Sherman Official Snubs Global Witness Bribery Probe; Tolbert Appears
Monrovia – One of the primary suspects at the center of the Global Witness bribery report, Cllr. Varney Sherman has reportedly officially informed the Task Force setup to probe the scandal that he will not be submitting himself to probe, FrontPageAfrica has learned.
Liberia’s ruling Unity Party Chair informs Task Force that he will not submit to Global Witness bribery probe; Tolbert shows up, says ‘gift To Invincible XI football team did not influence him, terms scandal election-year politics, source says
Multiple sources confirmed to FrontPageAfrica Thursday that Cllr. Sherman informed the committee that he will never cooperate with the investigation because he has been accused by Global Witness of engaging in bribery of Liberian Government officials.
The lawyer reportedly reiterated what he has told journalists and radio talk shows in the past few days since the scandal unravelled, that nothing under the laws of Liberia compels him to attend an investigation by the Task Force and has no intentions of cooperating with the investigation.
Cllr. Sherman’s snub comes despite the appearance of several officials – current and former who have made appearances before the Task Force.
Among the accused who have appeared so far are Mr. Fombah Sirleaf, head of the National Security Agency(NSA) and son of President Sirleaf; Mr. Willie Belleh, Chairman of Public Procurement and Concessions Commission; Ernest C. B Jones, former Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy; former Senate Pro Temp Cletus Wotorson; Sumo Kupee, former Senatorfrom Lofa County and current Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company.
US$20K ‘No Influence’, Tolbert Reportedly Says
On Thursday, Dr. Richard Tolbert, the former head of the National Investment Commission (NIC) appeared before the Task Force along with Mr. Chris Onunuga.
Dr. Tolbert is marked for two payments in the report, one a US$50,000 as “Consultant Fee” and US$10,000 as US$20,000 as a donation to Invincible XI.
Tolbert reportedly told the Task Force that the “Gift” to IE had no influence on him and was of no benefit to him although Sable did not give corporate social responsibility to any other team. Mr. Tolbert is the President of the IE football club.
According to the report, Mr. Belleh, allegedly received US$10,000 as “consulting fees” while Jones and Chris Onanuga are listed for receiving US$4,500 in accommodation fees.
Senator Kupee and former Pro Temp Wotorson are both named for allegedly receiving $5,000 each in “consulting fees”.
The report also alleges that President Sirleaf’s son, Fombah, benefited with “a US$7,598 hunting trip to South Africa paid for by Sable.”
FrontPageAfrica also gathered that Mr. Morris Saytumah, a former Minister of State for Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs, now a Senator reportedly sent a letter that he was occupied with a confirmation hearing for Harriet Badio, President Sirleaf’s nominee as Deputy Minister of Justice. Senator Saytumah allegedly received $50,000 for “consulting fees”, according to the Global Witness report.
Mr. Charles Clarke, who was chairman of the ruling Unity Party when the US$200,000 changed hands, is currently in the United States of America but reportedly asked to be interviewed by phone. The Task Force is considering Skype option for the interview, a source told FrontPageAfrica Wednesday.
FIBank Summoned to Produced Bank Accounts
Cllr. Sherman’s snub of the Task Force and the appearance of Mr. Tolbert came on the same day FrontPageAfrica obtained from a source at the First International Bank, a copy of a Subpoena from the Judicial Circuit Court A for Montserrado County to the management of the FIB to appear before the court on Monday, May 23rd, 2016 at 12PM to produce bank statements for the period January 1, 2010 to September 30, 2010 for the United States Dollars Accounts in the names of several of those named in the GW report including: Sherman & Sherman; Sable Mining; Western Clusters; Delta Mining Consolidation(Pty)Ltd; West Africa Exploration; Varney Sherman; Morris Saytumah, Sumo Kupee, Cletus Wotorson, Alex Tyler, Henry Fahnbulleh, Richard Tolbert and Willie Belleh.
The London-based Watchdog Group has expressed its desire to assist with the investigation although it is unclear how much additional information it has provided the committee looking into the scandal.
In its report released last week, GW uncovered more than US$950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments by UK mining firm Sable Mining and its Liberian lawyer, Sherman.
The report, The Deceivers (1), shows how in 2010 Sable hired Varney Sherman, Liberia’s best-connected lawyer and current Chairman of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Unity Party, in an effort to secure one of Liberia’s last large mining assets, the Wologizi iron ore concession in northern Liberia.
Sherman told Sable that in order to obtain the contract the company must first get Liberia’s concessions law changed by bribing senior officials, according to a source familiar with the discussions. The account is backed up by leaked emails and company documents seen by Global Witness. (2)
According to the documents, Sherman then began distributing Sable’s money to some of Liberia’s most important government officials.
“Sable and Sherman paid bribes in order to change Liberia’s law and get their hands on one of its most prized assets, the Wologizi concession,” said Jonathan Gant, Senior Campaigner with Global Witness. “The government must act fast and investigate Sable, Sherman, and the officials they paid.”
Although Cllr. Sherman and Alex Tyler, Speaker of the House of Representatives have refused to Cooperate with the Task Force, it remains unclear whether they intend to challenge court’s access to their finances which could offer some clues toward confirming much of what has been unearthed by Global Witness, particularly the US$500, 000 payment by Sable to officials and unidentified people referred to as “Big boy 01” and “Big boy 02.”
Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]