Former President Sirleaf Subpoenaed to Testify in Sable Mining Bribery Case

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Will Judge Boima Kontoe compel former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (pictured) to testify?

-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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. The gradual implementation of physical infrastructural developments, particularly roads, as a means of bringing a resource-rich southeastern region into the mainstream economy while simultaneously boosting job creation, including investments in healthcare, kindergarten to high school learning plus job training programs would ensure greater short and long term benefits for our nation than millions of politically-motivated bribery cases. Ironically, especially so, one with no financial loss to tax payers except, probably, for the reportedly one million or more hard currency expended in investigating and prosecuting it: Maddening. It would seem that ancient underdeveloped Liberia has gotten so acclimated to being an anachronism around fast-developing ECOWAS countries that, like an aging racehorse, it has to be whipped harder.

  2. This must be another of those “shoot-before-asking, or thinking” absurdities blemishing our judicial system in Liberia. What part of Article 61 of the constitution quoted above, which 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?” The last sentence in the quoted proviso makes it abundantly clear inter alia, that, a president could only be prosecuted or answerable for an act/crime committed while president and for which that president was removed from office! Was president Sirleaf removed from office in the first place and for this Sable Mining fiasco? If I who, not even a lawyer, yet can interpret this other provision with ease and a sitting judge cannot? Either “judge”, Kontoe is out for something sinister in that regard, or is just ignorant of the law. In the latter case, Mr. Kontoe better brush up on his law designation in order to at least justify his salary or judgeship. Or assign him to the MOJ to join that other useless batch whose only law strategy is to seek to throw cases out of court. Once that’s not accomplished, the next is to ask for extension. Imagine the prosecution, the party that took the case to court in the first place always asking for extension. Ain’t that something? That’s the caliber of government lawyers we have. SMFH!

  3. The Sable Mining court case is a joke! A joke in the real sense of the word. The presiding Judge will summon all kinds of witnesses, prosecutors will masquerade as good people in the courtroom while defense attorneys will chew cigars as the hearing proceeds. But does any good Liberian, whether educated or not, think that the main characters of this rediculous bribery case will be found guilty? Ah, think again.

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