Search On For ‘Bigboy’ 01 & 02
-Can Presidential Taskforce Decode Them
-Who Are They? Ellen, Boakia Or Who?
Global Witness’ recent damaging report on Liberia in which several officials of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf regime (current and former), including executives of the ruling Unity Party were indicted for the sin of corruption did not only expose how corruption is being perpetrated in the country at the highest level but it also left doubts in the minds of Liberians on the identities of two persons or groups, coded as “Bigboy 1 and 2”.The country has been on edge since the report was released nearly two weeks ago; the failure of the Global Witness to decipher “Bigboy 1&2” has created room for mounting speculation across the country.
Although to some, since the report named the head of the First of Branch of the Liberian Government, House Speaker Alex J. Tyler as one of those who reportedly received bribe from Sable Mining through Cllr. Varney Sherman, National Chair of the ruling Unity Party, those coded as “Bigboy 1&2” could be President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Vice President, Joseph N. Boakai while others believe that “Bigboy 1&2” could be members of the House of Representative and the Senate, prompting the question, “who are they? Ellen, Boakia or who?
However, it is not clear whether the Taskforce appointed by Pres. Sirleaf to investigation the bribery allegation as contained in the UK-based anti-corruption watchdog group’s would be able to discover the mysterious “Bigboys” who reportedly got giant share of the money from sable mining.
The Global Witness exposé released uncovered over US$950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments by the UK mining firm Sable Mining through its Liberian lawyer, Cllr. Varney Sherman. Responding to Global Witness’ findings, the government of Liberia has pledged to investigate and hold those culpable to account.
A presidential Taskforce headed a Liberian veteran lawyer; Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa has already been set up to probe the accused but two of the accused, including House Speaker Tyler and Cllr. Sherman, the man at the center of the alleged bribery imbroglio, have all snubbed the Taskforce and vowed not to appear; House Tyler called for the establishment of an independent body of Government to appear while Cllr. Sherman said, he would not appear before anybody except in the court.
The report, The Deceivers (1), shows how in 2010 Sable hired Varney Sherman, “Liberia’s best-connected lawyer and current Chairman Unity Party in an effort to secure one of Liberia’s last large mining assets, the Wologizi iron ore concession in northern Liberia.
According to the report, Cllr. Sherman told Sable that in order to obtain the contract, the company must first get Liberia’s concessions law changed by bribing senior officials, “according to a source familiar with the discussions”, Global Witness noted. The account is backed up by leaked emails and company documents seen by Global Witness.
According to the documents, Sherman then began distributing Sable’s money to some of Liberia’s most important government officials.
“Sable and Sherman paid bribes in order to change Liberia’s law and get their hands on one of its most prized assets, the Wologizi concession,” said Jonathan Gant, Senior Campaigner with Global Witness. “The government must act fast and investigate Sable, Sherman, and the officials they paid.”
The table below details the bribes listed in an account statement by Sable and Varney Sherman’s law firm, Sherman & Sherman:
According to the report, Speaker Tyler received US$75,00 in bribe; Richard Tolbert, then chairman of the National Investment Commission received US$50,000; Morris Saytuma, then Minister of State for Finance, Economic and Legal Affairs, now Senator of Bomi County received US$50,000.00 and then Chairman of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission, Wliie Belleh also received US$10,000.00.
Global Witness said it also uncovered other payments by Sable to officials and unidentified people referred to as “Bigboy 01” and “Bigboy 02.” While it is not clear why the company made these payments, the report noted that some of those involved are key to approving contracts.
Fombah Sirleaf, son of President Johnson Sirleaf and head of Liberia’s National Security Agency also benefitted from Sable’s largesse.
In 2011, Sirleaf went on a US$7,598 hunting trip to South Africa paid for by Sable, spending over US$1,000 in a gun shop alone. There is no evidence that Sirleaf provided Sable with any favors, although he was clearly a useful person to know, the Global Witness says in the report.
At the time that these payments were made, Sable Mining was headed by British businessmen Phil Edmonds and Andrew Groves.
The Deceivers shows how, in addition to their misadventures in Liberia, the pair have siphoned millions from investors and hired a security agent who spied on and intimidated their business rivals. Details of Edmonds’ wealth are rare, but in 2012 he was reportedly worth some US$14 million.
Despite the company’s corrupt tactics, Sable has not been awarded the Wologizi contract. However, in January 2015, Sable announced that it had received lucrative rights to transport iron ore from its Guinean concession to the Liberian coast on a railroad used by ArcelorMittal. According to Sable the deal will greatly reduce the costs of its Guinean operations. The Liberian government states that it is negotiating with Sable, but has not yet given the company rights to the railroad.
“The Liberian government has pledged to ‘spare no efforts’ investigating Sable’s activities in Liberia and has said. it will ‘bring to justice anyone found to be culpable’.” said Gant. “After recent prosecutions of officials for bribery in the oil and forest sectors, it is time for the government to tackle bribery in the country’s biggest sector, mining.”
Sherman, who has represented investors such as Chevron and Firestone, has also benefitted from his dealings with Sable. A $200,000 payout from Sable’s funds labeled ‘political contribution to UP convention’ is dated 22 April 2010, less than three weeks before a Unity Party conference where Sherman was elected party Chairman.
At the same convention, Unity Party members elected Henry Fahnbulleh as Secretary General. Sherman opposed this and publicly demanded Fahnbulleh’s resignation.
Meanwhile, the Koffa-led Taskforce has started work with report that some of the accused have already appeared, but it is not clear whether the investigative team would be able to demystify the controversial “Bigboy 1 and 2” and if it does, would it be able to disclose to the public the names even if the President or Vice President were identified to be those coded as bigboy 1 ans 2? The nation is watching with much interest.