Dr. Porter signed on behalf of his own company, Africa Infrastructure Group (AIG), which is one of numerous private “entities” he says he maintains in his native Sierra Leone and in other countries.
The contract obliged Mr. Ben-Menashe to secure a US$120-million grant from Russia “for infrastructure development in Sierra Leone managed by the Africa Infrastructure Group.”
Dickens & Madson also agreed to “use our best efforts to secure an opportunity for Sierra Leone to be considered as a site for the development of new port facilities for the use of the Russian Federation for non-military purposes.”
With his signature, Dr. Porter promised to notify Sierra Leonean President Ernest Koroma of the arrangement and to obtain his consent.
He also agreed to wire a $200,000 payment to Dickens & Madson for its services as intermediary.
Dr. Porter made the payment from an account he holds in Florida to Mr. Ben-Menashe’s busy JPMorgan Chase account in New York.
The $120-million that he had expected to come from Russia never materialized, he added. His $200,000 payment to Mr. Ben-Menashe was refunded.
Mr. Koroma recently conferred upon Dr. Porter an extraordinary title: “His Excellency, Ambassador Plenipotentiary, Republic of Sierra Leone.” Dr. Porter has used the designation in written correspondence; his title appears on personal letterhead, under the Sierra Leonean coat of arms. Ambassador Plenipotentiary is an exceedingly rare title defined as someone with full powers of a head of state.
Dr. Porter says that in his case, the title is merely symbolic and that it confers no powers. He is merely a “goodwill ambassador” for Sierra Leone, he insists. Even so, says intelligence and security expert Wesley Wark, a SIRC member should not represent himself as an Ambassador Plenipotentiary.
“A sensible person would say that even an honorific diplomatic appointment from outside the country creates an appearance of a conflict of interest for SIRC,” says Dr. Wark.