Judge Gbeneweleh to Deliver Verdict in US$950K Global Witness Case Today

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On trial for alleged bribery, as claimed by Global Witness in the Sable Mining case (clockwise): Sen. Varney Sherman, J. Alex Tyler, Dr. Eugene Shannon, PPCC Chairman Willie Belleh, and Senator Morris Saytumah.

Judge Peter Gbeneweleh of Criminal Court ‘C’ will on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 deliver his verdict whether guilty or not-guilty into the alleged US$950,000 Global Witness Case that involves several current and past public officials, including Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County.

By 2:00 p.m., Judge Gbeneweleh, who is presiding over the case as both jury and the judge, will read verdict.

The defendants are facing charges of bribery, economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, criminal solicitation and criminal facilitation. Prosecutors are asking for the maximum sentence of 15 years.

Global Witness had earlier accused Sherman, then lawyer of Sable Mining, a UK-based mining company of influencing the Sable to pay to him U$950,000 to have the money distributed to some public officials to include former Speaker Alex Tyler, the former Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy (now Mines and Energy), Eugene Shannon; former Deputy Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Ernest C.B. Jones; Morris Saytumah, former Minister of State for Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs, now a Senator of Bomi County; Willie Belleh, former Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) chairman, and a Nigerian businessman Christopher Onanuga.

The payment, the Global Witness claimed, was to alter PPCC’s law, which would have enabled the officials to award the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County to Sable without any competitive bidding process.

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Judge Peter Gbeneweleh, Assigned Judge, Criminal Court ‘C’

Before his scheduled judgment, Gbeneweleh had questioned the legality surrounding the government’s acquisition of the email and spreadsheets that are regarded as pieces of documentary evidence the prosecution relied on to prove the case against the defendants.

Prosecution had also claimed that the pieces of documentary evidence were obtained by one Paul O. Sullivan, believed to be Global Witness’ investigative journalist, who supposedly downloaded copies from the computer of the former country director of Sable Mining, Heine Van Neikerk, a South African.

Both did Van Neikerk and Sullivan were made to appear before Judge Gbeneweleh to testify to their authenticity of the emails and the spreadsheets evidence, which co-defendant Sherman argued were hacked.

Besides, the emails and spreadsheets evidence, believed to be statement of executives of Van Neikerk and Sullivan, were never notarized in that country as provided for by international law.

To justify the authenticity of the evidence, prosecution admitted that the document not being notarized in South Africa, however, contended that one its lawyer, late Cllr. Theophlius Gould, who did not travel to South Africa, while in Liberia was instrumental to have received affidavit believed to be a statement of Van Neikerk.

The defendants have maintained that these evidence are false, and that the prosecution obtained them fraudulently, and were subsequently hacked.

According to legal experts, a notary serves as an important extra witness to the consummation of a formal legal agreement. His/her decision to notarize a particular document confirms that the documents were created with the knowledge and consent of the parties to it.

The Global Witness on May 11, 2016, released a report entitled; “The Deceivers” where it claimed that Sherman and his law firm instructed Sable Mining to disburse US$950,000 to individuals, both in government at the time and out of government to insert Section 75 into the Amended and restatement PPCC Act of 2010, without going through a bidding process to award the Wologisi Mountain to Sable Mining.

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