By Reuben Sei Waylaun
The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) wants Cllr., Senator Varney Sherman thoroughly investigated over what it calls a “damning report issued by the United States Department of Treasury, designating perpetrators of corruption and serious human rights abuses, especially in Liberia.”
The Grand Cape Mount County Senator, was listed as a government official being either responsible for or complicit in, or directly or indirectly engaged in corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery. CENTAL recalls that the report stated that Senator Sherman offered bribes to multiple judges associated with his trial for the 2010 Sable Mining bribery scheme, and that he had an undisclosed conflict of interest with the judge who ultimately returned a not guilty verdict in July 2019.
It is further asserted that the Senator routinely paid judges to decide cases in his favor, and allegedly facilitated payments to Liberian politicians to support impeachment of a judge who has ruled against him.
“As a consequence of this designation, Cllr. Sherman has been sanctioned with implications to property interests and transactions in the United States,” the statement said.
In a statement, CENTAL recounted that the report is coming only three (3) months after the United States Department of State publicly designated Mr. Andrew Wonplo, former Director of Passport and Visas at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for involvement in significant corruption. According to the Department of State, in his official capacity at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2018 to 2019, Mr. Wonplo was involved in passport fraud that undermined the rule of law, reduced the Liberian public’s faith in their government’s management of identification and travel documents, and compromised the integrity and security of immigration processes.
“Taken together, a strange parallel can be drawn from the Sherman-Wonplo scenario. Both men had been arrested on corruption-related charges and processed through our justice system. Sherman’s case was dismissed because, according the Judge, the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt as stated in the indictment, and that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses were nothing but “hearsay,” CENTAL further said.
The integrity institution further said “Wonplo’s case, however, was dismissed due to failure by the prosecution team at the Ministry of Justice to prosecute the matter. In spite of these happenings, nonetheless, the United States government continues to raise red flags concerning acts of corruption in Liberia and the vulnerabilities of our justice system.”
“We welcome the actions of the United States as a step in the right direction, as it has the proclivity to move state actors to take concrete actions against corruption, including but not limited to increasing public awareness of the dangers of corruption, strengthening legal frameworks (laws, policies, and institutions) to fight against it as well as timely and impartial prosecution of accused corrupt individuals. For instance, a new indictment was issued for Mr. Andrew Wonplo following the action of the U.S. Government. While we believe that such knee-jerk reactions by the Liberian government does little to demonstrate sincerity in the fight against corruption, we are convinced that recent measures by the U.S. Government and other partners are doing well to send a very strong message and deterrent to those occupying positions of trust and responsibility, especially those manning our justice system,” the integrity organization added.
The organization also said “Furthermore, we call on the Government of Liberia, especially the Judiciary, to investigate reported payment and receipt of bribe by Judges in the case involving Cllr. Varney Sherman. Such grave report and allegation should not be taken lightly by the administration, in the wake of appropriate initial actions by our partners. Such reported judicial corruption, especially in the Sable Mining Case, undermines its enviable position of independence, fairness, and upholding of the rule of law. These actions also violate the Judicial canons and the code of moral and professional ethics of lawyers.”
“Also, we call on the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to investigate reports of corruption and bribery involving Cllr. Sherman and members of the national Legislature in respect of the impeachment of Justice Kabina J’aneh. Finally, we reiterate call for increased moral and financial support to public integrity institutions to enable them independently and effectively operate. Also, we call for increased citizens’ engagement with the fight corruption in the country as well as the independent civil society and the media that are critical players,” the statement concluded.