Following international pressure on members of the Liberian Senate for electing Senators Prince Y. Johnson and Varney G. Sherman, Nimba County and Grand Cape Mount County, respectively, into leadership positions of the Senate, the Chairman on the Senate Committee on National Security, Intelligent and Veteran Affairs, Nimba County Senator, Prince J. Johnson, has resigned. The Nimba County Senator’s letter of resignation was read in the plenary of the Senate on Tuesday, July 6, 2021.
Senator Johnson explained in his communication that he has resigned as Chairman on the Liberian Senate leadership Committee on Security, Intelligent and Veteran Affairs following a consultation with family members and friends in order to focus on his 2023 re-election bid. He also mentioned in his letter that his resignation is also intended to focus on the re-election bid of President George M. Weah in 2023.
Immediately following his resignation, Senate Pro-Tempore, Albert Chie, appointed his Co-Chair, Lofa County Senator, Steve Zango, to act as Chairman of the committee, while Nimba County Senator, Jeremiah Koung, serves as Co-Chair on the committee.
According to the Hot Pepper’s legislative source, Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Varney Sherman, is expected to resign as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary. This resignation, according to the source, is based on the request from the Senate’s leadership, caused by immense pressure from the international community.
On Wednesday, May 19, 2021, the U.S. embassy strongly condemned the election of notorious warlord, Prince Y. Johnson, as Chair of the Liberian Senate Committee on Defense and Intelligence. “Senator Johnson’s gross human rights violations during Liberia’s civil wars are well-documented; his continued efforts to protect himself from accountability, enrich his own coffers and sow division are also well known. That the Liberian Senate would see fit to elevate him to a leadership role–particularly in the area in which he has done this country the most harm–creates doubts as to the seriousness of the Senate as a steward of Liberia’s defense and security. The U.S. government is proud of our longstanding partnership with the Ministry of National Defense and Armed Forces of Liberia which will continue–but we can have no relationship with Senator Johnson,” the US embassy observed in its rejection of Senator Johnson’s election.
“We note as well the continuation of Counselor Varney Sherman, sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for corruption involving bribery, as chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions. By giving Senators Johnson and Sherman these leadership roles, the Senate is effectively ensuring that corruption and lack of accountability flourish,” the U.S. embassy statement continued.
In December of 2020, the United States of America, through its Treasury Department, placed Global Magnitsky designations on several individuals, including Senator, Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman, on ground that he facilitated bribery in the Judiciary, and that in one instance he bribed his colleagues “to support impeachment of a judge who had ruled against him”.
In a release, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said it is “targeting corrupt actors and their networks across several countries in Africa and Asia. Today’s actions are taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and targets perpetrators of corruption and serious human rights abuse.
“On International Anti-Corruption Day, Treasury remains fully committed to imposing costs on those who facilitate corruption at the expense of the people,” said Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich.
At the top of the list of alleged corrupt actors is Liberian Senator Harry Varney Gboto-Nambi Sherman, who the U.S. Treasury Department claims, “has routinely paid judges to decide cases in his favor, and he has allegedly facilitated payments to Liberian politicians to support impeachment of a judge who has ruled against him”.
Senator Sherman, according to the U.S. government, allegedly offered bribes to be set free from a bribery case he and some other top government officials in Liberia, including former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex J. Tyler, were connected to.
Global Witness, a British corruption watchdog, in 2015, alleged that Sable Mining Company, through Cllr. Varney Sherman, the company’s legal representative, and his colleagues conspired to circumvent the law in order for the company to get a concession to mine the Wologisi Mountain in Lofa without going through a competitive bidding process.
“Varney Sherman, now a prominent lawyer, Liberian Senator, and chair of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee, offered bribes to multiple judges associated with his trial for 2010 bribery scheme, and he had an undisclosed conflict of interest with a judge who ultimately returned a not guilty verdict in July 2019,” the release said.