On Friday, March 4 2022, Sierra Leone’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who was the also-ran Presidential nominee, Samura Kamara arraigned in the High Court No1 before Honorable Justice Adrian Fischer.
Kamara, a former front runner in the race to lead the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) in the 2023 multi – tier elections, is facing the country’s Anti – Corruption Commission on two count charges of ‘Misleading a Principal’ and ‘Misappropriation of Public Funds.’
At Friday’s hearing, the ACC’s Prosecution team tendered in court a poorly compiled bundle of Exhibits, an awkwardness, which Samura Kamara’s Defence repeatedly pointed out. And during the Prosecution’s rather confused presentation, the fastidious Defence further drew attention to several issues, including the fact that a considerable number of pages were missing in most of the documents the Prosecution had served them prior to the commencement of matter. The presiding Judge, the Honorable Justice Adrian Fisher, had to interject with instruction to the Prosecution to provide the Defence with all the missing pages by the next court sitting.
Kamara’s indictment follows a bombshell report by the US based Africanist Press in which it accused the current administration of misappropriation of funds meant for the rehabilitation of Sierra Leone’s Chancery building and two other Sierra Leone embassy properties in New York.
In its May 25 2021 article titled: “Diplomatic Mission Fails to Complete Renovation Despite Transfers of Over US$3 million”, the Africanist Press shocked the nation when it reported that it had obtained “… evidence of wire transfers and other banking transactions of over US$3.2 million in June and September 2019 for the renovation of the country’s diplomatic mission to the United Nations in New York. Despite such transfers, the report stated that “…no substantial work had been done on the renovations”. As the Africanist Press rightly pointed out, this raised “questions regarding the potential use of the funds that were transferred for the project since 2019.”
Though Samura Kamara had left the foreign ministry since December 2017, the ACC still found it necessary to extend their investigation to his tenure. And as part of its investigation, it had first subjected the former and would –be presidential contender to four interviews in just few months. Kamara had to insist that he would no longer accept such questioning, urging the ACC to proffer charges if they had any case against him.
“I have worked so hard to build my reputation and credibility and will not allow any group of people or institution to destroy it. In the last 10 days I have been to the ACC office for what I cannot understand. Why should I be the target for something that I don’t know much about? I have explained weeks ago and I thought my own part was done, but the ACC still kept coming after me just to send the wrong signal to the people. I will not accept that and would fight to death for my respect and integrity,” Kamara said in a press statement Tuesday, 5th October, 2021,
And so they did, and on Friday, Samura Kamara made his sixth appearance in the High Court. He arrived at about 10am and waited for one excruciating hour before court session started at about 11am with its air – rising ritual of calling the accused persons to the dock. There, in the dock, stood the man who has served his country for over 30 years in the financial sector – where he worked as Governor of the central bank, as financial secretary and as minister of finance and economic development without blemish – to answer to allegations which he says has nothing to with him.
As if mimicking the inattentiveness of the Prosecution, the six 18,000 wall and 36,000 British Thermal Units standing air conditioners in the fully packed court room, were in full blast, while all of the its eight windows were wide opened. On the side of each of the windows, gaping holes on the concrete wall that made way for the waste pipes of the air conditioners remained unattended.
A member of the court gallery, who is an obvious supporter of Samura Kamara, retorted that, “If the shabbiness in the upkeep of the court building and the wastage of its resources is not disheartening enough; the apparent wastage of resources in putting Samura Kamara on trial for funds that disappeared in his absence should.”
The bystander was referring to the Africanist Press’s supposition that the misappropriation the funds in question allegedly took place after Samura Kamara had resigned from the foreign ministry in December 2017.
In its July 4 2021 report, “Account Details Expose Foreign Affairs Efforts to Cover Up Diplomatic Corruption”, the Africanist press stated that, “The 2018 and 2019 financial records and bank statements of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs show precisely how more than Le40.1 billion (over US$4 million) of funds earmarked for the supposed renovation of the Sierra Leone Mission headquarters in New York were withdrawn and diverted between March 2018 and September 2019 by foreign affairs officials in Freetown and their diplomatic counterparts in New York.”
The report went further to state that: “Details of the financial transactions from the banking records of the foreign affairs ministry for fiscal year 2018, during the first months of the Bio Administration, show that foreign affairs officials in Freetown withdrew all of the funds transferred by the Chinese government into the foreign affairs account between June 2018 and September 2018 instead of transferring the earmarked funds to the designated embassy account in New York.”
Apparently, it was this quantum of documents that the Prosecuting Witness 1 (PW1) Joseph Bockarie Noah was having trouble to orderly tender as Exhibits in the matter. They range from Government Banking Cheques; Credits Advice, and other financial documents from the Accountant General’s Department and the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) that were sent to the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York; to documents that dealt with the awarding of contract for the renovation of Sierra Leone Permanent Mission in New York; to Status Report of the renovation work. The bundle further included documents relating to the procurement process of the contract, those that dealt with Cabinet decisions and recommendations, “temporary vouchers” for the payment of the said contract and the Assessment Report. All of these, even according to the Prosecution Witness, fall outside the period Samura Kamara served as minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
During the hearing of 25 February 2022, PW1 told the court how monies were paid for the Sierra Leone Chancery Building and not a penny was said to have been paid on the instruction or approval of Samura Kamara.
Regarding the offence of ‘Deceiving a Principal’, PW1 told the court during his February 25 2022 submission that during their investigations the ACC was informed that the then director – general in the ministry of foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, wrote a Memo to the then head of Chancery, Alusine Sesay (now deceased), that based on the legal Opinion received from the solicitor –general, the Sierra Leone United Nations (UN) mission should ensure that the Contractor, Fairfield Construction Associates is in compliance with the relevant United States regulations by providing a valid business license/registration certificate, a valid Tax Clearance and records of audited accounts for the last two years.
