Liberia: Reject Solicitor General Nominee, Syrennius Cephus, Global Witness Urges Liberian Senate, Citing Conflict of Interest
London – The London-based watchdog group, Global Witness says Cllr. Syrennius Cephus, President George Manneh Weah’s nomination for Solicitor General of Liberia should be disqualified from holding such influential position due to conflict of interest. “If Cephus has represented Andrew Groves, Global Witness believes this would create a serious conflict of interest that should disqualify him from holding the position of Solicitor General,” the watchdog group said in a statement Monday.
“Global Witness calls on Councilor Cephus to state whether he has represented Groves, now or in the past, in connection with the Sable Mining case. If it is the case that he has, Global Witness also calls upon the Liberian legislature to reject Cephus’s confirmation as Solicitor General.”Global Witness
On June 13, 2019, FrontPageAfrica reported President George Weah had nominated Councilor Cephus to the post of Solicitor General, a position that would give him significant control over Liberia’s criminal prosecutions.
Cephus has acted as defence lawyer for a central figure in Liberia’s largest corruption trial. In 2016, Andrew Groves, as CEO of London AIM listed Sable Mining – was indicted by a Liberian grand jury, accused of bribery and criminal conspiracy. Groves and his co-defendants pleaded not guilty and the trial, which started after a Global Witness investigation, remains ongoing.
Addressing the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism’s weekly press briefing last week, Cllr. Cephus, queried by FPA, said he could not comment on the matter because he had not yet been confirmed to the post. “The question answers itself. When you say you are solicitor general designate you cannot answer that question. So, I cannot say anything about that. If I was Solicitor General, I would be in the position to address that but because I’m not a solicitor general I’m still a designate I cannot respond to anything of that nature.”
On Monday, the watchdog group urged Cllr. Cephus to do the right thing. “Global Witness calls on Councilor Cephus to state whether he has represented Groves, now or in the past, in connection with the Sable Mining case. If it is the case that he has, Global Witness also calls upon the Liberian legislature to reject Cephus’s confirmation as Solicitor General.”
As Mr. Groves’ lawyer, the Solicitor General Designate is on record in an affidavit on behalf of Groves signed by him, in which he is quoted as saying: “The prosecution had come “to the stark realization that neither Sable Mining Africa nor Andrew Groves had any criminal intent.” But in an email to GW, the lawyer was more ambiguous. “Only the prosecution can clarify” why the Nolle Prosequi was filed, he said. “Perhaps a holistic and comprehensive review” had “discovered an error of judgment.”
The SG designate was suspended by the Supreme Court of Liberia from practicing law for three months – – from April 7, 2015 to July 7, 2015 for what the court believes was misconduct while representing his client, did little to dispel concerns many have about his ability to impartially go after the corrupt without fear or favor.
Ironically, Cllr. Cephus’ confirmation is at the mercy of Senator Varney Sherman(UP, Grand Cape Mount), head of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, who is one of the indictees in the Sable bribery saga.