Criminal Court ‘C’ yesterday arrested the man the Special Presidential Taskforce has allegedly identified as the controversial ‘Big Boy 1’, named in the Global Witness bribery scandal, but was later released by the court.
The arrest of Big Boy 1 – defendant Eugene Shannon, former Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME) – came two days after he was indicted by the Grand Jury for Montserrado County on January 3, according to latest information.
He was indicted for the commission of the crimes of economic sabotage, bribery, criminal conspiracy, facilitation and solicitation.
Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County, who was also former Minister of State for Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs at President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s office, and Willie Belleh, the former chairman of Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), were also indicted by the Grand Jury.
Both Saytumah and Belleh are yet to be arrested.
Meanwhile, circumstances behind Shannon’s immediate release were not disclosed by the court yesterday, although the crime qualifies the defendant for a bail.
Though not officially stated, the Daily Observer learned that Shannon was released based on an arrangement to give him time to produce a bond, since he was an eminent person that would not escape from justice.
The arrangement was reportedly held between Shannon, his wife (whose name was not mentioned) and Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay after hours of closed-door deliberation.
Court records alleged that Shannon, while serving as minister, and his deputy minister, Ernest C.B. Jones, allegedly received US$250,000 each (totaling US$500,000) from Sable Mining, a UK based company.
The said money was reportedly delivered in a “vanity case” held on board a private chartered plane conveying Andrew Groves (Sable Shareholder and Chief Executive), Heine van Niekerk of Delta Mining Consolidated (DMC) and Klaus Piprek, former Country Director of Sable Mining, who came in the country as special guests of the MLME.
The record alleged that upon landing at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), Groves, van Niekerk and Piprek were driven to the residence of Minister Shannon, where the vanity case containing the US$500,000 was delivered to Shannon and Jones.
The records quoted the taskforce as saying that the “amount was posted on the West Africa Operation Weekly Income and Expense Sheet of Sable Mining.”
They claimed that it is on that sheet that defendants Shannon and Jones were referred to as Big Boy 1 and Big Boy 2, who received US$250,000 each.
While Shannon was no longer serving as minister, the document alleged that he lobbied with Saytumah, himself no longer a minister, to write a letter on April 6, 2011and have it backdated to April 2009, for which they allegedly collected US$5,000 from Sable Mining for their role in the scheme.
“Saytumah conspired with Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County, also a co-defendant, who was the lawyer of Sable Mining in Liberia,” the document alleged.
“Saytumah also conspired with co-defendants Shannon, Jones, Richard Tolbert, former chairman of National Investment Commission (NIC), and Belleh to insert and did insert a provision into the revised PPCC Act giving the MLME the power to declare a concession area a ‘non-bidding area,’ in the advantage of Sable Mining to whom they have planned to give a concession agreement to the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County.”
For that role, the record said Saytumah was given US$50,000, which payment they alleged was referred to by Sherman and the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm as “consultancy fee” on the Sable Mining account statement presented to it by Senator Sherman and the Law Firm.
Besides, the record claimed that Saytumah conspired with Sherman and Shannon and they agreed to write a letter on April 6, 2011, addressed to Shannon, and backdated it to April 24, 2009.
They said the letter was intended to consummate an agreement by and between the Government and DMC, a majority owned company of Sable Mining, to use said document to institute a lawsuit against the government, because they were not given the concession agreement for Wologizi Mountain, that would empower them to withdraw the lawsuit filed in the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice.
For defendant Belleh, records alleged that not being mindful of his duty to the country’s dire economy, he was informed by defendant Sherman of his plan to insert the non bidding area provision into the revised PPCC Act that was being drafted; and realizing that he also needed favor from Sherman, used his letter and influence to get the PPCC to be restructured.
The restructuring, the document said, was to enable Belleh to have real control that would give him authority to insert that provision into the new PPCC Act.
They claimed that the interaction to change the act was reflected in an email exchange, for which Belleh did receive from Sherman and the law firm US$10,000.
That payment record claim was referred to as “consulting fee” in the statement of account of Sable Mining by the law firm.