The ACC PW1 further told the court on that date (February 25 2022) that the then Head of Chancery, Alusine Sesay, in a briefing note, informed Ambassador Adikali Suma about the above compliance criteria and that due diligence had been done as instructed by Ambassador Khadijatu Bashir, the then director –general in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC).
Additionally, PW1 also told the court that the ACC was informed by the then Ambassador Suma that it was the duty of the Head of Chancery who is the Principal Adviser to the ambassador to do due diligence. The question that follows therefore is: where did Samura Kamara mislead his principal when in fact he presented to Cabinet all the above information as received from the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission at the United Nations?
On the specific charge of ‘Misappropriation of $2,560,000, the ACC lead Prosecution Witness, PW1, told the court on February 28 2022, that during their investigations, they were informed by the contractor, Jules S. Davis, that he received the payment of $4,669,559.45 from the Sierra Leone UN Permanent Mission in New York. Again, one therefore wonders why Samura Kamara should be in the dock for ‘misappropriation of $2,560,000, which the contractor admitted to have received as part of the $ 4,669,559.45 payment.
Legal analysts say that the Exhibits presented on Friday, along with the submission by the ACC’s PW1, indicate that Samura Kamara did ensure that Cabinet was guided in reaching a decision as to whether it should proceed with the rehabilitation of the chancery building or not. “The Exhibits also tend to show that Samura Kamara did not approve nor did he direct or order the payment of any funds,” stated one legal analyst who spoke to this writer on condition of anonymity.
Yet, for five hours in a single day, Kamara sat in the dock patiently listening to a painfully messy presentation of Exhibits. No doubts that while the court may have shown a bit of tardiness at Friday’s hearing, the Prosecution displayed a great deal sloppiness. But if this was a scheme to frustrate the accused; then the orchestrators had failed woefully. Throughout those harrowing fours, Kamara remained focused and unfazed; sometimes smiling as the drama unfolded.
The matter was adjourned to Monday 7 March, 2022 when the court is expected to commence cross examination of PW1, Joseph Bockarie Noah. Dr. Samura Kamara was represented by a host of counsels including two former attorneys-general Franklyn Bai Kargbo and Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara; a former senior prosecutor and Commissioner of the ACC, Ady Macauley, Melron Nicho-Wilson, Ibrahim Sorie, Lansana Dumbuya, Brima Koroma, and others.
Intimidation & harassment of women
SL Women & politics group writes Bio
AN OPEN LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT JULIUS MAADA BIO ON THE INCREASING INTIMIDATION AND HARASSMENT OF PROFESSIONAL WOMEN
His Excellency, The President, Julius Maada Bio, We, the members of the Sierra Leone Women and Politics Group, wish to urgently bring to your attention the plethora of ugly incidents of recent regarding the intimidation and harassment of our professional women in both political and public offices in the country, which we equivocally condemn in the strongest of terms and demand that this intimidation and harassment of our women stops immediately. Excellency Sir, without any delay, please allow us to highlight a few glaring examples of intimidation and harassment of professional strong women in opposition and public offices of recent, even though we are certain that you are aware of some of these unacceptable behaviors. We condemn the unconstitutional and unprecedented suspension of Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce, Auditor General with impeccable national and international pedigree, without any statement, even as we write, of what her crime is or has been. The Acting Auditor General, a male, who lacks the professional competency and qualification, is a real affront to the profession. Since the Judicial Committee was sworn in, it has not met for lack of any crime committed by the Auditor General warranting her suspension. The delay by the Chief Justice in appointing a Judge to sit on the case file by the Lawyers of Mrs. Lara TaylorPearce against the sitting government is also testament of the deliberate ploy to delay and subvert justice. We also refer to one of the finest, hardworking, innovative, action and result-oriented Mayors of our time, Mrs. Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr OBE, who since ascending to the position of Mayor of the Municipality of Freetown, has been the subject of attack by government Ministers in the Ministry of Local Government and the Chief Administrator (CA), with a view of sabotaging the programmes of the Municipality and smearing the well-earned name of our Mayor. Our observation is that it is only the Freetown City Council that has been subjected to undue interference and uncalled for scrutiny, not provided for in the Local Government Act (LGA) 2004. Her authority has been openly challenged by the Chief Administrator, who according to the LGA is supervised by the Mayor. If the Freetown City Council is challenged with adequate collection of revenue and payment of workers such as the street sweepers and garbage collectors, it is because the CA and his cliques have refused to counter-sign payment Cheques while deliberately sending away or discouraging well-meaning citizens of Freetown from honoring their tax obligations. We also observed from the latest report of a Committee to look into the workings of the Council, (a report, whose authenticity is questioned by Councilor) published by the Ministry of Local Government recommending the dissolution of the Mayor’s Delivery Unit and yet Delivery Units abound in most Ministries as a way of expediting donor funded projects and ensuring adherence to reporting formats, deadlines and accountability requirements. We see this as double standard and against the principle of “what is good for the goose should be good for the gander”. Going further, we see as selective justice, the Anti-Corruption Commission’s directives for the Mayor alone to pay back to the FCC funds monies paid, in terms of per diem, ticket and accommodation to the Consultant, while it was the Mayor, CA and Finance Officer (FO) that signed the request forms for the disbursement of these monies, which it is claimed was illegal. And yet we see no evidence of coercion of the CA and the FO by the Mayor.