Liberia: The Liberian Government Must Get to The Bottom of OFAC Accusations Regarding Sen. Varney Sherman’s Bribery in Judiciary Branch
THE TREND of the three-minute presentation of each Senator at the Senate Sitting of last Thursday, February 4, 2021, in reaction to the Preliminary Report of the Senate Leadership on the Submission of January 11, 2021 and the First Supplementary Submission made by Senator Counsellor Varney Sherman to the Liberian Senate on the OFAC Sanctions against him give reason to the concern that some Senators misinterpret the intention of Senator Sherman’s Submissions to them.
IT WOULD APPEAR that some Senators believe that Senator Sherman’s intention for the Submissions is to drag the Liberian Senate into confrontation with the US Government’s Department of Treasury. This certainly can’t be his intention, especially so when he informed the Liberian Senate in these Submissions that he will take advantage of US law to file a petition with OFAC, supported by relevant evidence, to cause OFAC to remove his name from its Sanctions List.
IT IS WELL-KNOWN that OFAC has levied accusations of bribery of judges and politicians by Senator Varney Sherman; and it should be clear to all persons that for bribery, there is the “giver” and the “receiver”; both of whom are equally guilty of commission of the crime. OFAC has imposed sanctions against Senator Sherman based on its accusations, but OFAC has not named the judges whom OFAC believes that Senator Sherman allegedly bribed.
WHAT IS EVEN MORE TROUBLING is that the Supreme Court of Liberia, in a recent statement took issue with the United States Treasury Department’s assertions that Counsellor Sherman,who is also Chairman of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee, “offered bribes to multiple judges associated with his trial for a 2010 bribery scheme and had an undisclosed conflict of interest with the judge who ultimately returned a not guilty verdict in his favor in 2019. “
THE US RULING further said that Counsellor Sherman “routinely paid judges to decide cases in his favor…” and that his “acts of bribery demonstrate a larger pattern of behavior to exercise influence over the Liberian Judiciary and the Ministry of Justice.”
IN THE HIGH COURT’S OWN words, the statement from the US, no doubt, casts serious doubts and aspersions not only on the integrity and credibility of the Counsellor named and the judges alluded therein, but also on the Liberian Judiciary as an institution responsible for the fair and impartial hearing and disposition of cases. The statement is of outmost concern to the Judiciary.
If it is true that the Grand Cape Mount Senator routinely bribed judges to rule cases in his favor, as accused by the Office of Foreign Assets Control(OFAC), then pursuant to Article 71 of the Constitution, these corrupt judges should be impeached and removed from office so as to cleanse the Judiciary of them; otherwise the Judiciary can’t be trusted to rendered fair and impartial justice.
IF THE OFAC ACCUSATIONS against Senator Sherman are true, then as per Article 38 of the Constitution, he should be sanctioned by the Liberian Senate, even to the extent of expelling him; but any such sanction must be the outgrowth of “due process”.
THERE IS MORE to the OFAC Sanctions and the underlying accusations against Senator Sherman.
FOR EXAMPLE, if it is true that Senator Sherman routinely bribed judges to rule cases in his favor, as accused by OFAC, then pursuant to Article 71 of the Constitution, these corrupt judges should be impeached and removed from office so as to cleanse the Judiciary of them; otherwise the Judiciary can’t be trusted to rendered fair and impartial justice. Also, if OFAC’s accusation that Senator Counsellor Sherman bribed politicians to impeach a judge who ruled in a case against him is true, then those corrupt politicians, some of whom could be among the Liberian Senators, ought to be sanctioned and expelled from the Legislature, as per Article 38 of the Constitution. But for every sanction that it imposed against any judge or politician, it should grow out of “due process of law” – a hearing and a final ruling based on evidence presented at the hearing.
SIMPLY STATED, it appears from the face of the Submissions made by Senator Sherman to the Liberian Senate is that his intention is to provoke the Liberian Senate to exercise its oversight responsibilities as per Article 38 and Article 71 of the Constitution to cause the OFAC accusations to move from the level of mere allegations to the level of investigation and findings based on evidence. The mechanism the Senate should employ or use is the task, which it would appear that the Senate Plenary passed over to the Senate Leadership to explore and advise the Senate Plenary on how to proceed. Should it be a direct approach of the Liberian Senate to the US Embassy as some Senators suggested at last Thursday’s Sitting of the Liberian Senate? Or Should it be an engagement of the Executive Branch of Government, perhaps through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and/or the Ministry of Justice, with the US Embassy or directly with OFAC to obtain the evidence, which forms the basis of the OFAC accusations so that the Liberian Senate, if not the entire Liberian Government, we can determine the veracity of the OFAC accusations and take the appropriate actions? Or should it be the setting up of a Special Commission of Inquiry with the mandate to gather the evidence, which forms the basis of the OFAC accusations, so that the Liberian Senate may take the appropriate actions if there is an iota of truth to these accusations? Or is the Liberian Senate to merely ignore its oversight responsibilities in the face of these OFAC accusations against Senator Sherman and against judges and politicians, with the assumption that the OFAC accusations are Senator Sherman’s personal affairs, not a matter to be brought to the attention of the Liberian Senate, as suggested by some Senators at the Senate’s last Thursday Sitting?
THE LIBERIAN SENATE, having taking seized of the matter of the Submissions made by their colleague, and given the pervasive nature of the accusations of bribery made against not only Senator Sherman but also against judges and politicians, the Liberian Senate should take the appropriate actions to determine the veracity of these accusations. Doing otherwise the Liberian Senate would be abandoning its oversight responsibilities over its member and over judges and politicians, consistent with Article 38 and Article 71 of the Constitution; pretending that he OFAC Sanctions are Senator Sherman’s personal affairs, and thereby ignoring its constitutional duties and responsibilities.
LIBERIA NEEDS TO GET to the bottom of these OFAC accusations of the crimes bribery allegedly committed by Senator Sherman during the course of his law practice and allegedly committed by judges and politicians, who allegedly received these bribes from Senator Sherman. And Senator Sherman’s Submissions to the Liberian Senate should be viewed within that perspective.