Criminal Court ‘C’ is expected today, Tuesday, January 10, to make a final decision whether or not it intends for Eugene Shannon, former Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME), the man identified as Big Boy 1 by the Special Presidential Taskforce prosecuting the Global Witness bribery report, to be included on the same criminal appearance bond filed by Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County.
Sherman’s bond, in the amount of US$1,500,000 secured by Omega Insurance Company, also covers Ernest C.B. Jones, former Deputy Minister for Lands, Mines and Energy, named by the taskforce as Big Boy 2, and businessman Christopher Onanuga.
The alleged Big Boy 1 is currently placed on the same indictment as Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County, who was also former Minister of State for Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs at President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s office, and Willie Belleh, the former chairman of Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC).
Shannon and his co-defendants, including Sherman, who was the Liberian lawyer for Sable Mining, a UK mining company, face charges that include economic sabotage, bribery, criminal conspiracy, facilitation and solicitation.
Those charges stem from their alleged roles in the distribution of over US$950,000 collected from Sable Mining with the intent to insert a provision into the revised PPCC Act giving the MLME the power to declare a concession area a “non-bidding area,” in advantage of Sable Mining to whom they had planned to give the concession agreement to the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County, according to the taskforce.
Of that money, the taskforce alleged Shannon and Jones received US$250,000 each (totaling US$500,000).
Shannon’s request comes immediately after he was released based on an arrangement to give him time to produce a bond, as he is an eminent person that would not escape from the country, which was granted by Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay.
Explaining reasons why Shannon must be included in Sherman’s criminal appearance bond, Cllr. Emmanuel B. James argued that since his client was named and indicted with other co-defendants based on the Global Witness report, they must all be tried together.
Further to that, Cllr. James said the very Omega Insurance Company that secured the bond for his co-defendants is the same insurance company that has agreed and accepted that he should be covered under the same bond it filed for Sherman and the others, “because the company has said since the amount of US$1,500,000 on the face of the initial bond is far in excess of the US$950,000 of which he and the other defendants were indicted.”
They quoted Article 21 Section D (ii) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, which Cllr. James said provides that “Excessive bail shall not be required nor excessive fines imposed nor excessive punishment inflicted.”
“Therefore,” Cllr. James argued, “if he is to file a separate criminal appearance bond from that of the co-defendants who were all named in the Global Witness report, same will constitute excessive bail which the Constitution prohibits.”
Moreover, he said the amount for the criminal appearance bond was sufficient to also cover Shannon.
According to the indictment, Sherman, Jones and Onanuga were indicted in May 2016, while Shannon was indicted in January 2017, exactly eight months from Sherman’s indictment.