Former House Speaker Alex Tyler, together with several present and past public officials, including Senator Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mount County), will go on trial Friday, February 17, at the Criminal Court ‘C.’
The defendants will on Friday appear before Judge Yarmie Quiqui Gbeisay, where they will choose if their fate will be decided by a jury or a judge. They are being tried for multiple crimes, including bribery, economic sabotage and money laundering.
Tyler and Sherman were indicted on separate dates in May and November 2016 in connection with a wide-range of bribery scandals that involved seven other defendants, including Sable Mining, a company operating on the Alternative Investment Market in London, Great Britain, and a major shareholder in
Delta Mining Consolidated Limited ((DMC), a South African Company that was operating in the country; Chris Onanuga, a Nigerian businessman; Eugene Shannon, former Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME). Others are his deputy Ernest C.B, Jones Morris Saytumah, former Minister of State for
Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs in the office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and now Senator of Bomi County.
Others indicted were Willie Belleh, former chairman of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC), and Richard Tolbert, former chairman of the National Investment Commission (NIC).
They are accused of taking kickbacks from Sable Mining, which is also indicted to face trial either in the UK or South Africa, according to Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, head of the SPTF.
According to the indictment, Sherman, who was then the Liberian lawyer for Sable Mining, allegedly accepted over US$950,000 from the company between 2010 and 2011 to bribe the codefendants to award the Wologizi Mountain without going through any public bidding. They were to avoid the public bidding process by inserting a provision in the revised PPCC Act of 2010, which was on its way to the National Legislature, to give the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy the power to declare a concession area a non-bidding zone.
The prosecution alleged that Sherman also gave US$75,000 to then Speaker Tyler to enhance the smooth passage of the Act containing the provision for the MLME to have the power to declare a concession area a non-bidding area.
They also claimed that Sherman masterminded a scheme where two senior staff of Sable, Andrew Groves and Klaus Piprek, bribed Shannon and Jones with US$250,000 each for the speedy passage of the Act.
Defendant Saytumah, the prosecution claimed, received US$5,000, to write a letter on April 6, 2011 and had it backdated to April 2009, as consultancy fee.
For Belleh and Tolbert, prosecutors further alleged they received US$10,000 and US$50,000 respectively as consultancy fees to change the Act.
Their case stemmed from the Global Witness allegation that they took bribes totalling US$950,000 from Sable Mining, a UK based company, to influence the change of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) Act and make a provision for the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME) to have power to declare a concession area a non-bidding area.
Their action to change the Act, according to the Special Presidential Taskforce (SPTF) setup to prosecute the accused, was contrary to the best practice of entertaining public bidding, so as to enhance the ease of awarding a concession agreement to Sable Miming for the operation of Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County.