In Global Witness Case: Former Speaker Alex Tyler ‘Begged’ For Bribe
Monrovia – Chilling details emanating from evidence presented to the court by the Special Task Force reveals that former Speaker J. Alex Tyler threw himself into the alleged bribery syndicate demanding US$250,000 from Sable Mining to effect changes in the PPCC Act.
Report by Lennart Dodoo – [email protected]
As part of setting up the company in Liberia, he was to find suitable premises for accommodation, helicopter landing facilities, and offices.
In June or July 2010, he came across a place owned by Alex Tyler, then speaker of the House of Representatives.
The place turned out to be very expensive and was rejected upon discussion with van Niekerk.
However, on August 6, 2010, he (Piprek) got a call from Tyler for a dinner at Boulevard café; during which he informed Tyler that they were not taking up the property.
Also during the meeting, Tyler advised that he (Tyler) knew the importance of the PPPC Act changes to Sable Mining and that he could help Sable Mining get the changes quickly for an amount of US$ 250,000.00.
It all started when Piprek (the head of Sable Mining Liberia Ltd.) was looking for suitable premises for accommodation, helicopter landing facilities, and offices.
In July 2010, he (Piprek) came across a premises owned by Tyler but was rejected because it turned out to be very expensive.
However, on August 6, 2010, he (Piprek) got a call from Tyler for a dinner at Boulevard Café on 14th Street, Sinkor (now called Fuzion d’Afrique); during which he informed Tyler that they were not taking up the property.
Also during the meeting, Tyler advised that he (Tyler) knew the importance of the Public Procurement Concession Commission Act changes to Sable Mining and that he (Tyler) could help Sable Mining get the changes quickly for an amount of US$250,000.00.
The rejection of Tyler’s property was based on discussion Piprek held with Sable Mining West Africa CEO, Heine Van Niekerk.
At the dinner, Piprek explained to Tyler that van Niekerk sent him an email exchange between himself (van Niekerk) and Cllr. Varney Sherman indicating clearly that the company should not entertain Tyler’s request and that Sherman would take care of the discussions with Tyler.
Investigation show that Sherman appeared irritated that Piprek was engaged in discussions with Tyler.
The email trail which FrontPageAfrica has laid hands on goes as follows:
Thank you so much Councilor [Counselor]. Klaus [Piprek] was called by the Speaker last night and presented with the act. He was then informed that in order to process the Act through the senate, will cost about US$250,000. He claimed to have cleared with the Person currently in SA for medical reasons.
How do you propose we proceed??
From: Varney Sherman
To: Heine van Niekerk
Re: PPCC Revised Act
Don’t do that please! Don’t let’s give the appearance that the Act is intended for you alone. The Legislature will pass it whether we do something or not.
I don’t know how the Speaker knew that you were that interested to have called Klaus in.
If we conduct ourselves like that, you will be milked like a cow and not get what the payments are worth. Look at how long it took for us to get here!
Let Klaus tell the Speaker that I am handling your affairs in Liberia and that even though we are interested in the passage of the law, it is a law that will benefit a lot of other people, not only you.
It is not as though this is your concession agreement presented for ratification. Call me and let’s talk about this.
However, it turned out that then Speaker could not be left out of the entire deal to effect the smooth passage of the PPCC Act.
They managed to settle to a bargained arrangement of US$75,000 for his influential role in the passage of the Act.
The Grand Conspirators
The evidence show that Groves, Piprek, Van Niekerk, Sherman, Willie Belleh and Morris Saytumah, Eugene Shannon, E.C.B. Jones and Richard Tolbert were part of a conspiracy to include a provision in the law which had the net effect of giving decision making to award the Wologhizi to Shannon and a select committee as a “Non-Bidding” area so as to avoid competitive bidding.
It was the position of the conspirators to push the idea that Wologhzi was not a prized asset of Liberia and therefore would make it easier to dispose of without competitive bidding and below market value.
