Updated 31 July 2019 - see below
On 25 May, the Liberian government took the unprecedented step of arresting senior Liberian officials in connection with a bribery scandal involving UK-listed Sable Mining Ltd. and UK executives Andrew Groves and former-England cricketer Phil Edmonds. These arrests come in the wake of Global Witness’ investigation, The Deceivers, which exposed how Edmonds and Groves scammed UK investors and paid bribes while running mining operations in Liberia and Guinea. (1)
Those arrested included Sable’s Liberian lawyer – now
Senator – Varney Sherman, Speaker of Liberia’s House of Representatives, Alex
Tyler, former mining official Ernest Jones, and businessman Christopher Onanuga.
Five charges were brought against the individuals, including bribery and
criminal conspiracy, and immediately following their arrests all four were
released on bail. (2) Sherman, Tyler, and Onanuga have issued statements denying
The same charges were also was brought by Liberian
prosecutors against Sable Mining itself, which has denied any wrongdoing in the
country. (4) Sable, and other companies set up by Edmonds and Groves, is listed
on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM), which is controlled by the London
Stock Exchange. Unlike the Liberian government, however, AIM has not announced
an investigation into the alleged wrongdoing by the company. The exchange is
“self-regulated” by lawyers and accountants who profit from the companies they
put on the market, and has a history of weak enforcement against those who
break its rules.
“This is a clear
example of how a wealthy company based in London has used its cash to undermine
the rule of law in a developing country. Using UK and Liberian lawyers Sable swindled
shareholders and paid bribes to change Liberian law so that it could obtain a mining
contract,” said Daniel Balint-Kurti, Head of Special Investigations at
welcomes the swift steps taken by the Liberian government and believes that
everyone investigated is entitled to due process under Liberian law and should
receive fair trials. Hopefully the UK authorities can take a lesson from
Liberia and regulate companies such as Sable that are listed on the Alternative
The Deceivers details how Edmonds and Groves’ London-listed companies have scammed investors and engaged in bribery schemes, while evading proper scrutiny.
Update: On 30 July 2019, following a trial at criminal court C in Monrovia, Liberia, Judge Peter Gbeneweleh, acting as judge and jury, acquitted those on the indictment of all charges, it was reported. The defendants faced counts of economic sabotage, bribery, criminal facilitation, conspiracy and solicitation and had denied the charges.
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Notes to editor:
- For a copy of the report, see https://www.globalwitness.org/thedeceivers/
- For the official Liberian government statement on the arrests can be found here. A film documenting the arrival of Sherman and Tyler at the Liberian police headquarters has been produced by the newspaper Front Page Africa and can be found here.
- A statement made by Sherman can be found here. A statement made by Tyler can be found here. A statement made by Onanuga is on record
with Global Witness. Global Witness has previously requested comment from
Jones, but has not received a response.
- A statement made by Edmonds and Groves can be found here.
A statement by Edmonds and Groves’ UK lawyer Philip Enoch can be found here.
A statement made by Sable Mining can be found here.
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