After nine months following Supreme Court mandate to the Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice to take jurisdiction over the Sable Mining alleged US$950,000 bribery scandal that involved Senator Varney Sherman, and former House Speaker Alex Tyler, expected to start today, May 29, 2019.
It can be recalled that the trial was first halted after the prosecutors petitioned the Supreme Court to review the judgment of then Judge Yarmie Gbeisay, who they argued, had committed an error when he ruled to temporarily mark an e-mail evidence of the prosecution, which prosecution claimed was key evidence that could convict the eight former and current government officials allegedly involved in the bribery scheme.
Judge Gbeisay by then accepted an argument of the defense team where they objected the temporary admittance of the e-mail evidence claiming that the e-mail, which was reported to have been exchanged between the principal defendant Varney Sherman and executive of Sable Mining was hacked.
Before Gbeisay’s acceptance of the defense request, the Global Witness had alleged that Sable Mining through their Liberian lawyers, Sherman and Sherman, including Cllr. Varney G. Sherman, conspired to alter Liberia’s Public Procurement and Concession law to increase the mining company’s chances at acquiring a concession to mine iron ore in the Wologizi Mountain, Lofa County.
In that mandate, the court confirmed the decision of then Associate Justice Philip Banks (retired), whose ruling said that Judge Gbeisay had committed an error when he temporarily marked the e-mail evidence.
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, who delivered the opinion, said the law requires that one who alleges has the burden to prove, and since the co-defendants alleged that the e-mail was hacked, they had the burden to prove, “therefore it was an error on the part of the trial judge to require the state to prove that the e-mail was not hacked.”
Justice Korkpor further ruled the temporary marking of documentary evidence is alien to the country’s jurisdiction; documentary evidence which a witness testified, marked and confirmed by the court should be submitted to the jury or received by the judge sitting at a bench trial to determine its authenticity and materiality.
The eight defendants expected to be tried in the Sable Mining bribery case are Senator Varney Sherman, former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler, former National Investment Commission (NIC) Chair, Richard Tolbert, former Lands and Mines Minister Eugene Shannon, Deputy Land Minister E.C.B. Jones, Bomi County Senator Morris Saytumah, and businessman Christopher H. Onanuga.
The defendants are alleged to have received bribes totaling US$950,000 from the British Company (Sable Mining) to change the Public Procurement and Concession in favor of the company to win a mining concession to mine the Wologisi Mountain in Lofa County. To this, the defendants who are charged with bribery, economic sabotage, criminal facilitation, solicitation and conspiracy, denied the charges.