor of the Republic.

Cephus: “Also in that same   letter, Minister Dean claimed that my alleged behavior had claimed Your Excellency’s attention and other officials of the government and therefore pleaded with Ambassador McCarthy: “I seriously need a call up for him that will improve the workings of the Ministry of Justice and other government officials and senior ministers.” See a copy of the letter attached as Exhibit “C/1”.

“Based on the 15 January, 2022 letter and the countless press conferences held in which Minister Dean   accused me of running a “parallel Ministry of Justice,” although without any evidence, I suspect that such slanderous and vile  campaign  secretly undertaken against me, obviously triggered or significantly contributed to the inclusion of my name on   the US Treasury Department sanctions list.”

Cllr Cephus said what his “family, friends and professional colleagues around the world want to  hear  is   for your Excellency  to kindly  prevail on the US Government, our traditional friend, to  grant  me the  opportunity  to be accorded due process, which is the law that hears before it condemns,  so that I  can  have ‘my day in court’ to see face to face   Minister Dean and the rest of  my  accusers and to be confronted with the evidence that they have procured against me”.

According to the learned lawyer the right of the accused to a fair and open trial, and to  face his/her accusers, is not an option, rather, it is   a constitutional requirement that the law of this country imposes   upon anyone who alleges a fact.

He stated further: “Therefore,  I shall be grateful for this opportunity to be accorded me so that my life  and service to my country since the inception of this government can be    judged by history for my family, friends,  and generations unborn  to know that once upon a time there existed a Solicitor-General in this sweet land of liberty by God’s command, that was tried and convicted  for corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery or for working behind the scenes to free money-launders,  by an investigative panel in order  to  serve as a form of deterrence to other   would-be alleged  corrupt officials.”

Debunking Allegations

Relationship with Suspects of criminal investigations

Regarding the allegation that he has developed close relationships with suspects of criminal investigations and has received bribes from individuals in exchange for having their cases dropped, the Liberian Solicitor opined:

The phrase:”… has developed close relationships with suspects of criminal investigations…” is too vague and indistinct as it does name a specific case in point. Moreover, Cephus is not the head of any investigative agency, let alone developing close relationships with suspects. The Solicitor-General does not deal with cases of suspects; rather, he deals with cases of defendants in court who have already been duly charged or indicted for offenses committed. The averments in count 1 is blatantly whimsical and seems to be the author’s own figment of imagination, hence, I am unable to form a belief as to the certainty or falsity of such allegation and  hereby deny and dismiss this allegation as absolutely false.

Working Money Launderers

The United States Treasury Department also accused Cephus of working behind the scenes to establish arrangements with suspects of money laundering investigations to cease investigations in order to personally benefit financially.

In his response to the allegation, he noted: “(a). First, where are the scenes? Who are the investigators or who are the money-launderers?  What are their names?  Are there specific areas dubbed as “scenes” where these alleged money-launderers are based or where these investigations are being held? Again, I do not deal with suspects but rather defendants already charged or indicted. The allegations of Cephus working behind “nonexistent scenes” only known to, or that only exist in the minds of Minister Dean and my accusers are utterly groundless.”

Shielding Money Launderers

Regarding the accusation that he shields money launderers and helps clear them through the court system and has intimidated other prosecutors in an attempt to quash investigations, the Liberian Solicitor-General retorted:

“(a). Counts 1 and 3 are in conflict with each other, and there’s a serious rivalry between intention and expression here. For the sake of the argument, if Cephus has developed close relationships with suspects of criminal investigations and has received bribes from individuals in exchange for having their cases dropped, then which other case(s) against money-launderers is Cephus helping through the court system? 

A case  which has already been dropped at the investigative stage?

Moreover, the assertion that Cephus has worked behind the scenes to free money-launderers is the making of Minister Dean and it refers to a particular case of a certain suspect, called Patrick Herman Diego, allegedly accused of money-laundering, and for whom my office had earlier prayed for, and secured a writ of arrest and a writ of Ne Exeat Republic on 7 January, 2022 while the  suspect was still within the bailiwick of the Republic of Liberia.  See a copy each of the two writs attached and marked as “Exhibit C/3” In Bulk.  However,   for strange reasons,  the  two writs  which were already   sealed and posted at every border point within the Republic of Liberia in order  to  arrest suspect Patrick Herman Diego  upon sight, were ordered withdrawn upon  the  instructions of  Minister Dean through a text message,  and the investigator handling the case, Marc Kollie   on grounds that suspect Patrick Herman Diego was simply a ‘punk’ as there were more hands involved that needed to be confronted and arrested. See  a copy of  the  text messages exchanged between Minister  Dean and I    attached and marked as “Exhibit C/4.”

Besides,   I later  realized  that the   only reasons for the  delay of the  arrest of suspect Patrick Herman Diego by Minister Dean  was to give him( the suspect)  a window of opportunity to flee,  and he did flee before the purported indictment ordered by him  (Minister  Dean)  was drawn. Today, the suspect cannot be found because Minister Dean wanted him to  flee the bailiwick of the Republic of Liberia. Further, Minister Dean sponsored a series negative media propaganda against me, with one local daily, Frontpage Africa Newspaper alleging in its January 13, 2022 edition, that I had telephone conversations with Patrick Herman Diego 23 times between December 2021 and January 13, 2022 but a finding from the probe of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) into my complaint against the management of the paper, found no evidence that I ever communicated with Patrick Herman Diego. Instead, the paper presented a call log containing communications with Mr. Jonathan Koffa David, a  well-known Liberian businessman, who Minister Dean  later ordered indicted  far beyond the  January 13, 2022 publication,  rather than Patrick Herman Diego.  There’s no evidence that I ever talked to Patrick Herman Diego. The report of the PUL is attached as “Exhibit C/5.”

Intimidating Prosecutors

The allegations that Cephus has intimidated other prosecutors in an attempt to quash investigations are without any foundation, for the fact that prosecutors in the Department of Prosecution within the Ministry of Justice are not investigators of money-laundering cases.  Perhaps what is being insinuated here, regards the same case involving Patrick Herman Diego. As stated earlier, I had secured a sealed writ of arrest for the suspect and posted same at our border points, and while awaiting news of his arrest, I was invited at the Supreme Court of Liberia by the Justice presiding in chambers at the time, His Honor Yusif D. Kaba, about a petition for a writ of prohibition being filed against the Government of Liberia for the freezing of the accounts of a company at the Civil Law Court, Temple of Justice. This was my very first time hearing about such freezing order, and so I pleaded with Justice Kaba to allow me time to find out. None of the other prosecutors including the head of our Civil Division, Cllr. J. Adolphus D. Karnuah, who has direct supervision of  all civil cases in the various circuit courts throughout the country, had  no knowledge about the petition.  I immediately  went to the  Civil Law Court after the conference with Justice Kaba, and  I got copies of the petition that was filed by Cllr. Lafayette B Gould Sr., my Special Assistant, who, prior to filing same,  had intimated to some of his own  friends that Minister Dean had instructed him not to let me know about the petition. For God’s sake, this is my office, and Cllr. Gould is my Special Assistant and . I am the head of the prosecution department at the Ministry of Justice; yet, my Special Assistant is being secretly advised and instructed to use the name of my office to file a petition at the Civil Law Court without my knowledge. My assignment as Solicitor General entails filing legal briefs, making representations, arguing cases for and on behalf of the government of Liberia at the Supreme Court of Liberia and all other courts within the Republic of Liberia.  So, here I was, cited by the Justice presiding in chambers and quizzed about a freezing order in the Civil Law Court that I did not know anything about. I felt deeply incensed by this because such conduct presented a clear and present danger of the existence of a  “parallel authority” within  the office of the Solicitor-General in violation of section 22.4(b) of the New Executive Law of Liberia which gives the Solicitor-General direct supervision over all matters  to which the Republic of Liberia is a party.  There and then,   I had two options to deal with what I considered at the time as a total disrespect to my office. My first option was to recommend the dismissal of Cllr. Gould, and to do this, I sought the advice of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, who then called Minister Dean on his mobile phone (on speaker) and told him exactly what I complained of, and Minister Dean shockingly responded: “ It is  Cllr. Cephus who is keeping Cllr. Gould at the Ministry of Justice; that boy should have been dismissed and gone  by now.” Based on this, I issued an interoffice Memo to dismiss Cllr. Gould, but after a while, I selected the second option of assigning him to Criminal Court Assizes “D” which is the armed robbery court at the Temple of Justice. Lest I forget, when Cllr. Gould appeared before Minister Dean, he (Dean) told Cllr. Gould: “don’t worry, nobody can dismiss you”, even though he had earlier indicated that Gould should have been dismissed long ago. However, because of Gould’s resourcefulness and my past relationship with his late uncle, Cllr. Theophilus Gould, under whom I worked as a young attorney for 12 years, I made him the focal person for all cases to which the Republic of Liberia is a party at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice. Again, Minister McGill can bear me up that Minister Dean said that I had encouraged and maintained the employment of Cllr. Gould at the Ministry of Justice even though I am aware that Cllr. Gould is an anti element from the opposition. So who are the prosecutors that I have intimidated?  Neither Cllr. Gould nor any of the prosecutors at the Ministry of Justice will tell you about being intimidated by me while prosecuting a matter. Cllr. Gould and I are on good terms and are working together like any prosecutor throughout the country. I have no regrets over the decision taken to assign him to    Criminal Assizes “D”, and if this is what Minister Dean terms as “intimidating prosecutors” then he needs to find another definition.

