Government’s Dark Heart: How the ‘Big Boys’ Committed the US$950K ‘Bribery’

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By Festus Poquie

Top sitting government officials, a foreign company and a Liberian businessman are now facing justice for designing and executing a grand ‘criminal strategy” to enrich themselves and defraud the nation and its people.

The Special Presidential Task Force probing the Global Witness (GW) corruption report involving current and former officials of government, Wednesday unveiled a criminal indictment against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former Lands, Mines & Energy deputy minister for their alleged active role in the bribery yarn.

Global Witness in its report, “The Deceivers ”, shows how in 2010, Cllr. Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mount County Senator) hired as lawyer for the UK based Sable Mining told the firm that in order to easily obtain the contract for the Wologisi Mountain in Lofa County, the company must first get Liberia’s concessions law changed by bribing senior officials.

Senator Varney Sherman,  House Speaker Alex Tyler, Businessman Christopher Onanuga, Sable Mining Inc.- a British firm  and former Deputy Minister of Lands, Mines & Energy, Mr. ECB Jones are the people prosecutors at the moment believe bear the greatest responsibility for the commission of a felonious crime against the Republic of Liberia. They are facing the following charges: Bribery, Criminal Conspiracy, Economic Sabotage and Criminal Facilitation.

“We are now in the prosecutorial stage and we are going to proceed with the prosecution as planned.

“We would pursue this matter to the fullest. We are not going to leave any stone unturned to redeem the image of the country,” Cllr. Fonati Koffa said in a press statement.

How the men committed the ‘crime’?

The latest indictment from the Montserrado County Special Grand Jury has exposed government’s dark heart with specific emphasis on how elected and appointed officials abused and commercialized their offices for financial gains against the state’s interest.

The Grand Jurors and Montserrado County Attorney Daku Mulbah, who is the Special Prosecutor in the case are convinced in their indictment that the officials used a “criminal strategy” to request and receive money from Sable to perform their assigned duties.

The indictment said “That at intervening times during and between the period2010 to 2011 or thereabout in the City of Monrovia the defendants as a team through various communications and each being strategically placed in various positions in government within the Republic of Liberia with the support of Sable Mining did criminally strategize and purposely, willfully and intentionally request and was given more than US$900,000 to perform their official duties;

“Co-defendant Ernest C.B. Jones, Deputy Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy at the time requested and received United States Dollars Five Thousand (US$5,000.00) for providing the technical advice for the alteration of the law and Co-defendant Alex Tyler requested and received the amount of United States Dollars Seventy Five Thousand (US75,000.00) for conducting the smooth passage of the amended Procurement and Concession law containing the provision for the Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy to have the power to declare a concession area a “non bidding area” (Article 75 of the Amended PPCC Act) so as to create ease for the awarding of the concession agreement on the Wologizi mines.

In September 2010, Liberia’s concession law was eventually changed and given a new title: The Amendment and Restatement of the Public Procurement and Concession Act, 2005.