Liberia: Cllr. Varney Sherman Breaks Silence on Economic Sanctions; Files Response to the Senate Debunking the Allegations against Him


MONROVIA – Renown Liberian lawyer and politician, Cllr. H. Varney Sherman, Senator of Grand Cape Mount County, who was placed on economic sanction last December by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for his alleged involvement in a series of bribery and corruption related cases has filed a formal response to the allegation to the Liberian Senate while at the same time seeking redress in the United States.

By Lennart Dodoo, [email protected] and Henry Karmo [email protected]

Placing him on the economic sanction list came as part of the commemoration of last year’s International Anti-Corruption Day. He was the only one named.

“On International Anti-Corruption Day, Treasury remains fully committed to imposing costs on those who facilitate corruption at the expense of the people,” said Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich.

Cllr. Sherman’s response to the Senate, a copy of which FrontPageAfrica has obtained, is expected to placed on the Senate floor today.

The Allegation

Cllr. Sherman, according to the OFAC, “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.” 

Senator Sherman, according to the U.S. Government, also allegedly offered bribes to be set free from a bribery case he and some other top government officials in Liberia, including former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex J. Tyler, were connected to.

Global Witness, a British corruption watchdog, in 2015, alleged that Sable Mining Company, through Cllr. Varney Sherman, the company’s legal representative, and his colleagues conspired to circumvent the law in order for the company to get a concession to mine the Wologisi Mountain in Lofa without going through a competitive bidding process.

“Varney Sherman, now a prominent lawyer, Liberian Senator, and chair of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee, offered bribes to multiple judges associated with his trial for 2010 bribery scheme, and he had an undisclosed conflict of interest with judge who ultimately returned a not guilty verdict in July 2019,” the release said.

“In the 2010 scheme that led to his trial, Sherman was hired by a British Mining company in an effort to obtain one of Liberia’s last mining assets, the Wologisi iron ore concession. Sherman advised the company that, in order to obtain the contract, they first had to get Liberia’s procurement and concession law changed by bribing senior officials,” the U.S. Government further noted.

It added: “In 2016, Sherman was indicted by the Liberian government, along to several government officials, for their involvement in the US$950,000 bribery scheme.”

Removal of A Judge

In his 10-page response to the allegations of bribery and influencing the removal of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, Cllr. Sherman wondered why he would plot the removal of the very judge whom he pleaded for before the Supreme Court when his confirmation by the Senate as Judge of the Supreme Court was contested against by civil society organizations due to his involvement with a rebel faction – the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy.

Cllr. Sherman wrote: “It is inconceivable that I, who fought a case for Justice Ja’Neh to be seated as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, would serve as a conduit or facilitator of payment of bribes to politicians to impeach Justice Ja’Neh and remove him from office. I emphatically and categorically deny that accusation. And why would anybody select me as the conduit or facilitator for that purpose?”

He contended that the complaint to the House of Representatives against Justice Ja’neh that warranted the bill of impeachment against him was prepared by Rep. Acarous Gray and Rep. Thomas Fallah, both of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).

Cllr. Sherman: “Why would anybody select me, not other officers of the House of Representatives and the Senate, to be the one to pay bribes to politicians for the impeachment of Justice Ja’Neh? And who gave me the funds to bribe these politicians? Or is it OFAC’s assumption that I used my personal funds to bribe politicians (members of the House of Representatives and the Senate), most of whom were members of the Congress for Democratic Change, to impeach Justice Ja’Neh?

“I deny ever being the conduit or facilitator for the payment of bribes to Liberian politicians to impeach Justice Ja’Neh or any other judge from office; but more than that the records of the Senate will reveal that when the impeachment of Justice Ja’Neh commenced at the House of Representatives, it is I, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who drafted an amendment to Rule 63 of the Senate’s Standing Rules (the Impeachment Rule) to ensure that Justice Ja’Neh and any future person who is a subject of impeachment was secured and guaranteed his/her constitutional rights to a fair and transparent hearing consistent with due process. Please recall that the original Rule 63 provides for an impeachment hearing by the Senate to be conducted by an ad hoc committee of the Senate and a report from that ad hoc committee be voted upon by a simple majority of Senators then sitting through a “Yea” and “Nay” vote.”

Bribing Judges

The Grand Cape Mount County Senator argued that more than 90% of his (firm’s) clients are foreign-owned corporations and foreign non-governmental organizations which primarily engages in transaction law, not litigation.

Cllr. Sherman: “Every retainer agreement signed with us to provide legal services or make any form of representation provides that our services shall comply with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the OECD Convention on the Corruption of Foreign Government Officials. Every retainer agreement also provides that all expenses made on behalf of a client shall be paid in advance or authorized by the client; and when not authorized, it shall not be reimbursed.”

He stated that the country of origin of each of these foreign-owned corporations and foreign non-governmental organizations have their own laws against bribery and any form of corruption. He added that these corporations and foreign non-governmental organizations have their in-house compliance regulations, which forbid bribery and corruption.

Cllr. Sherman then questioned the OFAC: “Which of my clients violated the laws of its country of origin or its in-house regulations by giving me or my law firm money to bribe judges? Or is OFAC alleging that I used my personal resources to “routinely” make payments to judges to decide cases in my favor? And if this is the allegation, I emphatically reiterate my denial. Please be informed that I am not that financially endowed to make such payments and I have never made such illegal payments to any judge or anybody else.”

He challenged the OFAC to name any judge that he paid bribe to or any of his clients that was involved with bribing of judges to sway ruling in his favor.

Cllr. Sherman: “I reiterate that these accusations are untrue, baseless and unfounded. And to show that these accusations of “routinely” bribing judges to rule cases in my favor are unfounded and baseless, I have started the process of preparing matrices for all cases which my firm has had before the Supreme Court beginning from 2020 back to 2005. And if necessary, I shall prepare additional matrices beyond 2005 to prove that I have not engaged in “routinely” bribing judges to rule cases in my favor.”

FIU Seeking Freeze on Accounts

Meanwhile, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of Liberian headed by Mr. Edwin W. Harris has written all commercial Banks in the Country to place temporary hold on all accounts of Cllr. Varney Sherman held at their respective banking institution.

In a communication dated January 7, 2021 addressed to the Liberian Bankers Association Mr. John B. S. Davies, the FIU said, the temporary will hold on all Cllr. Sherman’s accounts should remain until Justice Minister Musa Dean’s opinion on the Executive Orders 13818 issued by the United States Treasury Department which allows for the blocking and reporting of properties of Cllr. Varney Sherman by all US persons both legal and natural.

“The FIU admonishes financial institutions in Liberia to put a temporary hold on all accounts of Cllr. Sherman held at their respective banks until the Attorney General Hon. F. Musa Dean can provide an opinion on the way forward. Thank you for your professional cooperation.”