MONROVIA, Montserrado – Judge Blamo Dixon has recused himself from presiding over the excess banknote printing case involving former officials of the Central Bank.
The judge’s decision comes as a surprise, as the prosecution had just rested with its first witness two days ago and was expected to be cross-examined by defense lawyers.
Dixon did not disclose any reason for his recusal; he said the reason was best known to himself.
“At this stage, I, Judge Blamo Dixon of the Criminal Court C [am] constrained to recuse myself from the said trial for reasons best known to myself without any prejudice to the state,” he said.
Prior to his recusal, the judge presided over the trial for more than one month. He recently turned down a motion from defense lawyers to object to the acceptance of parts of the prosecution’s evidence.
According to him, the prosecution has the burden to establish the guilt of the defendants in the trial, while he, as the judge and the same time as Jury, has the right to decide the legitimacy of any evidence in the trial.
The defense had objected to evidence produced by the prosecution’s first witness being used by the court but was denied.
Judge Dixon said denying the evidence “would be equivalent to a violation of the fundamental and elementary requirement standard laid down.”
“Therefore, the resistance of the defense team is hereby denied and dismissed,” he added. “The application of the prosecution for the placement of mark of identification on the instrument is hereby sustained, upheld and granted.”
The prosecution’s first witness, Barba Borkai, who manages and supervises enforcement and investigation at the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, had identified 44 species of evidence that the prosecution had asked the court to admit into evidence for the trial.
The defendants in the trial, former Central Bank executive governor Milton Weeks, deputy governor for operations Charles Sirleaf, director of banking Dorbor Hagba, and two others were arrested in March for allegedly printing excess Liberian dollar banknotes without authorization.
They were indicted for multiple crimes, including theft of property, economic sabotage, misuse of public money, criminal conspiracy, criminal facilitation, and illegal disbursement of public money. Also indicted are Richard Walker and Joseph Dennis.
After being released on bail, the defendants were recently rearrested for money laundering, as an additional indictment to the trial.
Meanwhile, both the defense prosecution teams have rejected the judge’s recusal.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah