Political persecution and witch hunt at play in the case of former minister of health Miatta Kargbo

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 July 2021:

On Monday 12th July 2021, the Sierra Leone Court of Appeals handed down a 34-page unclear judgment in the Appeal filed by former Minister of Health Miatta Kargbo. Legal, political, and financial commentators insist that the State does not have a genuine case of unexplained wealth supported by evidence against Miatta Kargbo.

Commentators are wondering why the Appeals Court dismissed Miatta Kargbo’s case, given the evidence supporting her appeals, if not for political reasons since she is a member of the All Peoples Congress Party (APC) and served under former President Ernest Bai Koroma that ruled the country from 2007-2018.

The Commissions of inquiry were established by the Sierra Leone Peoples Party and President Maada Bio that won the 2018 Presidential elections in Sierra Leone.

The case of Miatta Kargbo’s personal account at Zenith Bank as the source of the judgment of unexplained wealth does not seem to make sense to legal scholars, political analysts, and especially even financial analysts because to start with, the former Minister opened both Zenith accounts in 2016 – two years after she left office.

The lawyer representing Miatta Kargbo, Melron Nicol-Wilson, tendered into evidence detailed bank account statements, transactions, and supporting documents over the life of both accounts – four years.

The account details and transactions showed direct transfer details of salary payments of a DfID sponsored program Miatta Kargbo worked as a consultant that earned her $6,000 a month for 18 months.

Also tendered into evidence was a judgment Miatta Kargbo won in 2017 in a case against Guonji Company Limited in a matter presided over by Justice Sengu Koroma (now Justice of the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone) in the Fast-Track Commercial Court in Freetown was awarded over US $160,000.

These monies were directly transferred into her US Dollars and Leones accounts at the Zenith Bank account. Unfortunately, the Judgement which is questionable and more political than legal, used the account payments against Miatta Kargbo.

Melron Nicol-Wilson also in a motion for leave to adduce fresh evidence pursuant to Order 27 of the Court of Appeal rules of 1985, attached National Petroleum payment records and cheque deposits made into Miatta Kargbo’s account from the income she received monthly from fuel tankers she operated as a businesswoman.

These fuel tankers were procured in 2011 before Miatta Kargbo become Minister from a loan she acquired from one of the Sierra Leonean banks. Miatta Kargbo paid off her tanker loans in 2018.

Nicol-Wilson tendered all evidence in court. But the most interesting outcome of this case was that the amounts the lawyers for the State have been sharing in the public domain as unexplained wealth and ascribed to, seem like lump sums in Miatta Kargbo’s account, are actually incremental deposits over four-year period.

One may wonder that it is possible that if Miatta Kargbo worked for 18 months with a salary of $6,000 which accounts for $108,000, including a lawsuit award of $163,800, which is equivalent to Le1,228,500,000 (Le 1.2 Billion) assuming an exchange rate of Le7,500 in 2017, that she is capable of having the said amounts of US$102,000 and Le1.9 Billion. In addition, Miatta Kargbo received an end of service benefit from the Government of Sierra Leone, which amounted to about Le550 million.

One financial analyst commented that with these totals alone, any reasonable individual or financial expert could conclude that all funds in Miatta Kargbo’s account acquired after leaving office could be accounted for and is NOT unexplained wealth.

Melron Nicol-Wilson stated that Miatta Kargbo was not given an opportunity to rebut allegations of unexplained wealth in her bank accounts during the COI, and unfortunately, the counsel for the State in the Court of Appeals – Robert Kowa, objected to a Motion seeking to bring in fresh evidence rebutting the allegations at the COI, and the Court of Appeal refused to accept the evidence that explained monies in Miatta Kargbo’s account.

Kowa mentioned in the appeals that it is not the duty of the Court of Appeal to look at new evidence at the Appellate stage but rather to see if the conclusions arrived at the Commission of inquiry were just and supported by evidence. This is unfortunate since the Court of Appeal has a right to remedy a wrong by a lower court – in this case the Commission of Inquiry which is the equivalent of the High Court.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the entire Appeal but ironically agreed that the 20 ambulances were indeed supplied and stated in paragraph 49 as follows:

‘We see no reason to interfere with the Sole Commissioner’s Findings, save for the fact that all Ambulances procured were delivered. We will not uphold the findings that USD 1,050,000.00 remained unaccounted for in relation to Ambulances procured by the Ministry of Health. The Ambulances were duly purchased and sent to Sierra Leone’.

Justice Biobele Georgewill in his Commission of Inquiry report had found Miatta  Kargbo wanting for non-supply of 20 ambulances amounting to One Million and Fifty Thousand United States Dollars and had ordered that the money be refunded by Kargbo. The judge had also stated that she had unexplained wealth and found her guilty of the offence of failing to declare her assets as provided for under the Anti-Corruption Act.

Legal commentators have stated that Nicol-Wilson should have won the appeal by winning the issue of the ambulances as a major ground as per Sierra Leone Appellate rules. The Court of Appeal indirectly agreed that Justice Biobele Georgewill erred in law and fact and, was wrong in his findings and conclusions when he stated that Miatta Kargbo should refund over One million united states Dollars for Ambulances that were not procured and supplied during her tenure in Office as Minister.

The indictment against the sole commissioner is even stronger when in the records before the Court of Appeal containing transcripts of proceedings at the Commission of inquiry, two witnesses called by the State to testify against Miatta Kargbo stated that the ambulances were procured and supplied in two tranches of 16 and 4 – making a total of 20.

Miatta Kargbo still has one more layer of Appeal – The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone where she will have a final opportunity to clear her name and set the records right.

5 Comments

  1. Reportedly, this is hearsay and, for Sierra Leone Telegraph, a disclaimer. On the ‘grapevine’, Ms Kargbo is an erstwhile employee of Tekmira Pharmaceutical Corporation. Hm?

  2. A small country where vital institutions are in shambles that relies on loans, and handouts being run despotically by a corrupt old soldier that’s what Sierra Leone has become; A totally failed state; known as a BANANA REPUBLIC. that’s exactly what we are folks. Stolen money is very hard to retrieve so chaos ensues,a wild goose chase then begins in which everyone is a target of SLPP hunters out to get revenge for imaginary wrongs they strongly believe were committed against them. The facts in Madam Kargbos case can be easily understood even by a young student, there is absolutely nothing complicated about it, but the reasons why the evidence in her favor was ignored and rejected in order to achieve a desired outcome of Guilty as Charged against her as Mr Yillah has rightly indicated.

    This corrupt President has brought our poor nation nothing but trouble, headaches and problems since he and Strasser overthrew a credible government; And as if that was not bad enough, he went right ahead and removed his superior selfishly from power slaughtering innocent people in the process; Now here he is once again, on the prowl again, hunting down the opposition again using the puppet arms of the legal system in Sierra Leone. A President as incompetent as can be still wants to hold on to power after all the anguish he has been causing our people, Now, here’s some advice for Madam kargbo – Drag them the whole nine yards through the Legal System, broaden the battlefield and fight them on the International stage with a tenacity that will frighten them out of their cowardly wits.

    Do not rest, pause or yield until victory is yours lady; You shouldn’t give them a single moment to think or believe that you are just another laid back “Pushover” because their aim is to tarnish your image and reduce you completely into nothingness and insignificance…Words to the wise.

  3. In any country, the judiciary arm of government should not only be independent of the other two branches of government, the legislature, and the executive, but has to be seen to be independent by the general public, in the way it carries out it responsibilities, and duties. Above all eles how it interpret the laws of the land. If our judiciary were independently minded, as is clearly stated in our constitution from day one when we attained our independence from the British Colonial authorities, chances are, sixty years on, we will never have been having debates about corruption, RUF wars, Tribalism, nepotism, constitutional crises, voter irregularities, unresolved cases, where your fellow Sierra-leoneans are spending years in prison on remand at Pademba Road, Mafanta, and other prison out posts in the country, with no guilty charges found against them.

    Yet they are denied their freedom because our justice system is inefficient, lack coherency,enacting the whims of sitting governments, and above all eles instead of applying the RULE OF LAW, the way they interpret our justice system blindly, in it place we have the law of the jungles, where survival of the fittest and well connected is the order of the day. This case is typical of the state using the judiciary to encroach on the rights of a citizen. The foundation of the justice system states, A man is inocent until prove guilty in a court of law by his or her own peers. If Mrs Kargbo is accused of anything, she should be considered innocent until the state proves she is guilty. The onus is on the state to provide the evidence. Her role as the accused, is to cooperate with her with the state to provide them with the evidence they think is her possession.So the burden of proof lies with the state. Under Bio’s Sierra Leone, the concept you are innocent until prove guilty, has been turned on its head.

    More once someone makes an accusations against you, in Bios world, you are automatically guilty. Now the burden of proving your innocence falls on your shoulders not the State of Sierra Leone. Our country will never advance with the judiciary acting like a massive road block to where we want our country to be. An independent judiciary is the only guarantor for a peaceful and secure Sierra Leone. No one is above the law. An independent judiciary is the glue that maintain the security of the state. The Army and police are there to defend the country from internal and external security challenges. But the real keepers of the state pillars are the judiciary. President, and parliament come and go. But our justice system remains for ever.

  4. It’s never a surprise to see this Bio administration flout every rule of engagement. Becuause that was their motive. All they are doing is fighting APC rather than fighting corruption itself.

  5. This is what happens in a country whose system of justice becomes ironically an arch purveyor of injustice; a country where the judicial arm of government is subverted and hijacked for political ends, making nonsense of the principle of separation of powers so crucial to the health of a functioning democracy. Miatta Kargbo’s case indicates how the punitive and repressive powers of a police state are mobilised and instrumentalised to overwhelm and destroy a political rival or enemy – real or imagined – of those wielding the powers in question.

    This is deeply troubling, to put it mildly. Presumption of innocence is swept under the carpet. And credible evidence in support of the defendant loses all value and meaning; it is instead doctored, twisted out of shape to produce the desired effects: guilt and conviction. Bio’s Sierra Leone is a police state: a didactatorship masquerading in borrowed and ill-fitting robes of a clearly aborted or dying democracy. Down with injustice! Down with tyranny!

Tell us about your views

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.