Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 June 2021:
Diana Konomanyi, a former minister of lands and later minister of local government in the Ernest Bai Koroma APC government, who was accused and found guilty of corruption by a Commission of Inquiry established by President Julius Maada Bio to investigate the affairs of the former government, was on Monday vindicated by the country’s court of appeal.
The Court of Appeal presided by Justice Fatmata Bintu Alhadi (Photo) and comprised of two other Judges – Justice Mrs. Tonia Barnett, and Justice Komba Kamanda, ruled that the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) against Finda Diana Konomanyi be set aside.
Delivering the judgment which was read by Justice Komba Kamanda, the court ruled that after a thorough examination of the totality of the evidence before the court, the recommendation of the COI Judge – Justice Biobele Georgewill in respect of confiscating the Appellant’s premises at 1 Albert Lavaly Street Adonkia Goderich, in Freetown must be set aside including the Commission’s adverse findings.
However, the Presiding Judge – Justice Fatmata Bintu Alhadi stated that she could not agree with the Appellant – Diana Konomanyi when she argued that the Sole Commissioner exceeded his jurisdiction in its entirety, and therefore dismissed Ground One of the appeal.
In respect of Grounds 6 and 7 of the Appellant’s case, Justice Alhadi stated that the Sole Commissioner’s ruling of the 14th of February 2019 was correct and didn’t misapply the law.
“I agree with the Counsel for the Respondent. Grounds 6 and 7 must therefore fail and are hereby dismissed. In light of the conclusions reached, this appeal is dismissed on Grounds 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Ground 2 is upheld,” Hon. Justice Alhadi stated.
Disagreeing with the Commission’s recommendation in pronouncing the Appellant guilty and sentenced to prison for a term of 6 months or pay a fine of Le30,000,000, she ordered the ACC to prosecute the Appellant for violating Section 119 of the ACC Act of 2008 (as amended) in that the Appellant deliberately refused to declare her assets for the period under review.
The Presiding Judge in her consequential Orders, ordered that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) conducts a forensic valuation, audit and investigation of the said property at Adonkia and her sole proprietorship business and her companies in order to establish and discover her financial transactions, profit and loss accounts and cash flow under the ACC Act of 2008 (as amended) and the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2012 (as amended).
But Counsel acting for Diana Konomanyi – Lawyer Ibrahim Sorie, argued that the Sole COI Commissioner – Justice Biobele Georgewill, misdirected himself and erred in law by acting as a Court of Law and convicting the Appellant for the offence of failure to declare assets. (Photo: Diana Konomanyi).
Lawyer Ibrahim Sorie further told the court that the Sole COI Commissioner did not only fail to adequately consider all the evidence adduced before the court, but he also failed in making a distinction between a sole proprietorship and a limited liability company.
He went on to argue that the Commission didn’t accord his client the fair opportunity to be heard, adding that the findings and recommendations of the Commissions were against the weight of the evidence presented at the proceedings.
After listening to the arguments by counsels representing the State and Ms Konomanyi respectively, Justices Mrs. Tonia Barnett, and Komba Kamanda, ruled that the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) against Finda Diana Konomanyi be quashed, thus overruling the presiding Judge – Fatmata Bintu Alhadi.
This judgement against the findings and recommendations of the COI will be seen as a test case for several former government officials found guilty of corruption by the COI, that many have long argued to have acted outside its legal powers. They too will be looking to be exonerated by the Appeals Court.
You can read the full judgement here: