Nearly a year after government indictments and arguments in the alleged Global Witness US$950,000 bribery scandal involving several past and present public officials, prosecution on Wednesday filed a request before Criminal Court ‘C’ seeking to change (amend) the indictment. The indicted officials include Grand Cape Mount Senator Varney Sherman and former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler of Bomi County, among others.
The defense team is yet to respond to the prosecutor’s request (motion) that will give the court the opportunity to either accept or deny the decision.
Global Witness had earlier alleged that Sable Mining, a UK-based mining company, through its Liberian lawyer, Sen. Sherman of the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm, advised the company that the only way to have the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County awarded to it without public bidding was to insert a provision in the revised Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) Act.
The act, which was on its way to the Legislature, was intended to give the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME) the power to declare a concession area a non-bidding area, “which can be done if US$950,000 is made available to pay out to persons associated with the revision and passage of the act. This was to also include the granting of the concession agreement for the Wologizi Mountain,” the Global Witness report quoted Sherman as saying.
It was due to the allegation that the government decided to indict Sherman and his co-defendants including Tyler, Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County, and others.
The original indictment against Senator Sherman jointly charging him alongside several others alleged that “from 2010 to 2011, Sherman influenced the change in the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) Act 2010.”
The document further claimed that defendant Sherman planned a provision for the MLME to have the power to declare a concession area a non-bidding area.
The plan, the document alleged, was intended to award a concession agreement to Sable Mining, a UK based company for the operation of the Wologizi Mountain.
An amendment to the indictment dated February 8 and confirmed by the court, alleged that, “Sherman encouraged and influenced Sable Mining to pay money to public officials (and) received from Sable about US$600,000 into accounts of the International Bank in Monrovia.”
The changed record also claimed that Sherman paid out money to several public officials in consideration for their actions to ensure the passage of the revised PPCC Act of 2010 to give undue advantage to Sable Mining over the Wologizi Mountain.
The original indictment also said Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County received US$5,000 when he was serving as the Minister of State for Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs in the office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to write a letter on April 6, 2011, and have it backdated to April 2009, though he was no longer a minister.
The new indictment alleged that on April 26, 2010, US$50,000 was to be paid to Senator Saytumah by defendant Sherman.
For former House Speaker Alex Tyler, the old indictment said Sherman paid him US$75,000 to enhance the smooth passage of the PPCC Act containing the provision for the MLME to have the power to declare a concession area a non-bidding area.
The changes to Tyler’s indictment said, “Tyler as speaker of the House of Representatives demanded from Sable Mining US$250,000 to ensure the smooth passage of the act favorable to the company, but US$75,000 of that amount was through Sherman and the law firm in consideration of his office’s action geared toward ensuing the passage of the revised PPCC Act to give undue advantage to Sable over the Wologizi Mountain.”
The document claimed that at the time of said payment, “Tyler was not working in the mineral industry, and there is no knowledge for him to have worked in that industry, and as such the designation as ‘consultancy fee’ was intended to disguise the scheme.”
The defense counsel is yet to respond to the prosecution’s request to amend the indictment.