Illegality Mars LACC’s Action against NEC Boss -As Anti-corruption body violates Act

MONROVIA: In the wake of the actions instituted by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) indicting and calling for prompt prosecution of the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Madam Davidetta Brown-Lassanah for her alleged role in the procurement of goods and supplies from the Tuma Enterprise, more facts are emerging indicating that the flaws in the proceedings thus far suggest that the whole exercise can best be described as illegal.

Multiple legal sources spoken to by The Analyst were unanimous that the anti-corruption body did not take into cognizance of its own legal instrument, the 2008 Act,  that created the LACC which laid down the premise and procedure that must be followed by the agency in indicting and prosecuting person found wanting for an act of corruption.

Speaking to The Analyst over the weekend when asked to provide his expert opinion, a renowned legal professional who has been involved in offering his legal services defending persons wrongly accused of corruption in the country but preferred not to be named in the press said that the Act creating LACC has ample reasons to show that the due process was not followed from the building up of the case up to the action of issuing an arrest warrant letter against Madam Davidetta Brown-Lassanah.

The legal mind while showing the portions of the LACC Act quoted the relevant sections with emphasis on providing further explanation.

“Section 11.1 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 says that the prosecution of cases of corruption shall be carried out by the Ministry of Justice in coordination with the Commission.

“Section 11.2 says that in the event that an investigation reported by the Commission: (a) Finds that there is substantial evidence of corruption; and (b) recommends that the person(s) or entity (ies) involved be formally charged and prosecuted; the matter and the records thereof shall be forwarded to the Ministry of Justice along with a written request signed by the Chairperson requesting that the case be prosecuted’

The well-known lawyer who had earlier advised LACC to retrace its steps if it was serious to prosecute the case, gave further more legal backings from the LACC Act, thus, “Section 11.3 says the Ministry of Justice may decline to prosecute a case of corruption recommended for prosecution if it determines that the evidence adduced by the commission is manifestly inadequate or illegally acquired. In such case, the commission shall be given the opportunity to augment the evidence or to show that the evidence is in fact adequate and property acquired”Continuing further he stated, “Section 11.4 says Notwithstanding the above, the commission may directly prosecute acts or cases of corruption through the courts if: (a) The Ministry of Justice, for whatever reason(s) does not take action to prosecute a case of corruption forwarded to it by the Commission within three (3) calendar months of the receipt of the request to prosecute”.

A former judge who also concurred with all the citations given by his colleague said in keeping with the foregoing sections of the LACC Act of 2008, the LACC cannot immediately move for and obtain an indictment against an accused like how it was done against Davidetta Brown-Lassanah. He said the LACC is first required to recommend prosecution to the Ministry of Justice and only act further if the Ministry of Justice does not do so within three months of receiving the request from LACC.

Reviewing the case at hand especially the way and manner the LACC was proceeding which he said will definitely go against the agency, the seasoned judge of many years said the LACC on December 15, 2021 announced it has completed its investigation of the NEC’s procurement of Goods and Services from Tuma Enterprises; and concluded a the press conference by saying indictment would be drawn. He said two days later on December 17, 2021, the National Elections Commission (NEC) wrote LACC requesting the report and on the 19th held a press conference in which it denied admission of guilt and complained about how the LACC had proceeded during the investigation. Less than a week later, news reports say the LACC obtained an indictment against Madam Lassanah.

The Judge who was not happy about how the case is being handled lamented how some of his professional colleagues whom according to him he so much respect had brought public ridicule to the legal profession by politicizing things that should be legal in nature.

“What was the rush? Why did the LACC directly move for an indictment when it knew it lacked the authority? Did the LACC (as it has done with investigations including the National Port Authority, Buchanan Port and others) submit a written request to the Ministry of Justice to prosecute the allegations against Madam Brown Lassanah?”, the Judge asked rather rhetorically.

Speaking further in a rather harsh tone, the fiery Judge continued, “If not, the LACC violated its own act. Assuming the LACC submitted the required request to the Ministry of Justice, has the Ministry acted? If not, why did the LACC not wait for the Ministry of Justice to review the allegations within the three months period as requested by law? Who polices the LACC when it knowingly violates its own act to cause a person to be immediately indicted and arrested?”

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