MONROVIA, Montserrado â€“ Criminal Court C judge Peter Gbenewelleh has ruled in the Sable Mining corruption trial, clearing all eight defendants of their charges.
In 2016, Grand Cape Mountâ€™s Senator Varney Sherman, former House Speaker Alex Tyler, and the former National Investment Commission chairman Richard Tolbert, Bomiâ€™s Senator Morris Saytumah and four others were indicted on charges of economic sabotage, bribery, criminal conspiracy, and criminal solicitation, among others.
The defendants were accused by Global Witness, a U.K.-based corruption watchdog that focuses mostly on investigating exploitations of natural resources, of collaborating to undermine the Public Procurement and Concessions Act to give Sable Mining, also a British company, a non-competitive acquisition of mineral rights over the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa. They had pleaded not guilty.
Following the submission of all legal arguments to the court by the government and lawyers representing the accused, Judge Gbenewelleh handed down his ruling on Tuesday.
â€œWherefore, and in view of the foregoing, the defendants are not guilty of the offenses charged in the indictment; they are hereby discharged from further answering to the multiple offenses charged in the indictment without delay,â€ he said.
The judge also served as jury in the trial. He dismissed the case and announced the immediate restoration of the individualsâ€™ rights and freedoms as free citizens.
Only three of the eight defendants testified in the trial as the remaining five accepted to waive their testimony.
After the ruling, some of the acquitted defendants and their families celebrated the judgeâ€™s decision. A member of the defense counsel, Cyril Jones, had also expressed satisfaction over the verdict.
However, prosecution lawyer Jerry Garlawolo has taken exception to the judgeâ€™s ruling and notified the court of the governmentâ€™s intention to appeal the decision.