The chief investigator of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), who testified as prosecution’s first witness at the Global Witness bribery trial, yesterday told Criminal Court ‘C’ that co-defendant Richard Tolbert received US$20,000 as co-defendants Varney Sherman and Heines Van Niekerk’s contribution to Invincible Eleven, a local football club, where he was serving as president.
Sherman and Van Niekerk, then West Africa operational officer of Sable Mining, a UK based mining company, contributed US$10,000 each to the club, according to Marc N. Kollie.
The GW report alleged that Tolbert together with other present and past public officials, including former House Speaker Alex Tyler, received over US$950,000 in bribes to change the PPCC Act to award Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County in favor of Sable Mining.
The Act was never changed, but the government claimed that the accused’s intention was illegal; and that if they had succeeded, Sable Mining would have resold the mountain to another company, for which Sable would have generated billions of United States dollars.
Testifying on cross examination, Kollie alleged that when defendant Tolbert received the US$20,000, instead of depositing it into the account of the football club, he diverted the money into his (Tolbert) personal account, where he is the only signatory.
“During the investigation the defendant informed us that he deposited the US$20,000 into his account because the club was indebted to him in that same amount,” the prosecution first witness alleged, adding, “Tolbert showed us a promissory note dated May 5, 2010 between him and the football team about the US$20,000 debt.”
He claimed that the intent of the US$20,000 was for Tolbert, then chairman of the National Investment Commission (NIC), to assist defendant Sherman plan for the concession area of the Wologizi Mountain, in Lofa County, to be declared a non-bidding area in favor of Sable Mining, for which Sherman served as its Liberian lawyer.
The LACC investigator also alleged that while serving as NIC chair, defendant Tolbert was also head of the Inter-Ministerial Concession Committee, which post he used to hold a series of discussions with Van Niekerk to enforce their deal.
“(Van) Niekerk visited Tolbert at his office and they both discussed a wide range of investment opportunities for Sable’s operations in the country, based on which discussion (Van) Niekerk and Sherman were invited to an IE fundraising rally, where they made the cash contribution of US$20, 000,” Kollie alleged.
The case continues.