Sable-gate Eight Plead Innocent

Sen. Varney Sherman declaring his innocence before his supporters

By Joe Teh

In 2010, Sable Mining, a British company, wanted a concession operation in Liberia. But it appears the company was short on meeting the legal requirements for the contract.

In order to meet the requirements, the company sought the help of the Sherman and Sherman law firm, a popular and powerful local group of attorneys, who allegedly advised that Sable offer bribery to key actors in government for some changes to be made in the mining law so Sable would meet the qualification, according to published reports by Global Witness.

So Sable reportedly offered $950,000.00, which Varney Sherman allegedly shared amongst the Speaker of the Legislature, Alex Tyler, the then Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Dr. Eugene Shannon and his deputy, E.C.B Jones; Professor Willie Belleh of the Public Procurement Commission; former Lofa County Senator, Sumo Kupee; Former National Investment Commission chair Richard Tolbert; Chris Onanuga; former Grand Kru Senator Cletus Wotorson; and senator Morris Saytumah, who was then Minister of State.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, upon seeing the Global Witness report reacted swiftly with the commissioning of an inquiry board to look into the allegations.

Following a brief investigation, the inquiry commission brought criminal charges against the accused through the Justice Ministry; which led to the indictment of the eight officials.

All eight of the accused known as the Sable-gate eight, were indicted last year but the trial had been slowed to start.

Last Thursday, the long-delayed trial finally took off in Monrovia, at the Criminal Court C. All eight-pleaded innocent to the charges and waived their rights to a jury trial.

The opening of the case put to rest fears that prosecutors lacked the evidence to proceed with the hearing.

The Liberian government seems robust in the lineup of its witnesses, some of whom have begun testifying.

This case sets high public expectation as to the Liberian government’s ability to successfully prosecute the accused, all of whom are high profile public officials.

All eyes are watching the trial because this isn’t the first indictment of government officials on corruption charges. Several previous trials went in the defendants’ favor. But in this case, the accused are all top-ranking officials who are famous and command enormous power.

Government investigators are focusing on email exchanges amongst the accused and Sable Mining corporate executives as well as 25 professional witnesses in the employment of Sable Mining and the government agencies involved to prove their case.

In the absence of jury, Judge Yarmie Gbeisay is now burdened with the challenge to demonstrate the independence of the judiciary by how he conducts himself during the trial. The image of the judiciary has been tarnished in the past for corrupt judgments.

 

 

Filed in: Breaking

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