Liberia: Will Minister Dean Recuse Himself From Trial of Sherman, Tyler?

analysis

The reopening of the 2016 Global Witness case that linked several former and present government officials, including former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler and Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney G. Sherman, to an alleged US$900,000 bribery scandal may, more likely than not, pose serious challenges to Liberia's Justice Minister and Attorney General, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean.

The Supreme Court recently mandated Criminal Court 'C' at the Temple of Justice to resume jurisdiction over the matter, after accepting the prosecutor's request to have their controversial email and spreadsheet, vital evidence believed to be an alleged communication between Sherman and Sable Mining, a UK-based firm that necessitated the bribery.

Cllr. Varney Sherman and former Speaker Alex Tyler

Global Witness had alleged that Sable Mining through their Liberian lawyers, Sherman & Sherman, including Cllr. Varney G. Sherman, conspired to alter Liberia's Public Procurement and Concession law to increase the mining company's chances at acquiring a concession to mine iron ore in the Wologizi Mountain, Lofa County.

Minister Dean was one of several lawyers representing Sherman and other defendants, who once said he would put his life on the line to prove the innocence of the defendants. Now, on opposite sides of the case; the question remains whether he is prepared to expose privileged information related to his clients (defendants)?

Also, the public is asking whether there is any political pressure to see him (Cllr. Dean) breach "Attorney-Client Privilege" provided for under the law?

The attorney-client privilege is a rule that preserves the confidentiality of communications between lawyers and clients. Under that rule, attorneys may not divulge their clients' secrets, nor may others force them to, according to a legal expert who confided in the Daily Observer.

"The purpose of the privilege is to encourage clients to openly share information with their lawyers and to let lawyers provide effective representation," the legal expert, said.

Lawyers may not reveal oral or written communications with clients that clients reasonably expect to remain private, he said.

"A lawyer who has received a client's confidence cannot reveal them to anyone outside the legal team without the client's consent," the lawyer noted.

In that sense, the privilege is the client's, not the lawyer's, he explained, "the client can decide to forfeit (or waive) the privilege, but the lawyer cannot."

The privilege generally stays in effect even after the attorney-client relationship ends, and even after the client dies. In other words, the lawyer can never divulge the client's secrets without the client's permission, according to the lawyer.

Though, Cllr. Dean has made no comment as to whether he would recuse himself and will have absolutely nothing to do with the matter, there are mounting questions about whether Cllr. Dean will take similar steps to recuse himself, as was with the case of the ExxonMobil Oil Block 13 bribery allegations.

In that case, Dean was given two weeks' ultimatum by President George Weah to come up with a preliminary report on the ExxonMobil Oil Block 13 bribery allegations, a task from which he recused himself.

Cllr. Dean had, at the time, said the decision to recuse himself was based on the fact that "I served as president and Chief Executive officer (CEO) of NOCAL between 2004 and January 2006."

The ExxonMobil Oil Block 13 bribery allegations also unearthed by the very Global Witness had by then expressed concerns that Cllr. Dean's previous stint as head of NOCAL rendered him unfit to preside over the investigations.

Global Witness claimed that the initial sale of oil Block 13 to Oranto Petroleum, over which Dean presided, was done under arrangements tainted with fraud.

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