Liberia’s Justice Minister-designate, Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah, finally broke silence on Friday, February 2, providing more defense over allegations that he defrauded his client in the tune of US$58,814.08, saying the allegations are untrue and that it’s a mere blackmail.
Speaking to the New Dawn newspaper Friday, Cllr. Kruah explained that at no time did he personally handle cash received by the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia as part of series of payments to Mr. Edgar Sidney of Mano River Rehabilitation and Development Corporation (MARDCO).
He also disputed claims that the Supreme Court Grievances and Ethics Committee (GEC) found him guilty of wrongdoing, rather he asserted that the GEC informed him that he had a moral duty to his client to provide a financial statement on the disbursement of funds that were received from the sales of confiscated rubber latex.
The case involved MARDCO, an agriculture company that was established on September 18, 2006, by a group of Liberians who acquired fifty thousand acres of undeveloped farmland in Bong County, Liberia for the cultivation of rice, cocoa, coffee, and oil palm production. The company also extended to neighboring Sierra Leone where it owns virgin rubber plantation, ready for production.
Between 2009-2012, Cllr. Kruah was hired to serve as a lawyer for MARDCO in a case against Mr. Edmondo Trombetta for which the former had petitioned for proper accounting.
Flipping through pages of documents, Cllr, Kruah explained that he was contracted by MARDCO through his law firm, Henries and Henries, to recover US$600,000.00 from the petition for proper accounting filed against Mr. Tombetta. As per the agreement he was to be paid 20% of the recovered amount.
However, following the adjudication of the case which saw MARDCO emerging victorious, Tombetta fled Liberia into Sierra Leone. Thus in 2012, four vehicles belonging to Mr. Tombetta loaded with rubber were seized and sold with the proceeds amounting to a total of US105,339.24. Out of this amount, Mr. Sidney alleged that Cllr. Kruah still owes his company an outstanding US58,814.08 for which he had sought the intervention of the Supreme Court’s Grievance and Ethics Committee (GEC).
As part of the GEC’s finding, Cllr. Kruah was mandated to present a complete financial statement to Mr. Sidney within 30 days or face suspension from the practice of law till the Supreme Court’s mandate was adhered to.
GEC: “As regarding the issue of the complaint of Mr. Sidney for full accountability by Cllr. Kruah to his client, the Committee concurs with Mr. Sidney. This request falls within the lawyer’s duty to his client. Cllr Kruah should therefore be liable and responsible to have the Sheriff of the Sixth Judicial Circuit make adequate and complete financial reporting in this matter and Cllr. Kruah justifies all monies received and withheld by him and those paid to Mr., Sidney.
It is the request of this Committee to the Honorable Supreme Court that its mandate to the enforcement of the ruling emanating from this body. Since the Sheriff was duly summoned by it, appeared, and answered to the facts in question, should include the Sheriff who shall cooperate fully with Cllr. Kruah is to present the complete financial statement in the matter to Mr. Sidney. Should Cllr. Kruah fails to complete the exercise within thirty (30) days after the Supreme Court’s mandate is read, Cllr. Kruah should be suspended from the practice of law until he shall have fully complied with this mandate.”
Displaying multiple receipts signed by Mr. Edgar Sidey, Cllr. Kruah insisted that all money from the sales of the rubber was received through the Civil Law Court and that payments were done through the same court and signed for by Sidey.
In his financial report to Mr. Sidney as mandated by the Grievance and Ethics Committee, Cllr. Kruah noted that on May 22, 2012, Mr. Sidney signed and received US21,500.00. On May 24, 2012, he received and signed for US7,339.24, on October 19, 2011, US4000.00 was received and signed for by Sam D. Flomo on behalf of Mr. Sidney. On October 25, 2011, through Cllr. Nyanti Tuan, Mr. Flomo again received and signed for US4000.00 on behalf of Mr. Sidney. There was a payment of US43,000.00 made to Rebecca Eze, the wife of Mr. Tombetta, based on the instructions of former Chief Justice Jonny N. Lewis, while US24,000 was received by Mr. Sidney out of which US9000.00 was paid to Cllrs. Kruah, Tuan, and Lofan Koneah as legal fees.
But Mr. Sidney in his most recent letter to President Boakai said he received only US21, 788.33 out of the amount collected despite multiple receipts with his signatures.
He also claimed that the amount provided in the report by the Sheriff was not the actual figure arguing that the amount collected was US$108,941.65 and Cllr. Kruah should have received US$21,788.33 from the said amount at 20%.
Therefore, he contends that there is still an outstanding of US$58,814.08, which Cllr. Kruah is liable for and should be paid to MARDCO, an allegation Cllr. Kruah has dismissed and term as blackmail. -Writes Othello B. Garblah