Clear Money Launderers

(c). The allegations that I can help to clear money-launderers “ through the court system…” is an attack on the Liberian judiciary, as it falsely suggests a collusion or connivance, but I am not surprised that such   allegations have been made by Minister Dean. There is evidence to prove that he has incorrectly labeled the Liberian judiciary as “corrupt”, and because of this, he has consistently spied and continues to spy on judges and justices by quietly procuring their call logs to see who they are talking to and what they are doing with cases of party litigants.  On July 22, 2022 Minister Dean wrote the Monrovia City Court and requested the call log of His Honor, Joe Barkon who was at the time hearing a petition for declaratory judgment filed by a Liberian citizen. A copy of the letter is hereby attached and marked as Exhibit C/6”.   Again, Minister Dean is the bull weevil in the system who is spreading misinformation about public officials both in the executive and the Liberian judiciary.

Using Position to hinder investigations

The US Treasury Department also said Cephus has also utilized his position to hinder investigations and block the prosecution of corruption cases involving members of the government.

But in response, he said: (a). I categorically deny and reject this allegation that is suggesting the  misuse of power or misuse of public office and hereby  challenge  Minister Dean and the rest of my accusers to produce any evidence to prove that I hindered and blocked the prosecution of corruption cases involving members of the government.  I need to be confronted with the  evidence, i.e. the name of the cases, names of the government officials, types of corruption cases, the names of the investigators, when, where and how, among others. Further, this part of the allegation is reminiscent of a verbal disagreement between Minister Dean and I regarding a report compiled by the LACC holding liable certain officials from the National Port Authority(NPA). The LACC investigative report named all those who were investigated and were subsequently recommended for prosecution to the Ministry of Justice, but Minister Dean, without any report or evidence gathered by the LACC, wanted me to indict the Managing Director of the NPA, Mr. Bill Twehway.

I rejected his advice and therefore asked the LACC to take seize of the report and that was done. Those individuals that the LACC recommended for prosecution in that report have already been indicted awaiting trial. There is no evidence that I ever refused to prosecute alleged corrupt government officials who have been investigated by the LACC. Another case in point, is an indictment drawn against some individuals including two lawmakers, namely Representatives Marvin Cole and David Kafiah, long before I became Solicitor-General. The manner and form in which the indictment was drawn, especially regarding the alleged roles each of the lawmakers is said to have played, seemed more of a witch-hunt in my professional opinion  rather than a fight against abuse, waste and the mismanagement of public resources, and so as the Chief Prosecutor of the Republic, I suggested further investigation. There is no evidence  to prove that I refused to prosecute alleged corrupt public officials.

On his alleged tampering with and purposefully withholding evidence in cases involving members of opposition political parties to ensure conviction, SG Cephus also clarified as follows:

“(a) This assertion is untrue, because   a mere allegation does not constitute proof; and one who alleges a fact has the burden of proof. I have never withheld or have never been investigated and found liable by any institution for withholding any evidence in any case involving members of the opposition. I have never convicted an opposition politician in any court of law within the bailiwick of the Republic; I have no idea of a prosecutor going to court   with his own evidence and that of the defense in a criminal trial.  However, what is insinuated here is the baseless and unfounded claims made by a young and inexperienced lawyer, with no trial experience or credible records in criminal prosecution, falsely alleging that the evidence that should have exonerated the ANC Political Leader Alexander B. Cummings was extracted by the prosecution. Elementary criminal trial procedure dictates that whatever is considered to be inadequate or insufficient evidence adduced at trial by the prosecution would be countered, controverted, traversed and   challenged   when the defense begins the production of both oral and documentary evidence or when its witness (es) takes the stand. The alleged insufficiency, omission or inadequacy of prosecution’s evidence is never challenged during the production of both documentary and oral evidence by the state but rather during the production of evidence by the defense. Those who made these baseless claims need to read elementary criminal trial procedures.

Misappropriation of Assets

The US Treasury Department said also that Cephus is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has: a.     Directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, b. The expropriation of private assets for personal gain.

Debunking this allegation, Cllr Cephus told President Weah:

(a). I do not know what is meant by the misappropriation of state assets, or what constitute those assets?  Who has given me those state assets; where, when and why? What are the descriptions of those state assets and monetary values, if any?

The expropriation of private assets for personal gain:

(a).  Again, I have no idea as to what is meant by or that constitutes private assets that I have expropriated for personal gains. When was the expropriation done, where and how?  It is public knowledge  and this is backed by the statute that only  the Minister of Justice who happens to be  Minister Dean or the Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs are the only public officials within the Ministry of Justice responsible  for or are   duly designated by law to review  all government contracts,  and only  Minister Dean can sign all  government contracts, natural resources contracts, among others.  I challenge my accusers to produce the evidence of contracts that I as Solicitor-General,  have signed for and on behalf of the Government of Liberia.

Corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

(a). I have never, ever signed any government contract or natural resources contract, let alone receiving bribes from the signing of such contracts. I think the time is ripe for those interested in  transparency and accountability to demand a comprehensive review and audit of all of the contracts and agreements that Minister Dean has signed for and on behalf of the government of Liberia; demand  a forensic financial audit of the Ministry of Justice’s accounts for the purpose of accountability and transparency.

Boss As Mastermind of False allegations

The Solicitor General accused his boss, Justice Minister Musa Dean, as being the mastermind of the gossips and hearsays that turned out to be a report implicating him for wrongdoing.

He drew President Weah’s attention to a communication secretly written to the US Ambassador, Michael McCarthy  on  15 January, 2022  by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean Jr.,  alleging that “he has information in  his possession  that contradicts the workings of   his operations as Minister, and was therefore formally “complaining the Solicitor General(Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus) who, according to him, is “ overlapping functions.”

He said Minister Dean in the letter urged Ambassador McCarthy not to take the communication lightly on grounds that “it has the propensity to impede the peace process of our country and the justice system, strenuously arguing, “it is dangerous to have such bad apple in public service.”

However, following the letter, a series of press conferences  were held  by him and these were   aired on radio stations throughout the country,  and subsequently   published in  a number of local dailies, including  Frontpage Africa newspaper,  where  Minister Dean reiterated his allegations, that “he was not in charge of the  Ministry of Justice”  and  that there is a parallel Ministry of Justice being run by the Solicitor-General and Chief Prosecutor of the Republic.

Cephus: “Also in that same   letter, Minister Dean claimed that my alleged behavior had claimed Your Excellency’s attention and other officials of the government and therefore pleaded with Ambassador McCarthy: “I seriously need a call up for him that will improve the workings of the Ministry of Justice and other government officials and senior ministers.” See a copy of the letter attached as Exhibit “C/1”.

“Based on the 15 January, 2022 letter and the countless press conferences held in which Minister Dean   accused me of running a “parallel Ministry of Justice,” although without any evidence, I suspect that such slanderous and vile  campaign  secretly undertaken against me, obviously triggered or significantly contributed to the inclusion of my name on   the US Treasury Department sanctions list.”

2 Comments
  1. Dennis Toe says

    Cllr Cephus, I pray that the president of Liberia request the US Treasury Department to produce evidence, and investigation being carried out to clear your name.

  2. Jake Doe says

    Sanction, sanction, “people can”t hear”, simply because Michael McCarthy who is posted to advance US interests is here INSTEAD seeking the financial interests of himself and his CAHOOTS at US Treasury (OFAC).

    It is extremely shameful that a diplomat (at such a level and representing the nucleus of democracy and the rule of law, would six months to campaigns and elections in a democratic country sharing a commonality of jurisprudence and political arrangements), has stooped to such ludicrous ebb by making such accusations, but cannot provide any evidence, whether minute, substantial, sufficient, or overwhelming.

    Now, the accused have all VEHEMENTLY CHALLENGED him McCarthy and his so called “rigorous inter agencies investigations”, right within the very jurisdiction where he McCarthy is posted and where he claims the acts or omissions prompting the sanctions were committed, but he and his cahoots are stuck as some confused plotters caught in their tracks.

    And did he McCarthy and his cahoot not expect this juncture where they would disgrace themselves not being able to give reasons why they should not be seen as NOTORIOUS LIARS?

    THEY KNEW! But because they are aware proceedings for such cases take years or in most cases, never held, not to talk about the fact they are aware the opposition will naturally cheer them on, thereby giving their FALSE ACCUSATIONS, A FALSE LEGITIMACY, they believe with the visa restrictions in place, they (McCarthy and cahoots) have no cause to fear punitive measures at home.

    But one scenario which has already been signalled is that THE BRIBERS AS WELL AS THOSE DOOMED OPPOSITION LOSERS ARE DOOMED FOR A MIRAGE!

    One imagines what McCarthy would have done to abandon advancing US INTERESTS and seek his own finacial interests and those of his cahoots, were this a situation where the US would

    (1) be seeking to erect its foreign policy strategy of CONTAINMENT, FIGHTING TERRORISM, SEEKING TO OUST AN ANTI AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, SEEKING TO PROTECT AMERICA”S STRATEGIC ECONOMIC OR MILITITARY INTERESTS, OR

    (2) EVEN MILITARILY DEFENDING A PRO AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, it would require no investigation nor debate to see worse than these LUDICROUSLY DIABOLICAL ACTS AS ATTEMPTING TO OCHESTRATE CHAOS TO PREVENT CAMPAIGNS FOR DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN SIX MONTHS AND TO BE FOLLOWED BY PRESIDENT WEAH”S INAUGURATION.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UqmiENLnqQ

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