Barely three weeks after the establishment of a Taskforce to probe allegation of bribery contained in the May 11, 2016 Global Witness “Deceiver 1” expose’, the Taskforce headed by former Liberty Party Chairman, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa is tumbling down a dead path midway into the process at a “turning over ceremony” dubbed “special press conference” held at the Ministry of Information Culture and Tourism (MICAT) yesterday.
Before yesterday’s organized turning over ceremony, The Capitol Times had reliably gathered that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was mounting pressure on Cllr. Koffa to dilute the exuberance with which he was handling the matter because according to our source, close friends of the Liberian leader were fronting to ensure that certain individuals named in the damning report do not face prosecution. “The taskforce has indicted at least four individuals, one corporation, interviewed more than twelve witnesses in Liberia and abroad, review more than 700 pages of documentary evidence. Now that we have gotten to a point at the level of the taskforce where the statutory agencies can fully pickup their respective roles individually and independently even though they were working under this multi-agency arrangement, it is time for the Ministry of State to take its usually supporting role because we have begun active prosecution,” Cllr. Koffa told the news conference. According to him, what he will be doing now is to assist the Ministry of Justice in compiling evidence in preparation for prosecution so as to obtain favorable judgment for the state. The Minister of State without Portfolio and Chairman on the Special Presidential Task Force Cllr. Koffa however states that the decision does not suggest that the Task Force is no longer interested in the case. Cllr. Koffa told a joint press conference at the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) on Thursday June 2, 2016 that he still remains a special prosecutor of the state. “I still have prosecutorial powers. I am a special prosecutor. I have been granted a Letter Patent by the Ministry of Justice. So to the extent that I am needed to prosecute any aspect of the Global Witness report, we will be there to prosecute,” Minister Koffa said. Meanwhile, the Task Force notes that it would now commence compliance screening of all audit reports submitted by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) which are not currently being investigated by the LACC or prosecuted by the Ministry of Justice. “Our role is not to investigate and prosecute the GAC report. Our role at this point, is to do compliance screening assisting the GAC, ensuring that answers to the questions that were left unanswered are resolved. If we find improprieties, we will refer those to the LACC,” the Task Force Chairman clarified. For his part, Justice Minister, Cllr. Frederick Cherue said he has not seen the indictment to know what it contains and that he will looking to the head of the Taskforce to help in that regard. Legal minds have brushed the so-called “turning over ceremony” aside on grounds that the Fonati led Taskforce has already gone to court under the Ministry of Justice through the County Attorney of Montserrado, Cllr. Daku Mulbah. “The press conference was just another burial ceremony of this whole Global Witness saga because there are many missteps and friendship ventures,” an anonymous legal pundit told The Capitol Times. Interestingly too, the mantle to prosecute has been handed over to Cllr. Cherue, a man with close connections with Cllr. Varney Sherman who is at the center of the bribery scandal. As a proof of the pair close ties, Cllr. Sherman is said to have recused himself from presiding over Cllr. Cherue’s confirmation hearing as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary due to their close relationship. At the moment, the daughter of the new Justice Minister is serving as Special Assistant to Cllr. Sherman. The closeness of these gentlemen has brought the credibility of the prosecutorial aspect of the Global Witness bribery saga into serious independence crisis. The Liberian Attorney General has however stressed his preparedness to go beyond friendship in the discharge of his duties. The tripartite body which has been investigating the Global Witness corruption report linking current and former officials of government has submitted the case files to the Ministry of Justice to serve as lead Prosecutor in the matter.