Monrovia — Wrapped in series of contradictions over the subpoenaed return checks from International Bank Liberia Limited (IB Bank), there are fears that the checks that were once reported missing by the bank but submitted to the court last Wednesday are not genuine.
IB Bank was the only bank to object to the Writ of Subpoena Tuces Decum when it was ordered and served on several commercial banks, arguing that it could not release the documents because there was no case before the court for which the documents were subpoenaed. That was in June 2016.
Upon a second subpoena, the banks surrendered the documents which were mostly statements of accounts belonging to Sherman & Sherman Law Firm.
Prosecution lawyers built interest in the statement of account of Sherman & Sherman Law Firm after Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman told reporters in May 2016 that he provided legal services for Sable Mining and everything he did for Sable Mining was within the confines of the law.
“I am a professional lawyer and whatever I and/or Sherman & Sherman did or did not do for Sable Mining, we did in our capacity as their lawyers.
Consequently, I and Sherman & Sherman are prohibited by law and the Liberian Constitution from divulging to anyone what we did for Sable Mining or did not do for Sable Mining when we served as their lawyers in Liberia in 2010.
Our code of professional ethics and the Liberian Constitution prohibits us from making any such disclosures and we will subscribe to those tenets even if we were to be taken to the gallows to be hanged; this is the standard of legal professionalism we took an Oath to uphold and we shall uphold it forever,” Sherman told reporters in his first major press conference when the Global Witness The Deceivers report was released.
Among key evidences relied upon by Global Witness to confidently point accusing fingers to a host of government officials, both past and present, was leaked spreadsheet emailed by Sherman to executives of Sable Mining explaining how funds transferred by the company to Sherman & Sherman account were utilized for the smooth attainment of the iron ore rich Wologizi Mountains as a non-bidding concession area.
A careful comparison of the spreadsheet which was titled “Sable Mining Account – One Eyes Only, One Copy Only” to the statement of account released by the banks especially that of IB Bank, there is much reason to believe that that the leaked spreadsheet and the accusations that accompany it may, to a larger extent be true.
The spreadsheet indicated that Sable Mining, through Cllr. Sherman, paid US$200,000 as political contribution to the Unity Party convention.
The account statement of Sherman & Sherman corroborates this wherein it is indicated on the statement that on April 22, 2010, there was an in-house transfer of US$200,000 on check# 001740.
The statement of Sable Mining’s Account with Sherman & Sherman indicated that on April 23, 2010, payment of US$50,000 was made to Richard Tolbert and Sherman & Sherman’s statement shows that US$50,000 was withdrawn from their account on the same date.
Said payment was paid through check #001743 – one of the very checks that could not be located by the bank when it was subpoenaed.
While on the witness box to defend issues surrounding the checks, Cllr. Sherman told the court under oath that he at no point in time ever gave Mr. Tolbert any money for any reason.
The spreadsheet further shows that US$50,000 was paid to Morris Saytumah on April 26, 2010 at which time he served as Minister of State for Legal and Economic Affairs.
The IB Bank statement shows clearly that on said date, a withdrawal of US$500,000 was withdrawn from the account via check#001746.
The spreadsheet shows that on August 25, 2010, a payment of US$75,000 was made for the facilitation of the Revised PPCC Act.
This payment is believed to have been made to Co-defendant J. Alex Tyler when he served as Speaker of the House.
It reflects on the statement of account check withdrawal, check#001792 in the amount of US$75,000 on August 25, 2010.
IB Bank’s Rhetoric
In order to establish its case beyond reasonable doubt, the prosecution requested 26 pieces of returned or scanned checks in order to ascertain which payments mentioned in the spreadsheet that corroborates with the statement of account. Most of the payments were made through checks.
IB bank initially made available 14 of the 26 checks requested and informed the court that it needed more time to search for the remaining. The checks dated from April 2010 to August 31, 2010.
On March 9, 2017, the bank informed the court that it could not find the remaining checks as they have been saved on disks that had damaged and the data on them could not be retrieved.
The bank also informed the court that the original copies of the checks were returned to Sherman & Sherman Law Firm.
IB’S Conflicting Information
While testifying in court, the manager of the bank’s head branch, Mr. Edwin Kamanda told the court after checks are processed and paid and they are sealed in envelopes according to the months and kept in the records department until they are returned to the customers.
Among the missing checks were those of June 24, 2010 and August 25, 2010. It is believed by the prosecution that Co-defendant Alex Tyler was paid US$75,000 in check on August 25, 2010 allegedly for the passage of the Revised PPCC Act, while Mr. Morris Saytumah was paid US$10,000 on June 24, 2010.
The bank was able to produce checks for August 31, 2010 but could not find that of August 24, 2010. It also found June 25, 2010 check but could not find June 24, 2010.
This left one of the prosecution lawyers wondering: “If the checks grouped by months are sealed in envelopes, how come some among them cannot be found in the envelopes?”
It was quite interesting that the presiding Judge ruled as irrelevant the questioned posed to the bank’s representative about how the checks were contained in sealed envelopes, grouped by months and yet some were missing.
Mystery Checks Suddenly Appears
Last Wednesday, April 5, 2017 the bank presented the remaining 12 checks that it claimed were on a disk that was damaged to the court.
The checks presented included the June 24, 2010 and August 25, 2010 that it could previously not find.
Explanations on how the checks were recovered are not yet clear. Sources close to the prosecution say the prosecution doubts the originality of the checks as the print looks very fresh compared to the old first batch of 14 initially submitted.
Being Investigated by LACC
The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) has launched an investigation into the IB Bank’s suspicious attitude towards releasing the checks.
An insider at the LACC informed FrontPageAfrica that the CEO of IB Bank,Mr. Henry Saamoi, informed the investigative team that the bank found all the checks in the same form and manner they are usually kept on Decoration Day which fell on March 8, 2017 because he requested that they used the holiday to conduct a thorough search.
Sources within the LACC said Saamoi informed investigators that he did not know that the court needed the two checks in question.
The CEO also informed the LACC that the disk was not damaged as earlier said, but was not compatible with their current system.
Two Issues of Concern
Major issues raising eye brows from the LACC investigation are:
Declaration to the court that the disk containing the scanned checks was damaged is false.
Declaration that the checks were missing and could not be found is false.
The Conspiracy Theory
It is believed that lawyers representing IB Bank were reportedly the ones who handled the checks and intentionally withheld the two checks since they were written directly in the names of Alex Tyler and Willie Belleh. Hence, they might have needed time to reprint them with different names as a means of allegedly destroying evidence.