Prof. Belleh serving as Chairman of the Public Procurement Commission was alleged in the Global Witness report to have received US$10,000 for his role in ensuring that the relevant section of the draft Act favorable to Sable Mining was maintained in the final version and to ensure its passage.
Prof. Belleh is said to have written in an email to Cllr. Sherman stating that, “I met with the President on the night of August 5, 2010 along with the Minister of Justice” and that on August 6, 2010 another email “We finally got the revised PPCC Act completed.
The Minister of Justice and I met with the President last night and reviewed areas of concern to her.
She approved. The document has been forwarded to the National legislature. It is expected to be fast tracked”. This email was part of the documentary evidence provided in the Global Witness Report.
Appearing for interview on May 30, 2016, before the Special Task Force, Prof. Belleh provided a written statement in which he denied receiving any money from Cllr. Sherman and also denied that he had been part of any conspiracy as alleged by Global Witness.
With reference to the email of August 5, 2010, he denied being the author of the email which emanated from his email address and account.
He identified and confirmed the email address and account as his, but informed the investigators that his email was hacked at the time although he did not report it at the time.
He also provided a copy of his passport which purportedly shows that he was admitted into New York on June 17, 2010 and returned to Liberia on July 11, 2010.
Cllr. Morris Saytumah, currently Senator of Bomi County and formerly Minister of Economic Legal & Political Affairs at the Ministry of State, was interviewed on May 30, 2016 at the head offices of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC). Senator Saytumah was represented by Cllr. Gloria Musu-Scott, as his legal counsel. Mr. Saytumah, through his legal counsel, gave consent to record the interview.
Cllr. Saytumah was informed on his alleged role in the saga as contained in the Global Witness’ allegation that “on April 26, 2010, as Minister of State for Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs and President Sirleaf’s Representative on Concession Negotiations; he received payment of US $50,000.00 to influence the change of the Revised PPC Act of 2005 and the tender process for mineral concessions in favor of Sable Mining Company, a British Mining Company.”
Cllr. Saytumah responded to the allegation of Global Witness by saying he had never participated in any negotiations for concession in favor of Sable Mining and that at no point in time did he receive any money, directly or directly, from Sherman and Sherman, and Cllr. Varney Sherman.
He further stated that matters related to Sable Mining never came across his desk while he was Minister at the Ministry of State.
Cllr. Saytumah also told the investigation that he was contacted by Global Witness via email on allegation that Cllr. Varney Sherman gave him US $50,000.00, and they were interested in knowing whether the amount was consulting fees. He responded that he did not receive any money from Cllr. Sherman.
He further stated that the only time he represented the President on concession related discussions was on Mineral Development Agreement (MDA), not on mining.
Cllr. Saytumah said although he was aware of the process of revising the Procurement Laws of 2005, he did not think it was done to suit current and future interests of Sable Mining.
He also said that one Mr. Jeff Woods, an expert seconded by the International Senior Lawyers Program (ISLP) based on request from the President, was the representation in his office who shepherded the process of revising the PPCC Act of 2005.
He added that at the time of this process, he (Cllr. Saytumah) was not in the country and in fact had gone to South Africa for medical reasons.
And that while in South Africa the document that emanated from discussions of the amended PPCC Act was emailed to him by Prof. Willie Belleh; however, before his return, the draft document emailed to him by Prof. Belleh was already passed.
He further told the investigators that it was President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that initiated discussions leading to the amendment of the PPCC Act of 2010.
Lands, Mines & Energy – The Corrupt Organization
According to the dossier of evidence, former Lands & Mines Minister, Dr. Eugene Shannon and his deputy for operations, Ernest C.B. Jones, who evidence gathered identified as “Big Boy 1 & 2” respectively as named in the report received US$250,000.00 each from Groves were running the ministry like “racketeering, influenced and corrupt organization” specifically with the transaction and series of transactions with Sable Mining.
While Shannon told the Task Force that he had at no time in his lifetime had transaction or any dealing with Sable Mining, the evidence show that Shannon and Jones on several occasions served as hosts for representatives of Sable Mining who came from South Africa on regular and special flights.