-Over ‘changes’ to amended PPCC Act
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has yielded to a subpoena (a request), filed before Judge Kontoe of Criminal Court by defense lawyers representing Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County and several present and past public officials, to compel former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to appear before Criminal Court ‘C’ as a witness to testify in the ongoing US$950,000 alleged Sable Mining Bribery Case.
Witness Sirleaf will be testifying as to whether there was any change made after the 2005 Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) Act was amended with input from foreign and local mining experts and geologists in 2010, while she was serving as president.
Global Witness had earlier claimed that executives of Sable Mining, a UK mining company transferred to Senator Sherman a sum of US$900,000 when he was the company’s lawyer to bribe senior government officials in an effort to change Section ’75’ of the PPCC law for the sole purpose of granting the company mining rights to the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County.
Section 75 of the PPCC Act specifically calls for a competitive bidding process to award mining rights to any desiring company. Former President Sirleaf, having concluded that the PPCC Act had been violated, constituted a Special Presidential Taskforce headed by Representative Fonati Koffa, of District #2, (Grand Kru County), then Minister of State for Presidential Affairs to formulate charges for the indictment in 2016, of Senator Sherman and his alleged conspirators including former Speaker Alex Tyler.
Prosecutors in the case had expressed no contest to the subpoena filed by defense lawyers representing Sherman and others to compel Madam Sirleaf’s testimony in open court. Such a move would not have been possible at the initial stage of the case in 2016 because of provisions under Article 61 of the 1986 Constitution which provides the President immunity from such proceedings.
Article 61 of the 1986 Constitution specifically states, “The President shall be immune from any suits, actions or proceedings, judicial or otherwise, and from arrest, detention or other actions on account of any act done by him while President of Liberia pursuant to any provision of this Constitution or any other laws of the Republic. The President shall not, however, be immune from prosecution upon removal from office for the commission of any criminal act done while President.”
Thus, it appears more likely than not that former President Sirleaf will appear in court except of course she is out of the bailiwick of the Republic which, in such case according to legal observers may pose challenges to her physical appearance in Court especially if she is not criminally charged or indicted. However had she been criminally charged, however, and was out of the bailiwick of the country, an extradition request would then be the way to go according to legal observers. And even that would depend on whether an extradition treaty exists between Liberia and in whichever country she may be residing according to legal observers. Indications are that the former President is in the country and will more likely than not respect the decision of the court to have her testify.
Apart from testimonies of former President Sirleaf, foreign mining and geological experts from the former Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP) sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and those under the USAID’s GEMAP program through the International Business Initiative of the State of Virginia in the United States will also testify in compliance with the subpoena issued by Criminal Court C under the gavel of Judge Boima Kontoe.
Others will be mining experts, who were sponsored by the European Union’s (EU) offices in Liberia to assist the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) with the drafting of the interim procedures for the issuance of mineral exploration license without tender, which led to the issuance of the PPCC’s regulation No. 002 of the controversial Section ’75’.
The defense’s motion was intended for the court to issue a Writ of Subpoena AD Testificadum and Subpoena Duces Tecum, to compel local and foreign mining geologists and experts who proposed the insertion of a new section into the 2005 Act; section ’75’ later amended in 2010, to appear and testify as to whether there were changes made in the amended PPCC Act of 2010 as claimed by prosecutors.