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Key witness in GW trial leaves Liberia?

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The NewDawn has learnt that a possible key witness in the ongoing Global Witness – prompted bribery trial against Sable Mining and several Liberian officials has flown out of Liberia to Ivory Coast on the indicted company’s helicopter while prosecutors and defense are battling over admitting a foreign witness in the case.

Sources say the man who is said to be of South African descend and only identified as Mark had been the person who allegedly delivered the cash to the indictees that are now facing economic sabotage trial at the Criminal Court “C” in Monrovia.

He is claimed to have wanted to reach prosecutors before his departure from Liberia. Based on claims by U.K. – based watchdog group Global Witness, prosecutors here launched an investigation that resulted to the indictment of past and present Liberian officials that were allegedly bribed in the tune of over US$900,000 to change a concession law in favor of Sable Mining.

The case reached a point of controversy between prosecutors and defense and moved to the Supreme Court after the Criminal Court “C” gave government the authority to secure a foreign witness, Sable Mining Executive Heine Van Niekerk to testify to e-mails introduced as evidence by prosecution.

The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on Monday, 5 June following arguments by prosecution and defense counsels this week in a review of the matter from the lower court.

According to the Criminal Court “C”, both prosecution and defense had agreed at a pre – trial conference that all documentary evidences submitted by prosecution were not objectionable, “except the e-mails, spreadsheets and the Global Witness’ Report”.

But indicted former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler and and former National Investment Commission boss Richard Tolbert later filed a separate objection against marking the e-mails, spreadsheets and Global Witness report as evidence on grounds that the e-mails and spreadsheets were obtained illegally.

But the government here has insisted that the instruments were voluntarily given by Mr. Niekerk under an immunity agreement, and further obtained a notarized affidavit in which Mr. Niekerk is said to have confirmed the contents of the e-mails.

On 20 March, the Court granted the objection in part with modification that the e-mails and spreadsheets be temporarily marked and trial proceeded with, on condition that State witness Niekerk will appear here in court to testify to the e-mails and spreadsheets and be cross – examined.

Concerning conversation referenced in the e-mails between indicted Sen. H. Varney G. Sherman and Klaus Piprik regarding Speaker Tyler’s alleged demand for US$250,000, Court “C” had agreed with defense’s claim that it was a hearsay, though the information was admitted while awaiting Mr. Niekerk to testify.
Both prosecution and defense had exceptions to the Court’s ruling, followed by prosecution’s ten – count motion asking the Court to rescind its judgment on the motion objecting to the e-mails, spreadsheets and Global Witness report.

Prosecution argued that it was inadvertent for the Court to demand that Mr. Niekerk must appear, and further insisted that it was an error for the Court to declare as hearsay, the alleged conversation between Sen. Sherman and Mr. Paprika referencing Mr. Tyler’s alleged demand for US$250,000.

Other indictees in the case including Sen. Sherman, Dr. Eugene Shannon, Ernest C.B. Jones, Nigerian national Christopher Onanuga and Willie Belleh had asked the Court to deny prosecution’s motion for continuance, on grounds that the State had the time to produce its witnesses.

-Othello B. Garblah

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