Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, head of the Special Presidential Taskforce (SPTF) investigating the damning Global Witness (GW) bribery allegations against Sable Mining, other senior Liberian government officials and others, has reported that, following their trips to the United Kingdom and United States, the taskforce is now ready to prosecute the indicted.
Cllr. Koffa, who is also Minister of State without Portfolio, stated further that the SPTF will increase the number of existing charges on three of the indicted.
“We are going to draw up indictments for additional persons named in the GW Report,” Koffa said shortly after he returned to the country.
At the regular Ministry of Information press briefing on Tuesday, July 5, Cllr. Koffa and the other two speakers—Cllrs. Daku Mulbah and Augustine Toe – however refused to disclose list of increased charges, and failed to name the three individuals whose burdens are going to be made heavier.
However, sources very close to the SPTF told this newspaper that House Speaker Alex Tyler, Grand Cape Mount County Varney Sharman and former National Investment Commission Chairperson Richard Tolbert are those whose charges would be increased.
Koffa said he is very pleased with the outcomes of their trips abroad. The five-man delegation of the tripartite SPTF left for London, headed by Cllr. Mulbah, lead prosecutor of the Taskforce, to fish for more evidence, and to hold talks with British authorities, witnesses and Global Witness (GW) officials regarding the case.
Cllr. Koffa, who was not part of the five-man delegation, had flown to the US to hold discussions with Liberian lawyers there. Their discussions centered on asset recovery issues, including how the Liberian government can facilitate the recovery of assets and funds allegedly siphoned by Liberians currently residing in the US.
The SPTF head commended Global Witness, the US and the UK governments for their cooperation so far.
“I would like to thank Global Witness, our partners in Great Britain and the US, our lawyers and investigators from the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) for the level of work done thus far,” Cllr. Koffa said.
“The work that was done in London, especially by our team, led by our chief prosecutor, was an invaluable work. I am sure the country and our government will hear in very short order how intense, qualitative and vibrant that work was. We are proud that they undertook this effort to go there.”
He then assured that as they roll out all their pieces of evidence in a court of law, they are certain that the jury will return with guilty verdicts.
Also speaking, LACC vice chairperson Cllr. Toe said investigations that have so far been carried out by the SPTF have been done at the offices of the LACC.
Cllr. Toe dispelled the rumors that the LACC had been sidelined by the SPTF and that they are “an integral part of the whole investigation process.”
For his part, Cllr. Mulbah, lead prosecutor of the case, buttressed what Cllr. Koffa had said earlier that their trip to the UK was a “very successful one.”
“What makes a prosecutor happy is when you have been able to place yourself in a position that you can be able to have a successful prosecution. This is one that has happened, which has made us to be delighted,” he stated. He assured Liberians of getting the desired guilty result.
Cllr. Mulbah said it was expedient for them to make the trip to London in order to get a firsthand briefing from the crafters (Global Witness) of the report that they are now using to indict certain individuals.
“We were able to interact with people who are behind the report; we were able to have the concrete lines of evidence that we have initially received.”
He assured that all the Liberian law requires for the prosecution of such cases are now within their grips for the successful prosecution of the case.
GW, in its report titled, “The Deceivers,” alleged that over US$950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments were made by the UK mining firm, Sable Mining, through its Liberian lawyer, Cllr Varney Sherman. The report said that Cllr. Sherman, one of Liberia’s best-connected lawyers and current Chairman of the governing Unity Party, in an effort to secure the Wologizi iron ore concession in western Liberia, paid bribes to senior officials, to firstly get Liberia’s concessions law changed.
According to GW, Sherman then began distributing Sable’s money to some of the most important government officials, some of whom have also been indicted.
Cllr. Sherman and House Speaker Alex Tyler, who allegedly received US$75,000 of the Sable money, have denied the indictment charges. They have since been released on bail after filing bonds with the Criminal Court. They and others are accused of having used their positions to amend Liberia’s Public Procurement and Concessions Law.