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Civil Society Network decries court ruling

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The National Civil Society Network of Liberia (NCSNL) is alarmed by the final ruling of July 30, 2019 pronounced by Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh of which ensued out of a Global Witness Expose titled “The Deceiver” and published in 2016 alleging that the mining company of British origin, through its legal representation in Sherman & Sherman law firm, pursued the altering of the PPCC laws of 2005, of Liberia in order to obtain undue and exclusive rights to mine the Wologisi Mount in Lofa County.

The National Civil Society Network of Liberia (NCSNL) says it views with dismay the ruling by Criminal Court C in the Sable Mining bribery case which acquits all defendants, including former Speaker Alex J. Tyler and Senator Varney G. Sherman of Grand Cape County in the face of cogent material and circumstantial evidences, substantial and capable enough to convict them.
In a press release, the NCSNL says the actions of the defendants, as brought forth by the international whistleblower Global Witness and portrayed by the argument of substance of the prosecution over the periods of trial represent clear bribery of public officials through influence peddling.

“The admittance, by the Supreme Court over turned ruling of the trial court rejection of key documentary materials as prayed for by the prosecution, as evidence of weight appertaining the Emails and spreadsheet received from influential sources attached to the Sable Mining Company, and the presentation by the prosecution of credible witnesses to include Marc N. Kollie then prosecutor of the Liberia Anti-Corruption (LACC) amongst other things signaled light in the tunnel and a welcoming prospect for the rule of law and the war on corruption, but the ruling brought down by Judge Peter Gbeneweleh, which was greeted by a mammoth applaud from persons sympathizing with some of the defendants on trial further darkened the cloud for persons favoring end to corrupt practices by application of the rule of law”, the release reads.

According to the NCSNL, Tuesday’s (July 30th) ruling represents a “Sad Day” not only for the rule of law, but further strengthens and validates rampant public perception that the nation’s courts are venues where justice is for the wealthy few.

“We strongly believe that whereas we currently struggle with an economy that is fast falling into the irrecoverable abyss to the displeasure and detriment of the masses of Liberia, the effective and efficient hearing and disposition of cases of great importance to the court’s integrity as the bulwark of justice is one important means by which we can attract or maintain international business partners and save our economy, but are taken aback by the blatant disregard of the judicial system of this pivotal fact.”

The group notes that during the trial, emails and other documents of indicting nature whose sources bore the DNA of person of intimacy to the accused were brought on display by the prosecution but failed to pass as important materials to sustain the indictment against the accused and culminate into their conviction, saying, “It beats our imagination that even though in an instance in open court when an email containing conversation between erstwhile speaker Alex J. Tyler and authorized sources of the company, it was detailed that then speaker Tyler requested for US$250,000 for the collective members of the legislature when co- Defendant Cllr. Varney G. Sherman objected on ground that Hon. Tyler sway was limited to only the House as such would only receive US$75,000, yet the judge treated this instrument of substance with neglect in giving a verdict which slurs the integrity and conscience of the court to our disdain.”

NCSNL continues that as an institution fronting for respect for the rule of law, it feels that the conclusion of this important case is a farce, burdening the conscience of justice.

“Let it be made clear that as a matter of crucial importance to us based on this case’s significance to the avowed fight against corruption in public office, we have religiously lent our attention to this trial as of its inception in 2016 but have become thrown into disbelief by the final outcome which contravenes our confidence that by this ruling the defendants will be made to endure the consequences of their conspiratorial deeds to circumvent the due diligence of the law, defraud the Liberian people of just benefits by taking an advantage in such lucrative space as the mining of the Wologisi Mountain with unjustified ease.”

It describes said actions a grave criminal scheme that meets every requirement for criminal conviction, hence the contrary “our serious mental disgust.”

The Civil Society Network says it holds strongly the opinion that the failure of the various banking institutions subpoenaed to submit elaborate records of financial transactions appertaining the accused heavily played in Tuesday’s ruling to the unmerited benefit of the accused.

The court ruled here Tuesday, acquitting several Liberian officials and a Nigerian national indicted in 2016 on account of a Global Witness’ claim of receiving bribes offered by British firm Sable Mining for a concession contract.

Supporters of former House Speaker Alex Tyler, Grand Cape Mount County Sen. Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman, Bomi Sen. Morris Saytumah, former Mines Minister Eugene Shannon, E.C.B. Jones, Dr. Richard Tolbert, Willie Belleh and Nigerian national Christopher Onanuga flooded Criminal Court “C,” interrupting the ruling with cheers on Tuesday, 30 July.

Key contentions in prosecution’s argument include claims that Sable Mining gave bribes totaling US$950,000 to Liberian officials including lawmakers to insert Section 75 in the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) Draft Act to give the company undue advantage over mineral deposits at the Wologisi Mountain in Lofa. Press Release

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