Court Fines Corruption Indictees for Ditching Trial on Opening Day

MONROVIA, Montserrado – A judge has imposed a US$200 fine each on seven indictees in the widely publicized Global Witness corruption case.

The fines were imposed following the failure of the accused, who were charged on May 24, 2016, to appear in court on Monday, which marked the opening day of the trial into the case.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in May last year, appointed a special task force to investigate a report from Global Witness accusing some current and former officials of corruption.

The report indicted then Speaker of the House Alex Tyler, Senator Varney Sherman, Senator Cletus Wotorson, and Senator Sumo Kupee.

They were accused of collaborating to undermine the Public Procurement and Concession laws to give the British company Sable Mining a non-competitive acquisition of mineral rights over the Wologizi Mountain in Lofa.

Except for Bomi Senator Morris Saytumah, who was exempted due to the court’s failure to inform his legal team about Monday’s appearance, the remaining co-accused were ordered to pay the amount in government’s revenue before Tuesday, March 7 or risk being arrested.

Among the accused for crimes of economic sabotage, bribery, criminal conspiracy, and criminal solicitation, former House Speaker Alex Tyler and former commissioner of the National Investment Commission, Richard Tolbert, were seen in court, save for the latter who did not appear during the trial.

According to the presiding judge, the indicted defendants are also under obligation to respect the court after notice of assignments were issued to their legal counselors or else they could lose their criminal appearance bonds, as required by law.

The taskforce, chaired by Fonati Koffa as special prosecutor, has since forwarded the names of individuals who it found evidence on for prosecution by the Justice Ministry with Tyler and Sherman are among those named.

[Correction: A previous version of this article referred to Senator Morris Saytumah as a former senator. Saytumah is a current senator.]

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is currently a senior student at the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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