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Plot to exonerate defendants?

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Information reaching this paper indicates that there is an ongoing serious lobby to put certain witnesses on the stance in the Sable Mining bribery scandal case that would vindicate defendant Varney Sherman and others.

The news follows the visit of Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe at the criminal court on Friday where three of his former colleagues, defendant Senators Varney Sherman, Morris Saytuma and former House Speaker Alex Tyler have begun testifying in the trial.

Senator Sherman and others are standing trial in an alleged bribery scandal in which several former and present government officials received US950, 000 in bribe money to change a local mining law here in favor of a Sable Mining, a British firm, at least according to a Global Witness report which forms the basis of the trial.

On Friday Justice Nagbe visited the court, something which compelled the trial Judge Peter Gbeneweleh to halt the trial for nearly 25 minutes as they both proceeded in his chambers.

Upon his returned from the Judge’s Chamber, Justice Nagbe wave to the defendants with a smile as he exited the court room.

There are reports that the IT specialist who authenticated the emails sent from defendant Sherman’s computer is also expected to testify, why Senate Secretary NanborlorSingbeh has been subpoenaed to testify before the court, but it’s not clear from which documents he’s going to testify.

The case has gained international attention with some foreign embassies near Monrovia seconding representatives at the trail as there are unconfirmed speculations of efforts to exonerate the defendants. The speculation gained momentum over the weekend following Associate Justice Nagbe’s visit.

On Thursday July 4, former lead prosecutor in the case, now Rep. FonatiKoffa held a press conference in which he clarified some of the allegations made in defendant Sherman’s testimony.
“For three days now, Defendant Senator, Cllr. Varney Sherman has been in a tarry sparring falsehood in an attempt to seek public sentiments in the ongoing Sable Mining prosecution. Cllr. Sherman during those three days made unsubstantiated comments against the high earned reputation of members of the Special Presidential Taskforce tasked with investigating the Global Witness, Sable Mining bribery allegations report linking former and current government officials of government to receiving bribe to award a concession agreement, particularly the Wologizi Mountain range, in Lofa County, observes Cllr. Koffa, who currently heads the House Judiciary Committee.

According to him, he wonders why would Cllr. Sherman be sparring lies and misinformation of the activities and performance of the Special Presidential Taskforce he (Sherman) said, the ‘Presidential Taskforce was nothing but a setup to witch hunt and a money spending team.’

He argued that contrary to Cllr. Sherman’s accusation, his (Sherman’s) indictment along with others grew out of a ‘Global Witness report’, to which none of the members on the special task force or in the Government of Liberia knew about except Cllr. Sherman.

“We will not permit the lies and deception of Cllr. Sherman’s to undermine the credibility of persons with credible credentials to be dented. This case grew up of a Global Witness report alleging systematic allegations of bribery on now defendants, including Cllr. Varney Sherman. We never knew about this Sable Mining Case until it was duly reported but contrary to claims now that we are which hunting him, Cllr. Sherman knew, so then, how can he says the special task force was about to witch hunting him and others? This is complete deception.”

He continues: We are aware that Cllr. Varney Sherman was contacted by British media long before this matter came about through Global Witness, and he refused to comment to the matter. So why is he labeling members of the Special Presidential Taskforce who are only determined to rescue the image of our country by bringing to justice those persons and individuals intending to avert the economic benefits of the entire country for personal gains.”

Commenting on claims that the special presidential taskforce spent US$4.5 million so far in bringing the defendants to justice, Cllr. Koffa says contrary to these assertions, the Taskforce spent US$1.1 million to begin recovering government stolen money and properties, and the process leading to bringing to Justice of now-indicted Cllr. Varney Sherman and others, including former House Speaker Alex Tyler.

“Factual evidence to the involvement of Cllr. Sherman and others were obtained from Cllr. Varney Sherman own email server by Yahoo, his bank accounts showing cancelled checks and new payment checks to him and his comptroller, the BBC report, the British Guardian Newspaper publication, including the Sable Mining Company own files. So tell me, where is the witch-hunt for Cllr. Varney Sherman”? Koffa asks.

Senator Sherman, who is the defendant, is protesting against the exclusion of British mining firm Sable Mining and Andrew Grooves from the economic sabotage trial of top Liberian officials who were allegedly bribed by the company to change concession laws.

“It is not required for a person to be a [rocket] scientist to conclude both the giver of the bribe and receiver are guilty,” Sherman testified Wednesday, 3 July in the economic sabotage trial for alleged US$950,000 bribe offered by Sable Mining for favorable concession laws.

He believes that the trial is “merely a political witch hunt and a vendetta” submitted by former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf, having nolleprosequi (dropped case against) the company and Mr. Grooves who allegedly bribed the defendants in the case.

The defendant, also a lawyer, is one of several top Liberian officials accused by prosecution in the bribery case, with claim particularly against defendant Sherman that as lawyer for the British mining firm, he allegedly inserted Section 75 in the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) Act regarding non – bidding process favoring Sable Mining.By Othello B. Garblah

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