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Selling Liberia;Tolbert, Others On The Hook Featured

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The Sable Mining bribery scandal is causing more heads to roll as the Taskforce set to probe the matter and now prosecute those found culpable is leaving no stone out of its dragnet. The Taskforce headed by Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa has released a second batch of indictees with the former Chairman of the National Investment Commission (NIC), Dr. Richard Tolbert named top of the list.

Addressing the Ministry of Information Culture and Tourism (MICAT) special press briefing, Cllr. Koffa said “when President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took over the state of affairs in 2006, there was no plan to sell the country. But evidence gathered during the ongoing investigation points to the fact that this is the largest conspiracy that ever took place in Liberia intended to rip the country’s resources.”Vol 1 No 64 front cover

The Taskforce head told newsmen that he has been given “letter patent” to operate as Special Prosecutor in handling the matter with the support of the Ministry of Justice.
Cllr. Koffa indicated that the taskforce remains committed to ensuring that the case is speedily adjudicated.

According to him, those indicted includes Dr. Richard Tolbert, former chairman of the National Investment Commission, Andrew Groves of Britain and Klause Prek of South Africa, both of whom work for Sable Mining.

He furthered that the taskforce through the government of Liberia has begun the process of working with Interpol to ensure that those indicted are speedily extradited to Liberia for trial in line with international best practice.

He named the chair of Sable Mining London, Phil Edmonds, an unindicted co-conspirator, noting: “based on the evidence obtained by the taskforce his status might change”.
For his part, the Attorney General of Liberia, Cllr. Frederick Cherue said he was turning the case file over to Cllr. Koffa and his team of legal professionals to handle since in fact he needed time to abreast himself with other important issues at the Justice Ministry.

The man sitting atop of the indictees’ list, Tolbert had earlier admitted to receiving US$10,000 from Sable Mining in the presence of Cllr. Varney Sherman as Corporate Social Responsibility to Invincible Eleven (IE) football club which he headed as President at a fundraising program.

The former NIC boss pointed out that no request was made to him beyond that point by the lawyer or any other representative of the company. He also categorically denied the allegation that he took a staggering US$50,000 as bribe from Cllr. Sherman on behalf of Sable Mining Africa Limited.

He argued that the US$10,000 was not bribery but a gift that carried no commitment.

“I have been trying to connect the lines here in this whole bribery thing but I just can’t get it. It is impractical for anyone to think that I will take money as bribe from somebody to influence the change of a law that is not within my domain as Investment Chair,” he said in an exclusive interview.

“Let me also state for the record that an Executive of Sable Mining who was at the public fundraiser for I.E., and he also made a public contribution of $10,000 to the football club as many other individuals and companies; as part of their “Social Corporate Responsibility,” the former National Investment Commission boss said.

Dr. Tolbert asserted that nothing was ever requested from him as basis in exchange for the contributions that were made from Cllr. Sherman or the Sable Mining Executive, adding “the NIC had nothing to do with amendment of the PPCC laws.”

Despite his denial, an Executive of IE told The Capitol Times that it is true that Dr. Tolbert received the money but all did not go to IE as expected.

“Some of the US$50,000 went to IE to cover operational and administrative expenses and the rest was Tolbert’s own cut. We did not have anything to do with that as a club. This is how he was running the club: using our name to raise money from companies through his influence as NIC Chairman,” the IE Executive said on condition of anonymity.

The IE Executive added that some of the money was used to hire a foreign coach from Ghana; buy boots and jerseys for the team and pay players.

He also told this paper that it was agreed as part of the deal that IE would use the logo of Sable Mining on their jersey.

Our highly placed source indicated after his departure from the NIC, Tolbert could no longer get concession companies to lend support to IE obviously because he had no influence over satisfying their interest.

The UK based transparency watchdog organization disclosed that Sable Mining dished out to its Liberian lawyer, Varney Sherman, over US$950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments.

According to the report, Cllr. Sherman who is also Chairman of the ruling Unity Party, told Sable that in order to obtain the contract the company must first try to shortchange Liberia’s concessions law by bribing senior officials. Global Witness indicated that the revelation is backed by leaked emails and company documents. The aim of the bribery scheme was to favor Sable in the bid to award one of Liberia’s last large mining assets, the Wologizi iron ore concession in northern Liberia.
According to the documents, Sherman then began distributing Sable’s money to 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.


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