SABLEBy: R. Joyclyn Wea
At long last, the presiding Judge of Criminal Court “C” Peter Gbeneweleh has ended long standing legal battle between the Government and some past and current members of the National Legislature as well as other public officials.
Judge Gbeneweleh in his forty counts verdict on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 declared the eight indictees to include: former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler, H. Varney Sherman, Richard Tolbert, E. C. B. Jones, Sen. Morris Saytumah, Christopher Onamauga, Eugene and Shannoh, and Willie Belleh as free men after Government Lawyers failed to defend its claim of corrupt malpractices against the indictees.
The Judge asserted that the testimonies presented in Court by prosecution witnesses were all based on hear say and not facts.
Former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler, H. Varney Sherman, Richard Tolbert, E. C. B. Jones, Sen. Morris Saytumah, Christopher Onanuga, Eugene Shannoh, and Willie Belleh were indicted in 2016 by the Government of Liberia through the Grand Jury of Montserrado County after allegedly attempting to change the PPCC Act of 2015 and the Mineral Development Law as well as other Investment Laws of Liberia in favor of a British Company Sable Mining for the Wologisi mountain.
They were jointly charged with multiple offenses ranging from bribery, criminal facilitation, criminal conspiracy, and criminal solicitation, after allegedly receiving US$950,000 dollars from the company. The money was given to influence some lawmakers to grant concession to the company.
Judge Gbeneweleh further maintained that government did not prove the allegation of bribery, criminal facilitation, criminal conspiracy, criminal solicitation as contained in its indictment, noting that the burden of proof rest upon the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubts that the allegation contained in its indictment something which the Government failed to do.
The judge said a key witness in the prosecution case Heine Van Niekerk
failed to come to Liberia to testify . He lives in South Africa.
He is an executive of the company named by the prosecution as a key witness in the case. That he sent key email messages to Cllr. Sherman as receiving the money. Moreover, the the affidavit provided by Niekerk did not meet the requirement of the Hague Convention of 1969, according to the judge.
“Wherefore 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,” Judge Gbeneweleh said.
“Their constitutional and statutory rights are hereby restored with immediate effect,” Presiding Judge Gbeneweleh.
The Judge further took into consideration inconsistencies in the testimonies provided by prosecution witnesses on the cross.
The court also took in to account section 75 of the draft PPCC and Enacted law which government relied on in her indictment and argument before the court.
The court noted that section 75 was included in both the draft PPCC Act and Enacted law as compared to claimed government lawyers that the section 75 was included only in the enacted law to favor the company and part of the draft bill.
Meanwhile, the ruling which was due for 2PM July 30, 2019 was delay for over 2 hours with the judge finally coming in and appealing to the parties for such delay nothing that something beyond his control was responsible for such delay.
The officials were, during the regime of former president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration indicted in 2016 following a report by Global Witness to change the Public Procurement and Concession Commission(PPCC) Act of 2005 to grant a concession the Liberia’s largest mountain, Wologisi, in Lofa county.