On May 11, 2016, Liberians awoke to the nerve-racking revelation by United Kingdom based natural resource transparency group, Global Witness in its “Deceiver 1” expose naming several top present and former government officials taking bribes from Sable Mining Africa Limited to influence their decision.
According to the watchdog group, Cllr. Varney Sherman led the scheme to bribe these officials considered to be some of Liberia’s most important government officials including House Speaker Alex Tyler who received US$75,000; former Deputy Minister Morris Saytumah, now Senator of Bomi County, US$50,000; Fumba Sirleaf, son of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and National Security Agency Director, US$9,168; former National Investment Commission Chairman, Richard Tolbert, US$50,000 and another US$20,000 was donated to Invincible Eleven- a football club headed by Tolbert. Others who benefited from the dish-out include former Lofa Senator, now Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), Sumo Kupee, US$5,000; former Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Lands and Mines, Ernest C. B. Jones, US$4,500 and “Bigboy1 and Bigboy2 took US$250,000 each. The ruling Unity Party also got US$200,000 from Sable mining’s largesse as “political contribution” resulting to the Liberian lawyer buying his way to the party’s chairmanship. To this end, the Executive Director of the Center for Democratic Governance, Atty. Oscar Bloh has branded the startling disclosure as “shameful, embarrassing and worrisome.” “I have read the report. It is quite damning, worrisome, disturbing and it poses serious question to the integrity of those listed,” the long time civil society activist said when he appeared on Capitol Fm’s breakfast show- “the Capitol Breakfast Club on May 13, 2016. Atty. Bloh said this is not a report marred by speculations as there were some “hard facts” unlike other corruption report. He added that what makes it even more interesting is the fact that there are more smoking guns. According to him, under the Liberian law, bribery is defined as “knowingly giving gifts or money to a person who knowingly accepts that gift or money in consideration of performing an act in your official capacity with the intent to alter existing law” to allow this company to enter a negotiation contract. The civil society activist indicated that what is more interesting about the money allegedly received by these officials is that it is categorized as “consultancy fee”. The Center for Democratic Governance boss maintains that even if those listed in the report claim that they rendered consulting services, it would still amount to “double-dipping” or conflict of interest particularly in the case of House Speaker Alex Tyler who received lion share of the bribe.