Marc N. Kollie, a Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) investigator who testified as prosecution’s first witness on Friday, told Criminal Court ‘C’ that he has every document to establish that Eugene Shannon and Ernest C.B. Jones received US$250,000 each as ‘Big Boys 1 and 2.’
Kollie told the court that the money represented the men’s share to change the Public Procurement Concession and Commission (PPCC) Act in favor of Sable Mining.
Shannon and Jones were then minister and deputy minister of Lands, Mines and Energy (respectively), when the Global Witness (GW) uncovered the alleged bribery.
The GW report alleged that Shannon and Jones, 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, a UK mining company.
That Act was never changed, but the government claimed that the accused men’s intention was illegal; and that if they had succeeded in changing the Act, Sable Mining would have resold the mountain to another company, for which Sable would have generated billions of United States dollars.
In his testimony, Kollie alleged that they gathered the information from an email they received from GW’s private investigator Paul Sulevan, when his team of investigators was in the UK to collect evidences against the defendants.
“Sulevan furnished us with email exchanges between Sherman and Sable Mining and other documentary evidences that connect the defendants with the commission of the crimes,” the LACC investigator claimed.
He said during the UK trip, investigators spoke with one Heines Van Niekerk, whose name, the witness said may seemed strange, but is very familiar to the defendants, who he claimed also confirmed the email exchanges.
“When he interviewed both defendants,” Kollie claimed, “they denied the allegation, but the emails established that they collected US$250,000 and US$5,000 each.
“This was discovered while they were serving their respective posts. The defendants then received special guests from Sable Mining; and it was their vehicles that were used to pick up the guests from the airport on many occasions,” Kollie testified.
He said the defendants denied ever interacting with any staff from Sable when they appeared before the investigation, a denial that led to their indictment.
“On April 14, 2010, a special flight number S000 ZSLAC came into this country with the occupants being Andrew Groves, Sable’s executive director, Heines Van Niekerk, the head of Sable Mining West Africa Operations, and Klaus Piprek, another Sable executive,” Kollie said in his testimony.
According to him, during an interaction forum with the Sable delegation, Groves was quoted as saying, “This is how US$500,000 looks like.”
He alleged that when the delegation entered the country, Shannon and Jones drove them to Shannon’s residence.
He claimed that the payment Sable made to the two defendants was captured in a spreadsheet of the company’s subsidiary, the Liberia Iron Investment Limited.
He quoted a portion of the spreadsheet that says, “‘US$500,000 to Andrew Groves from Sable Mining,’ and the transaction was further broken down, ‘US$250,000 each to Bigboy 1 and 2’ was the names that were designed by Heines Van Niekerk,” the witness alleged.
This strategy, he claimed, was designed with the advice of Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County, who was then Sable Mining’s Liberian lawyer.
“The intention of these payments was to make the Liberian system collapse,” the witness indicted.
On the US$5,000 allegedly received by defendant Shannon, Kollie said that “Shannon conspired with another defendant, Morris Saytumah, who was then Minister of State for Economic and Legal Affairs in the office of President Ellen Jonson Sirleaf, to write and backdate a letter to commit the government to Delta Mining, a Sable Mining subsidiary.”
The case continues.