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Supreme Court Sets Date For Sable Mining Bribery Case

The Supreme Court of Liberia has set Tuesday October 3, as date for argument in the Global Witness bribery case. The argument is a result of an appeal taken by lawyers representing defendant Varney Sherman after a ruling by Justice in Chambers Philip A.Z. Banks.
It can be recalled that Justice Philip A. Z. Banks  overturned former Criminal Court ‘C’ Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay’s judgment that rejected marking permanent, the alleged Global Witness emails and spreadsheets as evidence in the ongoing Sable Mining bribery case. Associate Justice Banks termed as an “Error”, failure by Judge Gbeisay, who earlier presided over the bribery case not to permanently mark the documents as evidence.
The case involved Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Sherman, former House Speaker Alex Tyler and several present and past government officials.
Prosecution led by Cllr. Fonati Koffa, filed a complaint to Justice Banks for reversal of the Judge’s ruling.
Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay had denied marking the evidences provided by prosecution, unless Mr. Heine van Niekerk came to Liberia to authenticate the document. Mr. Heine van Niekerk is an executive of Sable Mining who is also a South African national and said to be the provider of prosecution’s evidence.
The evidence revealed how Sherman, Sable’s Liberian lawyer, allegedly received US$950,000 from the company to be used as bribes and to be distributed among the accused.
Prosecution lead lawyer, Jonathan Fonati Koffa said Justice Banks’ ruling would move the case forward and would allow prosecution to show clearly how the accused actually took bribes.
But information received by this paper says the full Bench of the Supreme Court will hear arguments from both sides in the case on Tuesday October 3. Lawyers representing Sherman took an appeal to the full Bench after they rejected the ruling of the Justice in chambers.
Recently, the two sides got into words of war on the case while the case is still pending at the Supreme Court.
This started when Cllr. Sherman told reporters that the allegations pertaining to the case were diabolical and wicked stating that he would not relent until the truth is revealed. He added that if somebody will pay for it, it would be between their God and his God.
Cllr. Sherman requested the Journalists to ask themselves how the making of laws went through in the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Government. He also asked them whether they know any group called the International Senior lawyers Program that had people here assisting with the drafting of law.
“Do you know that the law they said I bribed people to change the EU, USAID and the International Senior Lawyers were involved in that change? Have any of you been able to talk to the Public Procurement and Concession Commission to ask whether I had anything to do with this law? Have you read the letter the President wrote the legislature to tell them about all the organizations that helped her in changing the law?  You haven’t done that; you have swallowed the Global Witness report?”
Cllr. Sherman was swiftly rebuked by the Special Prosecutor of the Global Witness Presidential Task Force. Cllr. Varney Sherman claimed his prosecution in the Sable Mining bribery trial is politically motivated.
“I am disappointed but not surprised that the Defendant (Cllr. Sherman) is now playing the victim, in a poor attempt to rewrite the history of Sable Mining corruption in Liberia,” Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa told a local newspaper.
Cllr. Koffa argued that contrary to Cllr. Sherman’s assertion that he will not relent until the truth is revealed, the record in the case shows that it is Cllr. Sherman who put up “legal roadblock for six months to prevent the bank from turning over bank records pursuant to a valid and lawful subpoena.
“It was this defendant who refused a jury of his peers because he claims the courtroom is his fishbowl.
“It was this defendant who, after having admitted in court to incriminating emails which proves the bribery scandal, sought legal technicalities to prevent the emails from being admitted into evidence”, Cllr. Koffa told the paper.
Cllr. Koffa explained that at first the defense claimed that the government hacked the email which formed a substantial part of evidence presented by the government.
“After they failed to present proof in this regard, they then used their fish bowl theory to get the court to compel the appearance of an unindicted co-conspirator in order to admit email that they had already conceded was theirs.”
Koffa told the paper that “After the justice in chambers put an end to that shenanigan by ruling that the court was erroneous and biased, they appealed to the full bench.
It was this defendant who has refused to perfect that appeal, causing the government to take the unusual step of taxing the records and obtaining the transcripts to ensure that the case comes before the Supreme Court in the shortest possible time,” Cllr. Koffa said. He added: “If the Defendant is interested in the truth, let him come to court, and agree to the unobstructed admission of the evidence.
“To obstruct the legal proceedings then claim political victimization is simply being disingenuous”, he added.
Kofa said “The government of Liberia did not write the Global Witness report. In fact, the Defendant knew of the Global Witness report months before the report came out as he was contacted in this regard.
It remains uncontroverted that the emails were written by the defendant and the bank records which correspond to the emails are his.”
On the issue of international legal assistance and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s letter regarding making changes to the Public Procurement Concession Company (PPCC) law, Cllr. Koffa the local media that international assistance is provided to Liberia all the time. He it does not mean that corruption does not exist, adding that the international lawyers who provided the assistance were not part of the attempt to insert no bidding requirements in the law.
Cllr. Koffa said the international experts were long gone when the alleged crime was perpetrated. He also said, the letter President Sirleaf wrote did not call for any provision of no bid requirement.
Meanwhile, this paper has learnt that one of the defendants in the case, has hired the services of a public relations firm in the US to try to clean his image and as a result of this project questionnaires have been produced and given to some media practitioners to carry out misinformation on the case.

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