Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 August 2016
After weeks of intense investigation, three senior heads of Sierra Leone’s football association, including the president Mrs. Isa Johnansen were last night arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
According to the head of the ACC, the three senior FA officials – Mrs Isa Johnansen, vice-president – Brima Mazola Kamara and the secretary general – Christopher Kamara, were arrested because of what he referred to as “discrepancies in the financial statement of the SLFA relating to donor funds.”
All three officers of the FA were detained overnight at the central criminal investigations department (CID) in the capital Freetown.
But they were to be released today on a hefty bail set at Le 500,000,000 (Five Hundred Million Leones) respectively, with one surety each – an owner of a property valued at a minimum of Le 500,000,000 (Five Hundred Million Leones).
This unprecedented swoop on the big fish responsible for running football in Sierra Leone, comes after the recent arrest of the younger brother of the country’s vice president – Momo Bockarie Foh, who was secretly caught on an audio recording, backed by a letter that he personally signed, plotting to steal $3,000 from the ministry of social welfare bank account.
Sierra Leone has one of the lowest football performance records in Africa. And many believe that this poor performance is because of rampant corruption and lack of investment by successive governments.
According to the ACC, the FA officials had persistently failed to adequately respond to requests for accountability by the ACC.
The officials had refused to turn up for questioning when invited to do so; “in writing and through other means to report to our headquarters, but they disregarded our invitations”.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph today asked the Anti-Corruption Czar – Ady Macauley, to respond to accusations from supporters of the president of the FA, who say that the arrest was politically motivated.
“Well I have a job to do, and that is what I am doing. I have no control over the way people think and it’s the fact of life. I have a fidelity to my conscience and duties. My office is not a political party office. (Photo: Ady Macauley).
“I arrested the younger brother of the Vice President and there were no accusations of political manipulation. I arrested staff of the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority and there were no accusations of political manipulation,” he replied.
A few days ago the ACC launched what it called “Operation Thunderbolt”, to bring to justice those in the country believed to have committed crimes contrary to the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008.
A key witness wanted by the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission in the ongoing ministry of social welfare corruption investigation is on the run and nowhere to be found. Abdul Gegbai, who was named by the permanent secretary of the ministry of social welfare as the intended recipient of $3,000 plot to take cash out of the ministry’s account has gone into hiding.
The ACC and police are also searching for Ben Fornah who is wanted, with regards to the ACC investigation into alleged corruption at the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority.
But as operation thunderbolt kicked off at 5am last Saturday, amid rolling September thunder, corruption fugitive Santigie Kargbo – aka Santos’s luck ran out.
After spending three years on the run evading justice, Santigie Kargbo who was charged together with Solomon Kata in the NRA trial three years ago, was arrested last Saturday morning, after a weeklong surveillance by ACC officers.
ACC officers had received tip off that Santos had slipped back into Sierra Leone to conduct family business after escaping to Guinea three years ago, where he has been hiding. He has been charged to court and now facing trial.
As the long arm of the Anti-Corruption Commission stretches across to snatch senior football association executives and several others, including the younger brother of vice president Victor Foh, question remains whether this is the light at the end of the tunnel that Sierra Leoneans have been wishing.
Is this the beginning of the end of rampant corruption in Sierra Leone, or should the ACC be doing more to prove that its long arm can reach anywhere the evidence leads – including government ministers whom are regarded as sacred cows?