Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 August 2019:
Sources close to Dr. Richard Konteh, who was the former minister of trade and economic development in the Ernest Bai Koroma led APC government, have confirmed to the Sierra Leone Telegraph that Dr. Richard Konteh has this evening been detained by the Anti-Corruption Commission on allegations of corruption.
Dr Richard Konteh was also chief of staff in the Koroma led APC government, after a cabinet reshuffle that saw him moved from the ministry of trade and economic development, where it was alleged that millions of dollars were misappropriated.
It is not yet certain as to why Dr Konteh has today been detained by the ACC.
But the Sierra Leone Telegraph has been informed by an unknown source, that Konteh has been detained in connection with an $11 million dollar fund received by the Koroma government from the government of Japan that cannot be accounted for.
(Photo: Richard Konteh detained by ACC).
It is understood that the missing fund was meant to support various projects, for the benefit of the people of Sierra Leone between 2009 and 2017.
Sources say that the $11 million cannot be accounted for, and the projects were never implemented by the Koroma government.
The Japanese government is believed to have lost hope in Sierra Leone, because of the massive misappropriation of funds that could have benefitted the poor people of Sierra Leone.
Corruption is said to be costing the people of Sierra Leone hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and president Bio said he is determined to put a stop to this scourge.
In June 2014, and after six years of sheltering one of the arguably most corrupt ministers in his government, president Koroma finally decided to bite the bullet by sacking his chief of staff – Dr Richard Konteh.
As chief of staff in the office of the president, Richard Konteh was one of the most powerful and influential cabinet ministers.
From State House, he wielded enormous control over budgets, procurement contracts and key political decision making.
With his academic background in development studies from a German institution, Konteh was also one of Koroma’s senior policy advisers and speech writers.
Konteh’s role in shaping the Koroma government’s Agenda for Change, which subsequently metamorphosed into an Agenda for Prosperity, was significant. He was also a major financier of president Koroma’s 2007 elections victory.
But his position as a senior minister in the Koroma led government was not without controversy. He is believed to have been one of the richest ministers in the Koroma government, having amassed a lot of unexplained wealth in just six years of being in office.
Despite several corruption allegations by the media, spanning several years, president Koroma decided to promote Konteh from his trade and industry ministerial position to become the chief of staff at State House.
As minister of trade and industry, Konteh was alleged to have unlawfully made a fortune – estimated at millions of dollars, especially through public contract kickbacks and donor funds.
His real estate and property portfolio in the capital Freetown and his home district of Bombali is said to be valued at more than $10 million.
Richard Konteh was no ordinary government minister. He shared deep tribal kinship with the former president.
In 2006, working for ECOWAS in Lagos, Nigeria, Richard Konteh was accused of serious financial impropriety and was then sacked.
But Konteh went on to play a key role in introducing Koroma to wealthy Nigerians, as well as soliciting funds in furtherance of Ernest Koroma’s presidential ambition.
In 2007, Konteh is believed to have contributed no less than $200,000 into the APC election campaign fund.
So why did former president Koroma sack Richard Konteh?
The statement published by the State House Communications Unit on the 10th of June 2014 was unequivocal. President Koroma himself accused Richard Konteh of serious crimes against the state, for which his position as chief of staff at State House had become untenable. This is what State House said:
“It has come to the attention of his Excellency the president that Dr. Richard Konteh, chief of staff in the office of the president was not open and transparent in the conduct of official negotiations for a mining agreement with a private sector operator, thereby violating established policy, undermining existing institutional arrangements, and exposing government to potential loss of revenue.
“In another matter involving the illegal export of timber from Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone police are investigating an unauthorised executive order allegedly issued by Dr. Konteh, granting an open-ended mandate to the Timber Harvesters, Processors and Exporters (SL) Ltd., to undertake the export of an unlimited quantity of value-added processed timber, in direct contravention of the approval granted by his excellency the president for a fixed quantity of 30 containers only.
“Against this background, his excellency the president has decided to relieve Dr. Konteh of his duties with immediate effect, while the police continue with their investigations.”
Richard Conteh was arrested and detained at Pademba Road Prison whilst the Anti-Corruption Commission was carrying out its investigations. He was then charged to court on several counts of corruption.
But after a lengthy and drawn out court trial dogged by political interference and several adjournments, and as elections drew closer, president Koroma decided to withdraw all charges against Konteh and the case was dismissed – “nolle prosequi”.
Today, Richard Konteh is described as one of the most vocal spokesmen for the opposition APC. And his detention would no doubt be seen by the APC as another witch hunt.
But few will dispute the fact that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) under the leadership of Francis Ben Kaifala, is ensuring that ACC investigations into alleged corruption, go where ever the evidence leads, though the ACC has not confirmed his arrest.