Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 January 2015
Mr. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, popularly known as IB kargbo, a senior ruling party grandee and close confidante of president Koroma, was today arrested for questioning by detectives in the ongoing investigation into the Lebanese wastegate affair.
The former minister of information and presidential adviser’s arrest comes, after the publication of a statement he is believed to have made to the BBC reporter Umaru Fofanah, about his involvement in the alleged agreement by Sierra Leone government officials for the dumping of waste from Lebanon for cash, now known as the Lebanese wastegate scandal.
In his statement published by Umaru Fofana on his Facebook page, IB Kargbo denies entering into an agreement with the Lebanese, and appears to be implicating the country’s vice president Victor Foh, who was recently appointed to the job after president Koroma had sacked the incumbent vice president Sam Sumana.
Tonight, an incriminating letter written and signed by IB kargbo himself on the 7th of January, 2016, using an official government letter-headed paper, addressed to a Dutch company acting on behalf of the Lebanese government, has been published (See below). The evidence is damning.
But this is what Umaru reported: “Alhaji IB Kargbo told me that all he did was to provide guidelines to them a few days ago, since they’d said they wanted to set up a fertilizer plant using local waste and trash brought in from Lebanon.
“He insisted that he made it clear to them that no toxic waste would be allowed in and that the line ministries and ultimately the president would be responsible for the final approval. He said he even discussed the matter with Vice President Victor Foh.
“A Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported over the weekend that the foreign ministry in Beirut had received a confirmation authorization from the West African nation would take in its waste which has exceed UN permitted quota, after some payment had been made. Kargbo said not a dime was requested or paid for his advice.”
IB kargbo who just weeks ago had won a by-election to serve his Bombali constituency in parliament, is a controversial veteran politician of the ruling APC party, who many believe to be very corrupt.
Kargbo was sacked by president Koroma three years ago as information and communication minister, after a major disagreement between the World Bank and the government of Sierra Leone over the utilisation of public funds, meant for the completion of the Africa Europe project, aimed at bringing a submarine fibre optic cable link to Sierra Leone.
Critics say that IB Kargbo, who is said to be one of the richest politicians in the country, is yet to account for millions of dollars meant for the fibre optic project.
He was today reported to have been arrested by police in his office in Freetown, and taken to the criminal Investigations Department for questioning, over his signing of an agreement – allegedly on behalf of the Koroma government, for the importation and dumping of domestic and or industrial waste from Lebanon.
What is unclear is the role played by vice president Victor Foh in helping to secure the Lebanese deal.
Attempts by the Sierra Leone Telegraph to cross check a few facts and information proved futile. The office of the vice president, nor the attorney general responded to request for answers.
If it’s true that IB Kargbo spoke with vice president Foh (Photo) about the Lebanese rubbish deal, what advice did the vice president give to IB kargbo?
Did the vice president advise IB kargbo to refer the matter instantly to the attorney general for legal advice?
When was IB Kargbo first approached by the Lebanese? Was the president himself informed? And what was the president’s position on the matter?
Questions must also be asked tonight, as to whether the former attorney general – Frank Kargbo, who was sacked two weeks ago by president Koroma, in a rather surprised cabinet reshuffle without any reasons given by State House, knew about the Lebanese wastegate affair.
Is this the reason why attorney general Frank Kargbo was hurriedly sacked by State House, and replaced by the former head of the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission?
There are reports that police have been granted permission for the offices of presidential adviser IB kargbo to be searched for evidence.
Was IB Kargbo paid for his role in facilitating the Lebanese rubbish deal?
Tonight as Sierra Leoneans wait for answers from the police investigations, many would be reminded of the various scandals that have soiled the corridors of State House.
In the 1980s it was the current vice president’s involvement in a multi-million dollar vouchergate scandal that made news headlines, and still refuses to go away.
Fast forward 2009, and one is reminded of the cocainegate scandal, involving the smuggling of several tons of cocaine from Columbia by the brother of the former APC government transport minister, using a light Cessna aircraft, which was later bought by the current information minister Alpha Kanu. But nothing has since been heard about the proceeds of the sale of the cocaine plane, nor the whereabouts of the plane.
In 2011 the head of the government’s national social security and pensions agency (Nassit) – Edmund Koroma, a cousin of president Koroma, was prosecuted and found guilty of corruption.
Koroma was allowed by State House to settle the matter out of court, in a multi-million dollar Ferrygate deal, involving the purchase in Europe of decrepit ferries unfit for purpose, to be used in Sierra Leone. Edmund Koroma is now running the country’s treasury department.
In April 2012 Sierra Leone’s anti-corruption commission charged two high ranking ruling APC party members for accepting bribes on behalf of vice president Samuel Sam Sumana. But the case fell apart. Al Jazeera TV had alleged that associates of Sam Sumana accepted kickbacks in return for a promise the vice president would back an illegal logging deal.
Then came the awful Ebolagate in 2014, which saw the disappearance of $14 million of funds meant for the caring of the sick and dying, at the height of the Ebola crisis, leaving over 4,000 people dead.
In April 2015, the government was caught with its pants down in a Busgate scandal, after claiming that it had borrowed and spent $12 million on 50 public buses, at a time when doctors and nurses where dying in their hundreds of the Ebola virus, due to the lack of protective wear.
Despite evidence of serious impropriety and lack of due diligence, no one has been brought to justice for failing to ensure that the decision to borrow was not only approved by parliament, but that the country’s interests were best served by the $12 million Chinese deal.
Today, Sierra Leoneans are faced with yet another scandal – the Lebanese wastegate affair.
Yesterday, the government of Sierra Leone promised to conduct a thorough investigation, and bring those found wanting to justice.
And in less than twenty-four hours of that announcement, an adviser to the president – a close friend and one of his most trusted and loyal politicians – IB Kargbo, is being made to fall on his own sword.
Does IB Kargbo truly have a case to answer? Is he guilty of committing a crime? Or he is volunteering his services as a well seasoned fall guy? Will we ever know the truth behind the Lebanese wastegate scandal?
Was IB Kargbo authorised to use State House letter headed paper and seals, given the fact that technically he is no longer an adviser to the president?
Did IB Kargbo fraudulently misrepresented himself to the Lebanese agents, as an adviser to president Koroma?
This is the letter written and signed by IB Kargbo, paving the way for a government agreement: