MONROVIA, Montserrado – After President George Weah nominated former speaker of the House of Representatives Alex Tyler as a member of the ArcelorMittal board to represent the government, he immediately withdrew the nomination following complaints from the public.
According to an Executive Mansion press statement dated June 21, the president said a new nomination to replace Tyler would be announced shortly. The withdrawal of Tyler’s nomination came barely two days after the president made several new appointments in government.
While the government provided no reason for the retraction, Tyler’s appointment sparked public outrage, as he was linked in a corruption scandal involving the publicly traded British firm Sable Mining in a Global Witness report.
The former speaker, along with several other government officials was implicated in the corruption scandal. To acquire mining rights to Wologizi Mountain, the report said Sable Mining 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 provided the minister of 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 and one of those officials accused the Global Witness report said he was hired to facilitate Sable’s acquisition of the mineral rights. Consulting fees ranging from US$5,000 to US$75,000 were paid to lawmakers including, Sen. Cletus Wotorson and Sen. Sumo Kupee.
Other officials who allegedly received bribes in exchange for their support of the amendment to the law were Richard Tolbert of the National Investment Commission; Morris Saytumah, former minister of state for finance, economic, and legal affairs; and Ernest Jones, a former deputy minister at the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
Global Witness said it substantiated these allegations in leaked company emails and financial documents from the Sable Mining.
The report also alleged that Sable Mining 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 US$200,000 on April 22, 2010, with the purpose explicitly stated as “Political Contribution – UP Convention.”
The case has gone through many delays, but it is still ongoing.
Featured photo courtesy of the Liberian Legislature