By: Kadiker Rex Dahn, MA, M.Ed., PhD
The Judicial Branch under the leadership of Chief Justice, Francis Korkpor has repeatedly been besieged by claims of corruption and manipulations. In public opinions and those who may have had an encounter with the system, it is alleged that the system is infested with flaws, corruptions and certainly, is easily manipulated. Whether these allegations are true or not, two things are required to ensure certainty: independent and credible investigations. The United States Government even with some flaws is still the best, independent, credible, sophisticated and reliable democratic government in the world. The U.S. Department of Treasury, as part of its functions, is responsible for financial matters. The Treasury, after closely investigating the issue of corruption and bribery in the judicial system in Liberia, rendered a verdict; that verdict acquiesced with public opinions and perceptions about corruptions and briberies. Those allegedly culpable have been lined up. In the wisdom and conviction of the Government of the United States, Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County allegedly is an accomplice. Senator Sherman denied the claim of bribery and reportedly has responded to the allegation. Chief Justice Korkpor and his Judicial Branch of Liberia also denied same claim and indirectly condemned the U.S. Department of Treasury for not giving Senator Sherman a due process. We contend that knowing the United States Government’s legal framework embedded in the rule of law, fairness and justice, as well as expertise in unearthing secret dealings, we have no other alternatives but to acquiesced and give full support to the U.S. Government’s decision. In the same vein, we ask the U.S. Government to Expand and Impose more Targeted Sanctions on those Liberian officials who may have violated the United States’ Laws.
On December 10, 2020, Daily Observer carried the headline under the caption, “U.S. Government Sanctions Senator Varney Sherman for Alleged Bribery.” In this publication, Observer quoting the U.S. Department of Treasury stated, “Sherman’s act of bribery demonstrates a larger pattern of behavior to exercise influence over the Liberian Judiciary and the Ministry of Justice. Has routinely paid judges to decide cases in his favor, and he has allegedly facilitated payments to Liberian politicians to support impeachment of a judge who has ruled against him. Varney Sherman, now a prominent lawyer and chair of the Liberian senate judicial committee, offered bribes to multiple judges associated with his trial for 2010 bribery scheme, and he has an undisclosed conflict of interest with a judge who ultimately returned a not guilty verdict in July 2019.”
The above statement is an indictment of the Judicial Branch of Liberia; it taints and destroys the image of the Liberian judicial system. The statement indirectly questions transparency and a lack of honesty, free and fair dispensation of justice in Liberia. Closely analyzing the statement, not only is it an indictment of the judicial system, it is equally intended for corrupt government officials and individuals who over the cover of darkness bribe to find their way into the system. The recent called for more sanctions on the government of Liberia by U.S. Congressman, Chris Smith for corruption certainly speak louder and an eminent, serious and dangerous political problems for the George Weah’s government. The Executive order 13818 signed by former President Donald Trump according to Daily Observer, equally prevents corrupt persons including officials of government in other nations to not be allowed to enter America for any reason. Here, corrupt officials and judicial actors who fear economic sanctions but clandestinely bag their cash in basements of their homes must equally take note. The Department of Treasury is watching; Congressman Smith and other Congressional Leaders of the powerful United States Congress are equally watching. These individuals according to the Executive order 13818 will never enter the United States of America for any reason.
What are disturbing to us are the mixed and convoluted messages from the Supreme Court of Liberia. The Supreme Court in its press release according to the Daily Observer tried to protect its image and at the same time challenged, rendered and concluded that the U.S. Treasury Department’s report was insufficient to serve as a basis for sanction against the referenced judicial actors. According to the Daily Observer’s publication on January 20, 2021, a press release from the Liberian Supreme Court stated, “U.S. Treasury Report against Cllr Sherman Insufficient for sanction.” The release further said, “the Court will never allowed or condone the act of any lawyer, party litigant, or whosoever desiring to exercise influence over judges of the judiciary. The information in the U.S. Treasury Department statement without more details is insufficient to serve as a basis for sanction against the referenced judicial actors.”
