Former and current top Liberian officials have been lineup to resume trial into an economic sabotage case that results from allegation of corruption levied by U.K.-based watchdog group Global Witness.
The case is a fall out from Global Witness’ claims that Sable Mining, also a U.K. – based mining firm, had bribed Liberian officials over US$950,000 to influence change in a concession law that would have favor them to be awarded Mount Wologizi for a mining concession in Lofa County.
Following a Supreme Court mandate in August 2018 instructing the Criminal Court “C” to resume the case, the trial was due to commence on Friday, 14 December but it is not clear why the case did not start.
However, judicial workers had their convention on Friday and all courts were said to be closed, which may have been a possible reason.
Prosecutors took the case to the Supreme Court due to Criminal Court “C” presiding Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisaye’s decision to place temporary marks on some of their documentary evidence that the defendants claimed were hacked.
Former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler, former ruling Unity Party Chair, now Sen. H. Varney G. Sherman and former National Investment Commission Boss Richard Tolbert objected to the evidence, claiming that prosecution obtained them illegally by allegedly “hacking the emails line of Sherman or Sable Mining Africa”.
The case commenced during the last stages of former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s second six years term, but the trial was further delayed in 2017 to allow the conduct of the presidential elections that ushered in President George Manneh Weah’s administration.
The Global Witness case remains a landmark case here that bitterly split the hierarchy of the past regime of Mrs. Sirleaf, as some of her top elected officials including Tyler, Sherman, and many more senior presidential appointees were indicted especially nearing election time.
Judge Gbeisaye had complained in 2017 that the introduction of internet and internet crimes had brought in challenges “for Court”, not only in Liberia but around the world.
“The Court says that the introduction of internet and internet crimes has introduced challenges for Court not only in Liberia but around the world, especially with respect to obtaining witnesses and documentary evidence from other jurisdiction to [another] jurisdiction,” Judge Gbeisaye said in April 2017.
The aspect of internet emerged after prosecution claimed to have secured evidence from witnesses that include emails and spreadsheets in addition to the Global Witness report that accused several Liberian officials and a Nigerian national, Christopher Onanuga.
Prosecutors insist that the emails and spreadsheets were “voluntarily given to the Government of Liberia’s investigating team by Heine Van Niekerk, Sable Mining Executive for West Africa with whom Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman had the series of email exchanges”.
By Winston W. Parley