Global Witness Bribery Saga Suspects Plead Not Guilty
Monrovia – Defendants in the Global Witness bribery allegations trial in Liberia have all pleaded not guilty. Thursday’s proceedings, followed the reading of the indictment to the defendants in open court.
Report by Bettie Johnson Mbayo, [email protected]
The defendants Senator H. Varney G. Sherman(UP, Grand Cape Mount); Rep. Alex Tyler(Bomi); Richard Tolbert, Christopher Hayes Onanauga, Senator Morris Saytumah, Eugene Shannon and E.C.B. Jones – in one accord responded “Not Guilty”, marking their second full appearance in court.
The court reluctantly granted the defendants resistance to no jury trial. Judge Yarmie Gbeisay denied the state request for jury trial.
It is a bench trial which is the judge will serve as jury and judge.
The Global Witness exposé uncovered more than US$950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments by UK mining firm, Sable Mining and its Liberian lawyer, Cllr. 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.
Sen. 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.
The report claims that Cllr. 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.”
Meanwhile the state has withdrawn Cllr. Johnny Momo from serving as witness.
His name was withdrawn when he made a submission to the court that he couldn’t serve as witness for the state on grounds that he was never informed by the state.
“Your honor, I’m seeing my name as a witness and I have no idea because the state didn’t inform me.”