LBDI: ‘Sherman and Firm Did No Business Here’

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Two days after Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay fined the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) US$300 for contempt over its “refusal” to submit the United States dollar accounts of Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County, accused in the Global Witness bribery scandal, the bank’s management has clarified that at no time did it willfully disobey the court’s mandate.

The LBDI management said the court on May 20, 2016 asked the bank to provide the accounts, to which they replied within three days, informing the court that they were not in possession of any bank accounts for defendant Sherman and the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm.

The bank’s management said that on December 22 last year, it was surprised when it received yet another summons from the court ordering it to produce bank transactions for 13 past and present government officials, including Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County, the law firm, Rep. Alex

Tyler of Bomi County, Ernest C.B. Jones, Chris Onanuga and Sable Mining, a UK based mining company, all of whom were indicted by the government as a result of the Global Witness allegation. However, the Bank acknowledged that two new names were included in the December summons, namely: ECB Jones and Christopher Hayes Onanuga.

Of the 13 listed, the bank said only five ever did business with the bank and, of the five, only two have active accounts with LBDI. They named the initial five as Senator Morris Saytumah, Rep. J. Alex Tyler, Rep. Henry Fahnbulleh, the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company’s (LPRC) Managing Director Sumo
Kupee, and Richard Tolbert, former chairman of the National Investment Commission (NIC). The LBDI management said only Saytumah and Tolbert are the only two indictees presently doing business with the bank.

“We received that summons on December 27, 2016 and submitted it to our legal counsel, the Cooper and Togba Law Firm,” the bank indicated

“We were not aware of this because it went directly to the office of the bank’s law firm, and we thought that we were aware of that issue, until we got the writ of summons for contempt of court.

“There has never been a point, when it is brought to our attention that we did not address. We have nothing to shield and nothing to hide,” the bank said, disclosing Tyler’s account with LBDI has been dormant for some time.

The government had earlier claimed that the defendants used the bank accounts to transfer over US$950,000 as part of their efforts to bribe past and present officials to award the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County to Sable Mining without going through the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) bidding processes and procedures, a claim the defendants have denied.

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