Varney Sherman, Alex Tyler, and Other Government Officials Implicated in Global Witness Report

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Global Witness, a corruption watchdog that focuses on issues related to natural resource exploitation, has released a report implicating several Liberian government officials in a corruption scandal involving the publicly traded British firm Sable Mining.

To acquire mining rights to Wologizi Mountain, the report said Sable successfully paid off lawmakers to add a clause to the Public Procurement and Concessions Act, which was modified in 2010. The portion of the act provides the Minister of Lands Mines and Energy with the discretion to designate specific areas as “non-bidding areas,” which would have allowed Sable to take over Wologizi Mountain without competitors.

Varney Sherman, a senator representing Grand Cape Mount, was hired to facilitate Sable’s acquisition of the mineral rights. Consulting fees ranging from 5,000 to 75,000 were paid to lawmakers including Speaker of the House Alex Tyler, Sen. Cletus Wotorson, and Sen. Sumo Kupee. Other officials who allegedly received bribes in exchange for their support of the amendment to the PPC Act were Richard Tolbert of the National Investment Committee; Morris Saytumah, former Minister of State for Finance, Economic, and Legal Affairs; and Ernest Jones, a Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy.

Global Witness’s press release said it substantiated these allegations in leaked company emails and financial documents from the Sable Mining.

The report also alleged that Sable assisted in Sherman’s rise to the top as Chairman of the ruling Unity Party and also paid for the resignation of Henry Fahnbulleh as Secretary General of the party. Additionally, Sable allegedly provided $200,000 on April 22, 2010, with the purpose explicitly stated as “Political Contribution – UP Convention.”

If proven true, Unity Party’s acceptance of money from a corporation would be a violation of Article 82 of the constitution, which states that “corporate and business organizations and labor unions shall be excluded from making and contribution to the funds or expenses of any political party.”

Eugene L. Nagbe, Liberia’s Minister of Information, has responded to Global Witness’ report by requesting specific information necessary for determining whether Liberian laws have been broken.

“However, we wish to clarify that the government of Liberia has never initiated, commissioned, nor participated in any process for granting a concession of the Wologizi Mountains to Sable,” Nagbe’s letter to Global Witness specified.

He said the president “has no tolerance for any act of corruption and will, therefore, spare no efforts in getting to the bottom of the issue and bring to justice anyone found to be culpable.”

Jefferson is a co-owner of The Bush Chicken. He has a Masters in Transportation Infrastructure and Systems Engineering.

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