Sable Mining Trial is Test Case For Weah, Judiciary


President George Weah’s anti-corruption credential and the credibility of the country’s judiciary will be put to test on Thursday when Criminal Court “C” judge   Peter W. Gbenewelehin deliver his ruling in the landmark Sable Mining bribery case involving top Liberian politicians.

Three years after governance watchdog Global witness released a report detailing official sanctioned conspiracy and desire to sell one of Liberia’s remaining virgin mineral deposits, prosecutors and defense counsels concluded final arguments on Monday July 22.

Global Witness in its May 2016 report, “The Deceivers,” shows how in 2010, Cllr. Varney Sharman then the ex ruling Unity Party Chairman 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 and legislators. The law was eventually amended and restated. Nearly a million dollar changed hands in the process according to available records.

Then president Ellen Johnson acted with speed to bring the accused – Senator Varney G. Sherman, E. C. B. Jones, Christopher Onanuga,  former Speaker Alex Tyler, Sable Mining, Dr. Richard Tolbert, Andrew Grooves, Klaus Piprek, Dr. Eugene Shannon, Senator Morris Saytumah and Professor Willie Belleh to justice.

For the past three years they have been fighting in court to clear their names against multiple criminal offences including bribery, economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, criminal solicitation and criminal facilitation

On the back of local and international criticism and condemnations that the Liberian judiciary is corrupt and judgment are put on sale, the decisive moment in the trial has arrived as Judge Gbenewelehin prepares for the verdict.

So, on Tuesday July 30, the cameras will again be on Liberia as the world watches for a outcome that would no doubt present the impression that the country has recorded gains or not with respect to administrating fair and transparent justice.

It goes without saying that a ruling that will smear with bias and corruption will further taint the country’s reputation as a rogue nation that careless about fighting and eliminating theft of national resources.

As it stands, a not guilty verdict would mean defeat for the Republic of Liberia, Governance Watchdog Global Witness and whistleblowers who in the quest for justice brought to light a high profile theft of national resources. It will also mean painful defeat for the more than 3,000,000 Liberians that are living in poverty due to the effect of official corruption.

Whatever the Judge’s reading of the case is, it is our opinion that bank Statements and E-mails of the accused party admitted into evidence are the best evidence in the Sable Mining Case.

The bank statements are the most appropriate and reliable sources of evidence because it is not prepared by the prosecution, defense and the judge, but an independent third party, hence its validity. The email, too, is an unswerving evidential document because it is the making of the accused officials.

The emails and spreadsheets, which the state has presented as evidence, show how the officials including former House Speaker Alex Tyler committed the crime of bribery.  One email conversation, which a prosecuting attorney read in open court alleges ex speaker Tyler requested US$250,000 for the collective of members of the legislature but co-defendant Senator Varney Sherman objected to Tyler’s proposal on grounds that the Bomi County lawmaker does not have control over the Senate therefore he should be given US$75,000.

The reliability of emails has not been contested. The content has not been refuted. Instead defense lawyers only defense are that they were obtained in violation of the accused officials privacy rights and the right against illegal search and seizure.

The state has said the emails and spreadsheets were not hijacked but legally obtained from two recipients of the emails in person of Heine Van Niekerk and Paul O’Sullivan. Prosecutors displayed an affidavit indicating Van Niekerk and O’sullivan expressed authorization. What much more is evidence than what one said he did? The Supreme Court acknowledged this explanation with its approval of the email evidence.

This trial is no doubt a landmark case. Its outcome will set a good or bad precedent for many years with respective impact on the country and its people. The facts in the case must determine the judgment.