Special Presidential Task Force Probes Fomba Sirleaf Again
Monrovia – Investigation into the alleged involvement of the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Fombah Sirleaf, in the Sable Mining bribery scandal unearthed by Global Witness, has been rejuvenated by the Special Presidential Task Force, FrontPageAfrica has gathered.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson Mbayo, [email protected]
A source closed to the special task force said though initially there was no concrete evidence gathered by investigators to link him to the crime, the Task Force was optimistic that the new investigation would gather sufficient evidence for his indictment.
“Fomba Sirleaf is not off the hook. He’s currently being investigated and additional evidences are being gathered and there are clear signs that he would be indicted by the time the task force are done with the investigation,” the source said.
Former Grand Kru Senator Cletus Wotorson and current Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LRPRC) are also being investigated for additional evidence, the source hinted.
Our source who called for anonymity said Mr. Sirleaf, who happens to be a son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been ordered by his mother to submit to the investigation.
Sirleaf reportedly benefited a US$7,598 hunting trip to South Africa paid for by Sable. And Kupee and Wotorson, both allegedly received US$5,000 each for “consulting fees”, the Global Witness report said.
“We are convinced that he took money from Sable Mining and made trips on their expense but we need to be able to prove that in court. We can’t just say we are convinced; we need to prove that he was indeed involved,” the source said.
On a rather different side of the divide, Montserrado County Attorney, Darku Mulbah, informed reporters Tuesday that Sirleaf and others who had not been indicted by the Special Task Force yet wouldn’t be indicted due to lack of evidence to substantiate the allegations levied against them.
The case emanates from a Report entitled “The Deceivers” published by Global Witness on May 11, 2016.
Global Witness is an International NGO established in 1993 with offices in London and Washington. The Report covers several countries in Africa including Liberia.
As it relates to Liberia, the report alleged that Sable Mining Africa, Ltd. acquired stake in Delta Mining, which was operating in Liberia, and devised a scheme and system to bribe officials of the government of Liberia to change the procurement laws in order for Sable Mining to obtain prized mineral concessions below market prices, principal of which is the Wologizi mountain range in Lofa, County, Liberia.
Meanwhile, the court has granted former Lands, Mines and Energy Minister, Dr. Eugene Shannon’s motion to be added on the bond of Cllr. Sherman.
The motion called on the court to add Shannon to the bond filed by co-defendant Varney Sherman, E.C.B. Jones and Christopher Onanuga who were the first batch of individuals named in the report indicted by the Special Task Force.
Former Minister of Lands Mines and Energy (LME) Eugene Shannon, a renowned geologist, E.C.B. Jones who served as deputy for operations to Shannon at LME, former Chairman of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) Willie Belleh and Morris Saytumah who served as former Minister of State for Political Legal & Economic Affairs are the latest to be indicted.
Shannon and Jones have identified as the masked “Big Boy 1” and “Big Boy 2” mentioned in the report who allegedly received US$250,000 each to catalyze tweaking of Liberia’s Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) to shortchange the government in favor of UK-based Sable Mining which sole intent was to gain easy franchise to the iron ore deposits in the Wologihzi Mountain.
Evidence presented to the court last a week ago showed that Andrew Groves and Klaus Piprek who were at the forefront of establishing Sable Mining in Liberia and ensuring that it gained access to Wologizhi came to Liberia on April 14, 2010 on a private jet, Flight #S000, aircraft ZSLAC, from South Africa and flew to Liberia as special guests of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy.
Aboard that plane, Groves carried a vanity case which he displayed inflight as containing US$500,000.
The money, according to the evidence submitted by the prosecution, was intended to instigate what would become the largest bribery conspiracy in the history of Liberia.
FrontPageAfrica gathered that the US$500,000 brought into Liberia was to allegedly paid to Shannon and Jones during a private dinner at Shannon’s home.
The April 2010 to March 2011 ledger of the Liberian Iron Ore Investment Ltd, a Liberian subsidiary of Sable Mining, showed that Groves paid US$500,000 in cash to “Big Boy 1” and “Big Boy 2” with each pocketing US$250,000.
‘Named’ by Sherman in a press conference held in May 2016, Cllr. Varney Sherman debunked the Global Witness Report which indicated that Sherman, while serving as lawyer for Sable Mining in 2010, paid US$250,000 to two government officials only identified in the report as “Big Boy 1” and “Big Boy 2”.
The former Unity Party Chairman denied ever directly handling such amount to any government official.
“Neither Sherman & Sherman Law firm nor I know any Liberian government official or anybody else who was designated “Big Boy 01” or “Big Boy 02” and certainly no payment was made to either of these persons directly by me on behalf of Sable Mining; no payment to any such Liberian government officials was facilitated by either Sherman & Sherman or me.
So, where did Global Witness get its information from to accuse me of assisting Sable Mining to pay bribes to “Big Boy 01” and “Big Boy 02”?
This is purely another outrageous fabrication,” Cllr. Sherman said during that press conference.
Despite giving a hint about the actual identities of “Big Boy 1&2” back in May 2016, the public and the media missed out taking cue from his comments.
During the press conference, he revealed that in order to facilitate changes in the PPCC act, the LME must be in the know, while specifying that Minister proper and the deputy for operations were two key individuals who could had facilitated the process. “
“The two persons who would have acted on their behalf in 2010 were Eugene Shannon (the Minister himself) and Ernest C.B. Jones (the Deputy Minister for Operations),” he said.
“If nobody knew that in 2010, it is I who knew that because I have counseled investors in the mineral industry all my 36 years of law practice.
Why would I then assist Sable Mining in paying huge sums of money as bribes to Alex Tyler, Richard Tolbert and Morris Saytumah and nothing to Eugene Shannon? Why would I assist Sable Mining in paying huge sums of bribes to those person and “peanuts” to Ernest C.B. Jones?”
Sherman’s assertion in May corroborate with prosecutors’ findings which have established US$500,000 was allegedly paid to the former minister and his deputy.
Some legal pundits, however, told FrontPageAfrica that though neither Cllr. Sherman nor the Sherman & Sherman law firm was directly involved in the alleged payment, Sable Mining may have acted on Sherman’s advice.