Criminal Court ‘C’ Judge Boima Kontoe, who presided over the US$950,000 Global Witness bribery trial of Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County and several other present and past public officials, issued a blistering rebuke to the prosecution team on Friday, December 28, for repeated “improper conduct” over the handling of its answer to the defense motion which according to the Judge could jeopardize the “fundamental fairness” of the proceedings.
And Judge Kontoe later fined the prosecuting team US$300 to be paid within 72 hours for that unbecoming conduct.
Judge Kontoe’s admonishment came after the prosecution team had prayed the court for three additional month to enable them locate some of their witnesses who were allegedly enjoying their respective holidays, ignoring to file a written answer to the defense’s motion. It was the second time that has happened.
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.
It was also for executives of Sable Mining, a UK mining company, indicted in the 2016 global Witness report for paying Senator Varney G. Sherman a sum of US$900,000 intended 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.
Shortly afterwards, Judge Kontoe denied the prosecutors’ request for a postponement, saying “The request was not only a damnation of the prosecuting team but an indication of their inability to respond to the motion that was intended to have individual names appear to testify about their alleged knowledge of the bribery affair.”
He added, “This was just intended to delay justice in the matter.”
According to Judge Kontoe, when the matter was first called for hearing on December 17, 2018, the prosecution team asked for a postponement to allow them time to appropriately file their answer to the motion, which they were expected to have filed before the December 28, 2018 determination of the request.
The Judge said the court initially granted the prosecutors’ request for postponement and subsequently rescheduled the matter for hearing on Friday, December 28, 2018. Expressing his displeasure with the Prosecution’s request for another postponement Judge Kontoe declared…. “But, to come back and ask for another postponement was unfortunate and intended to create unnecessary delay to the speedily trial of the matter that is bordering on the reputation of eminent Liberians,” Kontoe told the prosecution team.
Shortly afterwards, members of the prosecution team announced their readiness to produce their answer to the motion, of which they agreed for experts witnesses’ to testify into the matter.
Apart from testimonies of Sable Mining executives, 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 to carry out the amendment.
Others were 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’.