Richard Tolbert Indicted: Sirleaf, Saytumah, Kupee Fate Undecided
Monrovia – With reports of shifting responsibility, the Special Presidential Task Force probing the Global Witness report of corruption has, for the second time, drawn an indictment against those allegedly involved in the Sable Mining bribery saga.
Those named are the former National Investment Commission Chairman, Richard V. Tolbert, who is the only Liberian mentioned in the new indictment, Andrew Grooves and Claude Van of Sable.
“Last night the grand jury indictments were sealed and today we are unsealing those indictments because we are ready to make arrest of the following individuals for economic crimes and others crimes as per the indictment,” said Task Force Chairperson, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa.
“Mr. Richard Tolbert citizen of Liberia, former head of the National Investment Commission, Mr. Andrew Grooves a British citizen, Director and Manager of Sable Mining in the UK, Mr. Claude Van, a South African who was the former Country Director of Sable Mining in Liberia.”
Cllr. Koffa said that the Task Force is working with Interpol in getting the two foreign nationals to face justice.
“We are now moving to the process of working with Interpol for the two individuals that are outside the jurisdiction of Liberia. As the process progresses, we will inform you. Mr. Phil Edmond is unindicted,” Cllr. Koffa said.
This second indictment from the Task Force has spared the son of Liberia’s President, Fomba Sirleaf, a confidant of the President Sirleaf, Senator Morris Saytumah, the suspended head of Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC) Sumo Kupee etc.
Cllr. Koffa said the Task Force might indict everybody mentioned in the Global Witness Report.
The Head of the Task Force said that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf opened the country for business and not for sale.
“Early into her administration, the President (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) of Liberia announced that Liberia was opened for business. “
“What she did not announce was that Liberia was out for sale. What we are uncovering is the largest conspiracy to steal the mineral resources of this country in our life time,” Cllr Koffa added.
The head of the Task Force went further to confirm reports filtering in the media that the Ministry of Justice has returned the prosecution of the Global Witness indictees to the Special Task Force.
The Task Force said the power it has to prosecute the indictees has been given by the Ministry of Justice, which appears to be a sharp contradiction to the Committee early mandate that it has the power to investigate and prosecute.
“This is a Task Force is not a committee. We are not going to investigate and submit report to the President. If we have sufficient evidence to draw an indictment, we will proceed to court,” Cllr. Fonati Koffa said.
In the midst of the contention by the public that the Task Force has no legal ground to proceed with the prosecution of the Sable Mining case after indicting Speaker Alex Tyler, Senator Sherman and others, it has argued that it is a multi-agencies Task Force, which the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia Anti- Corruption are a part of and both agencies have the power to prosecute.
What lingers on the minds of many is why the Task Force needs a letter from the Ministry of Justice to prosecute when the MOJ is represented by the County Attorney of Montserrado, Cllr. Daku Mulbah.
According to the letter from the Ministry of Justice, it states that the Minister has just taken over and needed time to acquaint himself with happenings of the Ministry which could delay the sable mining case but others are arguing that the Ministry has a team of prosecutors and the new Minister could not be the reason why the Ministry would turnover its statutory responsibility to prosecute to a Task Force.
But many believe that the Justice Minister’s decision to turn the case over to the Task Force is because of his association with one of the indictees, Senator Varney Sherman.
The two are long time legal colleagues and Cllr. Sherman, as a matter of professionalism, recused himself from presiding over the confirmation hearing of Cllr. Cherue.