The hopes of Ruling Unity Party Chairman H. Varney Sherman and his law firm and former President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate Cletus Wortorson to keep their bank statements untouchable by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s Special Investigative Taskforce have been dashed as Criminal Court “A” has ordered commercial banks in Monrovia to produce documentary evidence subpoenaed.
But the counsels representing Chairman Sherman – also Senator and his Sherman and Sherman Law Firm and former President Pro Temp Wortorson are not allowing the lower court’s decision to go uncontested. On Monday, 30 May, they separately announced appeals on to the Supreme Court where another legal battle may take place.
Presiding Court “A” Judge J. Boima Kontoe denied trhe motion of Sen. Sherman and Mr. Wortorson, ordering Guaranty Trust Bank, Afriland Bank, Ecobank, Global Bank, United Bank for Africa, International Bank Liberia, Access Bank and Liberian Bank for Development and Investment to produce the subpoenaed documents within 24 hours.
But on the basis of the appeals announced by the lawyers, Judge Kontoe later ordered a stay on the production of these instruments, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court decision. The Taskforce is demanding commercial banks here to produce bank statements of the accused from January 1, 2010 to September 30, 2010 for Sen. Sherman, Sherman and Sherman Inc., Sable Mining, Western Clusters, Delta Mining Consolidated Limited, West Africa Exploration, Morris Saytuma, Sumo Kupee and former Pro Tempore Cletus Wortorson.
Others wanted by the Taskforce include indicted House Speaker Alex Tyler, Rep. Henry Fahnbulleh, former NIC Chairman Richard Tolbert and Chairman Willie Belleh of the PPCC to assist the government’s ongoing investigation into the alleged bribery scandal exposed recently by Global Witness.
Sen. Sherman’s lawyers have, among several things, cited the issue of confidentiality of an individual’s account with a bank as one key reason to dismiss the prosecution’s request to subpoena his bank statement, stressing that each of the subpoenaed banks has his own internal regulations and contract provision with customers, including him.
As for Mr. Wortorson, he contended that the subpoena duces tecum was illegal, irregular and in complete violation of the law and procedures and laws applicable in Liberia because “there is no ongoing [case] in Criminal Court ‘A’.
But the prosecutors counter-argued that when a crime is allegedly committed, the claim of confidentiality cannot be used to protect the commission of the crime, adding that banking information can only be released when lawfully required.
The state said further that the request and subsequent issuance of writ of subpoena duces tecum was consistent with the law and no rights of the accused were violated. This drama at Court “A” is separate from the battle at Criminal Court “C” where prosecutors are rejecting a US$150,000 bond filed in favor of indicted House Speaker J. Alex Tyler and a US$1,500,000 bond filed in favor of Sen. Sherman, Ernest C.B. Jones, a Nigerian national Christopher Onanuga and the controversial Sable Mining that is alleged to have bribed several Liberian officials.
Speaker Tyler, Sen. Sherman, E.C.B. Jones and Onanuga were indicted last week, while other current and past officials face inquiry for alleged bribes received through Mr. Sherman from Sable mining. The U.K.-Based watchdog group – Global Witness, accused them of offering bribes of over US$950,000 to change laws and be awarded the Wologizi mining contract.
Based on assignment, the government’s resistance against Speaker Tyler and Sen. Sherman, E.C.B. Jones and Onanuga’s bonds would be heard at Court “C” to determine the validity of the criminal appearance bonds filed by the indictees.
The prosecution alleged that the bonds filed by the officials through Omega Insurance Company and Sky International Insurance Corporation are insufficient, inadequate, invalid and above all, a product of fraud.
Separately addressing Sen Sherman and his group’s bond, the government claimed that Omega Insurance Company – Surety of the purported US$1,500,000 bond, has failed, having refused and neglected to establish that the amount has been deposited into government depository or a reliable bank.
The prosecution is concerned that there is allegedly not a receipt issued showing the purpose and the amount of the deposit, as well as statement that the amount deposited will be released only upon the written request of the judge as required both by the Civil and Criminal Procedure Laws of Liberia.
The state has raised similar concerns against Speak Tyler’s US$150,000 bond, saying the Surety has not established that the money has been deposited in the government depository or a reliable bank and a receipt issued showing the purpose for the amount deposited.
Besides, the prosecution claimed that the Surety has filed several bonds before the Courts of Liberia undetermined in many criminal matters amounting to over US$440,000.00 just for the period of April 2015 to present.
As such, the prosecution is asking the court to set the bonds aside and re-arrest and imprison Speaker Tyler, Sen. Sherman, E.C.B. Jones, and Onanuga until sufficient and valid bonds are tendered in and approved.
By Winston W. Parley