The seriousness and gravity of the charges read out in Court against the Mayor of Freetown – Herbert Williams and his co-accused last week, are such that all eyes are now on the Anti-Corruption Commission, to ensure that the case against the accused is water-tight, and that they have done their homework well in advance.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has a serious reputation of losing high profile cases in Court, and does need to improve its effectiveness and success rate.
But there was drama at the High Court in Freetown yesterday, Wednesday 14 December, 2011, when Lawyers acting for the defendants, expressed alarm at the prosecution’s decision to present an amended charge sheet to the Court.
They were also incensed that the lead prosecuting lawyer – no other than the Anti-Corruption Commission Czar himself – Joseph F. Kamara, had only served the defending lawyers with a 250 page report, which contains witness statements, less than twenty-four hours prior to Court sitting.
The prosecution’s amendment to the charge sheet is crucial, and of material substance to the case.
When the accused appeared in Court last week, both Mayor Herbert George Williams and Bowenson Fredrick Philips – Chief Administrator of the Council were charged on count 4, along with Sylvester Momoh Konnehi and Arthur Kwesi-John, for failing to pay Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) contribution, contrary to section 48 (1) (d) of the NASSIT Act.
The particulars of count 4 state that sometime between July 1, 2010 and October 31, 2010, the accused unlawfully failed to pay NASSIT contribution for and on behalf the staff of the Council amounting to Le76,123,246.20.
Presenting the changes to the Court yesterday, ACC Commissioner said that he had decided to make the following alterations:
The material date of offence relating to count 4 was backdated from 31 October 2010 to a much earlier date of 30 September 2010.
The alleged unpaid NASSIT contribution cited under count 4, was also increased from Le76,123,246.20 to a hefty Le106,627,182.00.
But much of the legal arguments in court yesterday were centred on the points of law raised by lawyers acting for the defence, contending that their clients had not been given sufficient time to study, prepare and present counter-arguments with respect to the witnesses’ evidence contained in the 250 pages prosecution’s report.
The beleaguered Mayor of Freetown and his co-accused – including the Chief Administrator of Freetown City Council, have been indicted on 25 counts.
Mayor Herbert George Williams and Bowenson Fredrick Philips – Chief Administrator of Freetown City Council (first and second accused), were both charged on count one with conspiracy to commit a corruption offence contrary to section 128 (1) of the Anti Corruption Act 2008.
It is alleged that both accused conspired with other unknown persons to misappropriate the sum of Le 744,450,000 sometime between 1 July, 2010, and 31 March, 2011, with respect to the hosting of a live concert featuring Morgan Heritage.
On counts 2 and 3, both first and second accused were also charged with failing to pay NRA Taxes, contrary to section 48 (1) (d) of the Anti Corruption Act, No. 12 of 2008. According to the ACC, the accused illegally failed to pay the sum of Le62,269,595 and Le88,565,638 respectively to the NRA, after deductions from employees’ salaries.
Mayor Herbert Williams, Bowenson Fredrick Philips, Sylvester Momoh Konnehi, and Arthur Kwesi-John, were all charged with counts 5, 6 and 7.
Particulars of offences state that on dates unknown – between 1 January, 2010 and 31 March, 2010;1 May, 2010, 31 August, 2010; 1 October, 2010, and 31 December, 2010 respectively, the accused unlawfully failed to pay PAYE Tax to the NRA for and on behalf of employees of the council, in the sum of Le80,058,509; Le110,070,553 and Le89,448,347 respectively.
On Counts 8 and 9, both Herbert Williams, Bowenson Fredrick Philips and Desmond Thomas were charged with misappropriation of public revenue, contrary to section 36 (1) of the ACC Act of 2008. It is alleged that the three accused misappropriated the sum of Le55,589,100 with respect to monies collected from local markets, and Le24,317,300 collected as local taxes.
On count 10, co-accused Alimamy Turay was charged with misappropriation of public revenue, contrary to section 36(1) of the ACC Act of 2008. It is alleged that the accused misappropriated the sum of Le22,470,000 collected from local market traders.
On count 11, Herbert Williams was charged with misappropriation of public funds contrary to the ACC Act of 2008, alleging that he withdrew Le10 Million from the Council’s Bank Account in Freetown, in respect of payment for the failed Morgan Heritage concert.
On counts 12 and 14, co-accused Aiah Brima was charged with misappropriation of public funds contrary to the ACC Act of 2008, involving Le9.8 million purported to be payment of allowances to Councillors’ needs assessment, and Le2,815,000 purported to have been paid to participants at a strategic planning retreat held at the Hill Valley Hotel, as daily subsistence allowance.
On count 13, Franklyn Garber – a civil engineer employed by the Council was accused of misappropriating the sum of Le9,225,000 purported to be payment for rehabilitation work done to a local market.
On count 15, Mayor Williams, Bowenson F. Philips, and Desmond Thomas were last week charged with misappropriation of public revenue contrary to section 36(1) of the ACC Act of 2008, with respect to Wharf landing fees in the sum of Le2,063,400.
On count 16, Mayor Williams, Bowenson F. Philips and Arthur Kwesi John were charged with misappropriation of Le4 Million purported to be payment for light bill to NPA.
on counts 18 and 19, Herbert Williams was solely charged with misappropriation of US$9,000 (public funds) purported to be payment for excess luggage for Morgan Heritage, and US$10,000 unlawfully withdrawn from the Council’s Bank Account in Freetown, in respect of the Morgan Heritage concert.
On count 20, Mayor Herbert Williams, Bowenson F. Philips and Sylvester M. Konnehi were together charged with misappropriation of Le79,980,000 (public funds) purported to be payment for the relocation of evictees from the construction site of a market and shopping center.
On count 21, Mohamed Allie Shaaban was charged with misappropriation of public funds in the sum of Le800,000,000 contrary to section 36(1) of the ACC Act of 2008, in respect of the construction of a shopping centre and market at Fisher street.
On counts 22 and 23, both Mayor Herbert Williams and Bowenson F. Philips were charged with misappropriation of public funds in the sum of Le13,442,500, in respect of payments to a Zenobean Enterprises for the supply of swivel chairs, Le7,640,000 for payment made to Ibrahim Kamara as incentive for the Revenue Enforcement Team.
On count 24, Mayor Williams, Bowenson F. Philips, Arthur Kwesi John and Sylvester M. Konnehi were all charged with wilful failure to comply with the law relating to the procurement of service, contrary to section 48(2)(b) of the ACC Act of 2008.
It is alleged that the four accused had made unlawful payments in the sum of US$130,000 for a two day live concert staged at national Stadium.
On count 25, Mayor Herbert Williams was solely charged with misappropriation of US$35,000 with respect to payments for the staging of the Morgan Heritage concert.
At the close of hearing yesterday – 14 December 2011, the Kenyan Judge agreed to adjourn proceedings, in order to allow the defence counsels sufficient time to study the 250 pages report submitted by the ACC Czar – Joseph Kamara. The report contains the evidence given by witnesses to the ACC during their investigation of the case.