Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay of Criminal Court ‘C’ yesterday imposed a fine of US$300 on the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), after holding it in contempt for defying the court mandate to turn over the account information of Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County, accused by the Global Witness in its bribery scandal report.
In a decision made public yesterday, Judge Gbeisay said the “fine should be paid into government’s revenue within twenty-four hours.”
Gbeisay also vowed to issue a writ of arrest against the state-owned bank’s president and other managers to be detained at the Monrovia Central Prison, if they failed this time to comply with his authority.
The criminal court judge initially ordered LBDI and seven other banking institutions to turn over the United States dollar accounts of Sherman and the Sherman and Sherman law firm within 72 hours.
Judge Gbeisay said LBDI remained the only bank that has not made available the account information of Sen. Sherman and the law firm.
The 72-hour ultimatum was issued on December 22, 2016, immediately after Gbeisay granted prosecution’s request to have access to Sherman’s and the law firm’s bank statements from seven banking institutions.
The banking statements cover January thru September 30, 2010, during which time Global Witness alleged in its report that over US$950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments were transferred from said accounts to top government officials, including former Speaker Alex Tyler, by UK mining firm Sable
Mining through Sherman, who was then providing legal services to that company.
Global Witness further alleged that the money from Sable’s representatives was meant to create a loophole in the Public Procurement and Concessions Law, which would have increased the mining company’s chances for securing an iron ore concession for the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County without submitting to a competitive bid.
LBDI, which is not a defendant, was yesterday unable to convince the court as to why it chose not to obey Judge Gbeisay’s 72-hour ultimatum, although other banks submitted the records.
Moreover, Attorney Robert G. Freeman, who represented LBDI’s interest at yesterday’s hearing, pleaded with Gbeisay to forgive the bank.
Gbeisay, however, said the action of the LBDI management was a clear indication that the management has no regard for the court or any constitutional authority.
The vocal criminal court judge emphasized that the “bank’s action was also intended to make mockery of the court and embarrass the smooth operation in the administration of justice.”
Other subpoenaed entities, including Ecobank, Afriland, First International Bank (now GN Bank), International Bank of Liberia, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Access Banks and Global Bank, have so far complied with the court’s mandate by producing Sherman’s personal bank records and those of the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm.