Former chief of staff in the Koroma government – Richard Konteh detained by ACC

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.

17 Comments

  1. The APC UNIFIER spends the weekend unjustly at the CID. The ACC has given cause for Dr. Richard Konteh to spend the weekend at the CID unjustly. SLPP den don fraid Dr Richard Konteh en day fen way for humiliate am. He won’t be intimidated by your low life of mix up box up that cannot even provide for the citizens of Sierra Leone.

    Dr Konteh was only Minister of Trade for 2 years (2011 -2012) for clarity. The Japanese Non Food Aid Grant came in the form of fuel. The Japanese appointed Crown Agent, UK as their procurement agent. They executed the procurement process which was won by NP for a value of Le. 46BN. However, at the end of the process Le. 47BN was generated and deposited in a dedicated Escrow Account opened for that purpose at the Bank of Sierra Leone by the Accountant General in the Ministry of Finance.

    The Ministry of Trade could not access the funds in the account without the approval either by Cabinet or Executive Clearance. All approvals, including approval by the Steering Committee that included a representative from the Japanese Embassy in ACCRA endorsed the proposals from the Ministry of Trade for the utilization of the funds.

    The procurement process for the award of the Contract for the construction of the markets was done with the involvement of the Ministry of Works, Housing and the Environment. The Contract for the construction of the markets was won by MODCOM Construction Company. Work had commenced before Dr. Konteh left the Ministry to become Chief of Staff In 2013.

    The Funds for the SME Fund were paid directly to the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank. The Ministry of Trade entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with SLCB for the administration and management of the fund on behalf of government using their own standards and procedures.

    All funds were managed by the SLCB. At no point in time did Dr Konteh have any influence over its use or disbursement. Dr Konteh was rated 107% by the Japanese Govt for the way and manner in which he handled the aid.

    Dr Konteh cannot be discredited as the facts of the case are clear. He cannot be humiliated or intimidated anymore as he’s resolute in seeing Sierra Leone become the next Rwanda in Africa through progressive development and advancement in its peoples lives.

    Dr. Konteh will spend the weekend at CID for no just cause. May God save our dearly beloved Sierra Leone.

  2. Michael Koroma, your clarity of reply to Ed should be the standard in this forum. You write with your mind intact and with objectivity. This is what our country needs in these difficult and trying times if we are to forge ahead; we should cast emotions aside.

  3. The Francis Ben Keifala inferno rages on and all well meaning Sierra Leoneans are dousing it with tanks of fuel to ensure that the ACC boss does not run short. People can now see the untold damage which the Koroma Administration callously inflicted on the nation for a whole decade plus.

    The history of Richard Konteh under Ernest Koroma reveals a leader who was more interested in appeasing his subordinates rather than focus on what their thievery was doing to economically cripple the nation. This was enhanced by Ernest Koroma’s own corrupt tendencies; he sacked Logus Koroma for misappropriating inauguration funds in 2007 only to bring him back as minister of transport and aviation; he sacked Afsatu Kabba from the ministry of fisheries and marine resources for corruption only to send her to Nigeria as high commissioner; and yes he sacked Richard Konteh from the ministry of development only to bring him back as chief of staff – the list goes on.

    The catalogue and history of Ernest Koroma’s revolving door should epitomise why we are witnessing the ever broadening scale of the infinite level of corruption which became the culture of the Koroma years that is being unearthed by the ACC and the COIs.

    All the evidence suggest that no single person in the Koroma administration was clean. Some, like Palo Conteh might have just been dexterous in covering their tracks, but I do not believe for one moment that they are home and free – let us wait.

    Thank you Patricia for pointing out, in a way, that Ernest Koroma and his gang of thieves could not even use the funds they were embezzling to clean the streets of Freetown – they had no conscience.

  4. You talk as if this man is Mother Theresa’s brother. Yes Richard Conteh was Minister of Trade for only 2 years as you say. But this is enough for him to enrich himself beyond his wildest dreams. Yes he is rich but oh ya nar tiff money, which accounts for NOTHING.

    You say he is resolute in making SL the next Rwanda. Well well well this is very interesting. The APC could not even be resolute in cleaning our streets when they were in power, but now one of the ex ministers has such grandiose ideas. Now all him and his kind want, is to come back to power and drain the country even more. No, no. Una go sidom en rest fos ya.

    President Bio needs time to sort out our very small but highly corrupt and complex country. ACC please investigate and if found wanting(which I think he will be), he must face the consequences.

  5. Ed Sei, with the amount of knowledge you have pertaining to these transactions of Dr Richard Konteh, I am of the opinion that you may be useful to the ACC, if invited as a ‘Witness’.

  6. SLPP den don fraid Richard Konteh en day fen way for humiliate am. He won’t be intimidated by your low blow life of mix up box up that cannot provide for your citizens. He was only minister of Trade for 2 years 2012-2014 for clarity. The Japanese food aid that came in the form of fuel and rice was sold on an open tender with all approvals from cabinet and parliament given. Govt doesn’t own petrol stations or rice shops neither warehouses to retail such time. His quest for rightful doings, led to him to seeking approvals from the aforementioned.

    The procurement process was done with the involvement of NPPA, MTI, MOFED and a consultant from the Japanese Govt. Monies from the sale of these items were paid directly to SLCB that was used to set up the SME funds that local traders, market women, importers and exporters union applied for to expand on their businesses.

    All funds were managed by the SLCB where at no point in time did Dr Konteh have any influence over its use or disbursement. Dr. Konteh was rated 106% and 107% consecutively by the Japanese government for his handling of all aid related matter with their government.

    He can’t be humiliated any more as he’s resolute in seeing Sierra Leone be the next Rwanda in Africa through progressive development and advancement in its peoples life’s.

    • Interesting submission Ed. If Dr Konteh can present the evidence to back up all the claims you have made here in his defence, then I see no reason why he should not be exonerated and acquitted.

      But what I could never understand though Ed, is that here you have a former minister who was accused of corruption by his boss the former president Koroma. He was sent to jail on president Koroma’s evidence handed over to the police. The only reason Koroma quashed the case was because of political expediency, and the fact that Dr Konteh was about to squeal and spill the beans on the government. Dr Konteh never proved his innocence in court. It was the president that decided to drop that case.

      But be that as it may, don’t you think that Richard has amassed a lot of unexplained wealth? This could be interesting for the ACC. But I do hope he is charged promptly and not locked up without bail as we have seen this government doing to their political opponents. And also, that he is given fair hearing.

  7. Someone has to start since it has never been done, Sahr Matturi. Its very easy to be accountable – just prove yourself with facts. All found guilty has to pay back, so stop being confused.

    • First of all, I disagree with you by saying and I quote “Someone has to start since it has never been done”. Are you sure of what you are saying Issa? I believe COI’s have been established with regards to corruption in the past in our country. It’s not something new and it’s not the first time.

      Are you trying to say that something has never been done on this scale/magnitude or something has never been done at all? Think about that and send me a reply. Thanks Issa for your contribution and may GOD BLESS YOU.

    • Michael Koroma – well put. It’s refreshing to read matured and intelligent comment from a Sierra Leonean – objective and fair. There are more of us out there – those who truly believe in objectivity, and who demonstrate it in our public actions without the polarized spectacles of either party, tribal or regional loyalty over the nation.

  8. Sahr Matturi, why are you buying a pain killer for someone else’s headache? Let the Anti-Corruption Commissioner and the Judges of the Commissions of Inquiry complain. The Commissions of Inquiry will finish their work in a few months time and their reports will be forwarded to the president for action. Be rest assured that the guilty will be dealt with far ahead of 2023. Worried about 2023? Think APC will win? Keep dreaming.

    • With all due respect Mr. Komba Fenga, the ACC and the COI don’t have to complain to anyone. They have a job to do which I believe they are trying their level best to do. Let’s be realistic here in terms of the type of issues/problems they are dealing with.

      Moreover, if you read my comment, I was not complaining. I was just expressing my concerns. So read my comment again, take a pause and come back with a palatable argument. Finally. I have two questions for you. 1. Do you think that the COI has enough time to complete its job? 2. Is it realistic for the ACC to trace all those responsible for those corrupt practices and the money involved since 2007?

      Thanks Mr. Komba Fenga for your observation, although inaccurate in my view. By the way, don’t forget to reply to my questions. GOD BLESS YOU.

  9. Lots of job to be done by the ACC. Finding every corrupt official since 2007 is like squeezing water out of stone. How many more former ministers and government officials are to be detained, interviewed or released by the ACC. Will the ACC be able to find all the corrupt officials and the money involved? This job seems to be getting tougher by the day.

    My concern now is, what will happen with all these arrests and convictions of these former ministers and officials if, APC wins in 2023 without, no succeeding government continuity legislation in place? Challenging and difficult times ahead.

    • I appreciate the effort by this outlet to bring interesting and perhaps even important news. However, if I may provide a critical feedback, the editor has to do a better job with editing the articles. I have read few articles that I thought only confuse the readers or were heavily contradictory. This article is an example.

      In the outset, it states: “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.”

      But right after, the article states: “It is not yet certain as to why Dr Konteh has today been detained by the ACC.” Then right after that, it states: 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.

      See a patter? Please try to be more precise. Thanks!

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