Chief Justice’s Confidence
We noticed that the Chief Justice seems to have full trust and confidence in all of Liberian judicial actors. What the Chief Justice failed to realize in our opinion is that he is not omnipresent and does not know the secret dealings of all of his judicial actors. Putting on the Scripture glasses, we also wonder whether the Honorable Chief Justice as a human being and therefore fallible and prune to weakness of any kind, before God and men can vow that he has not done any wrong even in private when no one was watching? Can the Chief Justice before the God of Israel that he faithfully serves commit before that Holy God that as a judge he has not been politically manipulated and coerced in making decisions that fair dispensation of justice was neglected and went on the contrary?
The Honorable Chief Justice and some Liberian judicial actors are demanding proofs from the United States Government on the allegation of bribery in the Liberian judicial system. In the absence of those proofs, the Chief Justice and his judicial branch argue that the sanction lacks due process and therefore, insufficient. Knowing the United States Government and its judicial canon where the rule of law is cardinal, we emphatically reject any notion or insinuation that the United States Government convicts an individual or group of individuals without due process as the Chief Justice and some members of the Judicial Branch are making us to think and believe. The Lewis Arthur Grimes School of Law where Chief Justice Korkpor and his colleagues now challenging the United States are products of was developed by Professors from Cornell University in New York, United States of America. Our judicial actors’ first hearing about due process was from these Law Professors who taught them law. If this proposition is true, how can the Chief Justice and some judicial actors challenged their mentors? Can the Chief Justice and his Judicial Branch actually lecture the Government of the United States on due process or is such an assertion a mere gimmick? The Treasury Department under the law of the United States formulated guidelines and anyone who in the wisdom of the Department violated, such a person or country is certainly to face full weight of the United States. This is exactly now the case with Varney Sherman, his alleged companions in crime and corrupt government officials.
Let those alleged corrupt names remain the “Zoe-Bush”
On critical analysis, we are taken aback by the demand of the Chief Justice and some members of his Judicial Branch to make public with evidence the names of those who allegedly bribed and received bribes. The issue at hand against Varney Sherman and others is not a child play. The United States of America imposing sanctions is a serious issue. We do not know for sure who all are on the list; Only God and the United States Government. If the United States Government acquiesced with judicial actors’ demand for proof and for instance, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices’ names appear on that list, what message will that send to the outside world about Liberia? Better still, what if President Weah, V.P. Taylor and all cabinet ministers and heads of autonomous government agencies names appear on that list, again, what message will that send to the outside world? If prominent actors from Liberia names surface in the Treasury Department’ report, which international investor in their right mind will have courage and determination to come to Liberia and invest? Investors will only invest in a country where the rule of law is cardinal. If the Judicial Branch of Liberia along with prominent actors from both the Legislative and Executive names surfaced on the sanctions’ list, will such not destroy the image of Liberia?
As stated above, we reject any call to make public all those alleged corrupt judicial actors. Instead, to avoid injuring the reputation of Liberia, we maintain that those names be kept in the Zoe-Bush (secret society where things are kept in secret). In other words, the names of those alleged corrupt judicial actors should only be known by the U.S. Embassy and the United States Government. We say to those calling for proof of bribery that there is another way to determine whether an individual, group of individuals or government is in good standing with United States. Any top official of government from the three branches should be able to easily obtain an entry visa from the United States Embassy in Monrovia. If an official who by his or her title should easily obtain an entry visa at the U.S. Embassy is denied, it is an indication that such an official has been denied as a direct result of Executive Order 13818 and in such case, the proof has been proven.
We have full confidence in the Government of United States and the judicial system. We believe that the United States will not act against an individual, group of individuals or country without due process in line with the laws of United States. Therefore, we agree with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s sanctions against Varney Sherman and some concealed judicial actors. The demand by Chief Justice Francis Korkpor and some judicial actors for the Government of the United States to make public with evidences and names of those implicated, if implemented, will damage Liberia’s international image. Instead, we appeal and urge the U.S. Embassy and the Government not to cooperate. We ask those names to be kept in the Zoe-Bush (the U.S. Embassy) and each will know his or her fate when applied for an entry visa. Again, making public those names will damage the international image of Liberia and as a result, investors will be afraid to invest in Liberia. In an effort to curtail corruptions and judicial malpractices in Liberia, we say Bravo to the U.S. Department of Treasury and Congressman Smith for punitive actions thus far. Equally so, we ask the Treasury Department, Congressman Smith and the Government of the United States to Expand and Impose more Targeted Sanctions on individuals who in the wisdom and judgment of the U.S. are corrupt, give and receive bribes.