Both House Speaker Alex Tyler and Senator Varney Sherman remain defiant, insisting that they will not face the board of inquiry investigating the latest bribery scandal here. Several government officials both past and current have been listed by a Global Witness report which alleged that they received bribes to change a mining law here that would have enabled a British Mining Company-Sable to obtain the right to carry out mining activities’ at Liberia’s only remaining treasure, the Wologizi Mountain.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, whose son Fombah Sirleaf has been listed in the report, set up the Special Investigative Taskforce to investigate the damaging allegations made by the Global Witness, but both men say they will not submit to the Investigative Committee which has prosecuting powers.
The Taskforce headed by newly appointed Deputy Minister of State Without Portfolio from the opposition Liberty Party Cllr. Fonati Koffa, told The NewDawn on Thursday evening, 19 May that others accused have appeared while some gave excuses, except for Speaker Tyler, Sen. Sherman and Rep. Boima Fahnbulleh who remain defiant.
The Taskforce says Sen. Sherman has in fact, gone as far as writing the investigative body to suggest that he will not appear, while Speaker Tyler and Rep. Fahnbulleh were equally due to face inquiry on Thursday but did not turn out.
Former National Investment Commission or NIC head Dr. Richard Tolbert appeared with his lawyer on Thursday; the Taskforce says, while Senator Morris Saytumah was said to have given an excuse.
Sen. Sherman, Chairman of the ruling Unity Party then acting as lawyer for Sable was said to have carried along with him a list containing names of individuals, he allegedly bribed on behalf of his clients.
He was said to have spent the amount of US950, 000 in this scandal that is now bringing several officials, himself included into disrepute.
So far, former Senate Protemt Cletus Wotorson, Fombah Sirleaf, former Senator Sumo Kupee, former Deputy Lands Mines and Energy Minister E.C.B. Jones and former Public Procurement and Concession Commission or PPCC Chair, Willie Belleh have appeared. The accused men appeared on Wednesday May 18, before the Foniti Koffa Committee. Sen. Morris Saytumah sent in a written communication on Wednesday.
The Taskforce says if other things emerge along the way, it willinform the public.
Global Witness claimed to have also discovered other payments to unidentified officials only referred to as “Bigboy 01 and Bigboy 02.” In detailing the alleged financial scandal against the officials, Global Witness disclosed that in 2010, Speaker Tyler was given US$75,000 as consulting fees; $50,000 to NIC Boss Richard Tolbert; $50,000 to Morris Saytumah; and Willie Belleh, $10,000, respectively.
Since the report was released, there have been mixed-reactions both by the public and those accused, particularly on the point of some of the officials refusing to submit to the Taskforce set up by the President on claims that the body is not independent.
According to them, the head of the Taskforce is a presidential appointee, even though the government insists that the team has prosecutorial power.
By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne