THE "REAL" DECEIVERS - An Exclusive Investigation by Globe Afrique Media

Introduction

Global Witness investigates and reports on matters of governance in developing countries, but there appears to be no record of a report by Global Witness about good things done by any developing country. Investigations by Global Witness are almost always directed at showing the bad sides of governance of a developing country. Global Witness gets its funding and support by writing reports, such as The Deceivers, about developing countries, especially African countries. Simply stated, to continue to get funding Global Witness must continue to write and publish reports, such as The Deceivers, about African countries; that is a very strong incentive for the writing and publication of The Deceivers.

The Deceivers is not the first report that Global Witness has written about Liberia; it has written several reports on various subjects, including corruption. However, The Deceivers is the first report on Liberia by Global Witness which the Liberian Government has taken sufficiently serious enough to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute those implicated in it. Why is that? The answer is simple; President Sirleaf’s political protagonists (Senator Varney Sherman, Prof. Willie Belleh, and former Speaker Alex Tyler) were implicated in The Deceivers. President Sirleaf has forgotten that these three persons were responsible for the merger of the Liberia Action Party and the Liberia Unification Party with the Unity Party, which made it possible for her to win the 2011 election.

Objectives

The judiciary is one of the most important institutions of a state. Its integrity and independence from political manipulations are the foundations for maintaining the rule of law. Globe Afrique’s objectives were to understand if the case against Liberian persons accused in The Deceivers of committing crimes for which indictments of bribery, economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, criminal solicitation and criminal facilitation were obtained, based on hearsays and violations of privacy laws by Global Witness, were adequate to sustain successful prosecution in Liberia.

Background

Global Witness claims it went to Liberia to investigate before publishing The Deceivers and Global Witness says that its investigators talked to unnamed sources in Liberia before publishing The Deceivers. Global Witness says that the motivation for the bribes by Sable Mining directly and through Senator Varney Sherman was to change the 2005 PPC Act and include Article/Section 75 in the 2010 PPC Act that provides for non-bidding areas for mining so Sable Mining would win the Wologizi Mountain. However, in their visit to Liberia, if any such visit was made, investigators of Global Witness did not talk to former officials of the PPCC, such as Mr. Joseph Neufville, who was Executive Director of the PPCC from January 2006 to February 2009 (when the process leading to the changes of the 2005 PPC Act was started with the issuance of PPCC Regulation 002 in 2007 and the various studies and reports by international experts and the drafting of the 2010 PPC Act).

Liberia's Wologizi Mountains

Incidentally, after leaving the Executive Director position, Mr. Neufville continued to work with the PPCC as a technical advisor from March 2009 to January 2013. Global Witness did not talk to Mr. Joseph Suah, PPCC Director for Administration during those times and who served as Acting PPCC Executive Director from February 2009 until July 2009, when Ms. Peggy Meres was appointed the PPCC Executive Director. Global Witness did not talk to Ms. Meres either even though she was the PPCC Executive Director when the draft of the 2010 PPC Act was completed and when the 2010 PPC Act was enacted into law in September 2010. Global Witness did not talk to persons such as Hon. Sam Russ, a geologist, and lawyer, who served at various times as Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Minister of Lands, Mines, and Energy and was intricately involved in the process of amending the 2005 PPC Act to obtain the 2010 PPC Act. Global Witness did not talk to any member of the PPCC, especially those involved with the amendment of the 2005 PPC Act to get the 2010 PPC Act. Researchers for Global Witness never talked to Liberia’s development partners (USAID (and its GEMAP personnel or experts), EU, UNDP, the World Bank and ISLP), all of whom participated in and assisted in the change of the law. It would also appear that Global Witness does not know about the existence of Dr. J. Christian Ngot Konglo, Mr. Fui Tsikata, Dr. Paul Jourdan, Mr. Jeff Woods and Mr. David Osofu Dortie, each of whom played some part in the drafting of one or more of the following: Regulation No. 002, the Mineral Policy and the 2010 PPC Act; and each of which document led to inclusion of “non-bidding areas” in the 2010 PPC Act. Instead, investigators of Global Witness were interested in mundane things such as the color of the villa in which Senator Sherman has his law offices and the part of Monrovia where that villa is situated. And this is the report on which the Liberian Government is prosecuting the accused persons.

Had Global Witness conducted a good investigation with due diligence, it might not have accused Senator Sherman and former Liberian Government officials of the crimes for which they have been indicted in Liberia.

Interestingly, even though President Sirleaf knows the process through which the 2005 PPC Act was amended to get the 2010 PPC Act and even though she named some of the international organizations which assisted the Liberian Government in drafting the amendment, she elected to appoint the Koffa Commission to investigate and prosecute those Liberians implicated in “The Deceivers”.  And unlike Globe Afrique, Global Witness and the Koffa Commission never interviewed or talked to any of the persons or international organizations who were involved in the amendment of the 2005 PPC Act. Had the Koffa Commission done a thorough and impartial investigation, it would have fairly reported that no bribes were paid by anyone to get the “non-bidding” clauses of Article/Section 75 included in the 2010 PPC Act. But it appears that Counsellor Fonati Koffa merely did what President Sirleaf wanted; and of course, Counsellor Fonati Koffa appeared to have had his score to settle with Senator Varney Sherman for “denying” him the coveted position of Minister of Justice of Liberia.    

There is no evidence to convict the persons accused in The Deceivers beyond all reasonable doubts. Global Witness admitted that it published The Deceivers based on information given by disaffected employees of Sable Mining or any other of the companies owned by Mr. Philippe-Henri Edmonds and Mr. Andrew Groves. In the case of Liberia, Global Witness has not only relied on such disaffected employee(s) but has also relied on hacked emails (admittedly leaked to them), which are not admissible in court as evidence. The Deceivers itself is not admissible in court as evidence, and its writers have shown no inclination to appear in court in Liberia and be cross-examined by the Defense. As stated above, the prosecution of this case is motivated by political vendetta; it is merely a political witch-hunt. Global Witness merely provided the opportunity for that political vendetta to be manifested to the advantage of President Sirleaf.

One can only hope that eventually all the accused will be acquitted, and their reputations will be restored after being sullied by Global Witness, the Koffa Commission, and President Sirleaf. Perhaps the new Liberian government that is elected this year (2017) might consider opening a new investigation, un-tinted by politics, vendetta and witch-hunting. And if this is done, the facts and circumstances of this Report convince us that the new government will abandon the pursuit of this un-meritorious case against the accused and restored to them their reputation, integrity, and credibility. And we urge the new Liberian government, based on this Report, to open a new investigation into the accusations levied against the Liberians accused in “The Deceivers.”

Motivation for Conducting This Investigation

The unwarranted damage by The Deceivers to the reputation and professional careers of Liberians is one of our motivations for conducting this investigation and issuing this Report. We had to find out the veracity of the allegations contained in The Deceivers and the Koffa Commission’s Special Presidential Taskforce on the Global Witness’ Report dated December 23, 2016, and the indictments obtained by the Koffa Commission against the Liberians accused in The Deceivers.

For example, Senator Varney Sherman is known to be one of Liberia’s most well-known persons, both in politics and the legal profession; he is believed to be a person of good character, honesty, and integrity. It appears The Deceivers is on a path to destroy all of that. Then there is Dr. Eugene Shannon, a geologist and Liberia’s only petrologist and Dr. Richard Tolbert, a former Wall Street investment banker, both of whom before the publication of The Deceivers were deemed to be reputable professionals with successful consulting firms in Liberia. There is Prof. Willie Belleh, one of Liberia’s foremost management and project consultants, founding partner of ZubahBelleh Associates, a successful consulting firm in existence for more than 25 years; he is formerly the Dean of the Horton Business School at the University of Liberia. And The Deceivers is about to destroy the reputation and integrity he has built over the years. And there is Mr. ECB Jones, whose professional career and reputation were above reproach before the publication of The Deceivers and he is about to be destroyed. And we can go on and on talking about the good character and impeccable reputation of all those Liberians accused in The Deceivers.

Another reason for conducting the investigation and issuing this Report is that the media (print and electronic), it appears, was co-opted by the Koffa Commission and they have written adversely about the accused persons; it seems that they published only what the Koffa Commission wanted to be said to the Liberian public. Perhaps, the Liberian media assumed that posture because Senator Sherman had publicly announced that he would not talk about The Deceivers in the press but would defend himself in court. Perhaps there is another reason why the media only carried what the Koffa Commission said and even failed to carry the dismal prosecution that the Koffa Commission lawyers and witnesses conducted in the aborted trial.

Having dumped The Deceivers on a gullible Liberian public that was already angry about corruption in Liberia and giving the “piling up” the media was conducting, it was necessary for an independent third party to consider The Deceivers and try to investigate and evaluate its contents.

Then there are Liberian Government officials and Liberia’s development partners who know all about the process through which the 2005 PPC Act was amended to obtain the 2010 PPC Act and who know that Senator Sherman and Sable Mining did not influence and could not have influenced the change of the 2005 PPC Act to provide for “non-bidding areas” in the 2010 PPC Act. None of them is saying anything to the contrary of what The Deceivers have said and against what the Liberian Government is doing. Some of these Liberian Government officials are still in President Sirleaf’s Government; some are out of President Sirleaf’s Government, but all are concerned about what President Sirleaf might do to them if they were to say anything. This “culture of silence” will be inimical to any defense that the accused persons might interpose at the trial. Somebody independent needed to investigate and issue this Report.

Then not being strangers to Liberia and its procurement and concession processes during President Sirleaf’s first term of office, we had our suspicions about the veracity of The Deceivers. How can such significant structural changes in the laws of Liberia and the procurement and concession process be made through bribery of Liberia Government officials and without all of Liberia’s development partners at the time being involved with it? We knew about USAID and its Governance and Economic Assistance Program (GEMAP) for Liberia, especially its Recommendations for Class C Mining Regulations and Their Implementation and Future Amendments to the Mining and Mineral Act in Liberia (April 2010), and the many consultants USAID had working with various agencies of the Liberian Government (e.g. the PPCC and the MLME). We knew about the involvement of the EU and UNDP and World Bank and the ISLP, the latter being involved in all negotiations for concessions and the drafting of new laws and agreements. How could this structural change of adding “non-bidding areas” to the PPC Act be done without their involvement? For reasons unknown to Globe Afrique, none of them has made any representation to the Liberian Government or the Liberian public to stop what appears is a witch hunt of the President’s critics and adversaries.

Then the callous and whimsical way in which President Sirleaf handled The Deceivers (referring it to Counsellor Fonati Koffa to investigate and prosecute those implicated in it), without any reference to the National Chairman of her political party (Senator Varney Sherman) is another reason why we became interested in investigating The Deceivers and the motivation for the prosecution of the Liberians implicated in it. When Senator Sherman said on the “Bumper Show”, a talk show on Liberia’s national radio station (the ELBS) that President Sirleaf had not contacted him about The Deceivers since it was published, President Sirleaf said when she was informed about the pending release of The Deceivers she alerted Senator Sherman by text through Mrs. Euphemia Brewer-Fasama, her Executive Assistant. President Sirleaf also said that when she did not get a response, she assumed that Senator Sherman did not feel that there was need for collaborative effort.[1] Seriously??? In addition to several telephone numbers which President Sirleaf had or has for Senator Sherman, she had or has two email addresses for him (varneysherman@gmail.com and shermanlawliberia@gmail.com). Her offices are a stone-throw away from Senator Sherman’s offices at the Capitol Building, which she has personally visited on at least one occasion. Then there are Senator Sherman’s offices at the law firm (R. Fole Sherman Law Building) and his home in Congo Town, Monrovia – both of which are well-known to President Sirleaf. What real efforts, if any, were made by President Sirleaf to contact Senator Sherman before Global Witness issued The Deceivers to the world?

Then there is the ruling of the Theft Court on Senator’s Sherman’s motion to dismiss the prosecution for the reason of time limitation.[2] His lawyers submitted that the case against him was time-barred because the offenses were claimed to have been committed in 2010 and indictments were obtained in 2016; under Liberian law, the prosecution should have commenced within five (5) years. Judge Emery Paye looked at clear and convincing evidence of the statute of limitation and ruled that the motion to dismiss contained mixed issues of law and fact and so the accused should go to trial.

Then there is the certiorari proceeding before Associate Justice Banks. Judge Yamie Gbessay had ruled that the Prosecution should present witnesses to testify to the contents of The Deceivers and the emails allegedly exchanged between Sable Mining and Senator Sherman, especially when Senator Sherman had claimed that the Yahoo account for Sherman & Sherman had been hacked and those emails doctored. Judge Gbessay ruled that the accused have the right to cross-examine the writers of The Deceivers and the alleged writers or presenters of emails allegedly exchanged between Sable Mining and Senator Sherman. Those documents by themselves constitute hearsay and not admissible in evidence, and Judge Gbessay ruled that until such time that the Prosecution presented witnesses to testify to the existence and contents of those documents, he would not mark and admit them into evidence. Associate Justice Banks overruled Judge Gbessay by merely saying that the court should not control how the Prosecution presents its evidence. We think that it is the function and role of the court – to control in keeping with law what evidence should be allowed at a trial.

Also, the mere fact that the Koffa Commission brought to Liberia Mr. Paul O’Sullivan, a South African con artist, who knows nothing about the case against the accused persons, to testify at the aborted trial for the prosecution, aroused Globe Afrique’s skepticisms. Worse still is that Mr. O’Sullivan surreptitiously left Liberia after a few Liberian newspapers exposed his character, but the Liberian newspapers never reported on the implications of the Koffa Commission trying to get a character like Mr. O’Sullivan to testify for the prosecution in the aborted trial. Certainly, this was an additional reason and a huge incentive for independent researchers to delve into Global Witness and its report, The Deceivers, and to explore the veracity of its allegations and claims against the accused persons.

Globe Afrique believes that it has given an objective version of the story. The organization hopes that those who might be interested in this matter will take a closer look at it and make their judgments, not a judgment based on The Deceivers alone or what the Koffa Commission has had the media carry over the past months. More importantly, we hope that justice will be served, and the huge evidence presented by this Report will be useful to the accused in their trial whenever it resumes. Finally, we also hope that this Report will restore to the accused their reputations, which have been damaged by The Deceivers.

THE "REAL" DECEIVERS - An Exclusive Investigation by Globe Afrique Media