Sierra Leone government chief minister Francis in an alleged $1.5 million corruption scandal

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 November 2019:

Sallieu Tejan Jalloh – the managing editor of one of Sierra Leone’s newspapers – Times Sierra Leone, was yesterday evening arrested by armed police officers and locked up in detention at the CID in Freetown, after publishing a statement promising to reveal evidence of a $1.5 million bribe, allegedly paid into the Bank account of the government’s chief minister – Professor David Francis by a mining company.

According to the BBC’s Umaru Fofanah, commenting this morning on social media on the arrest: “Police in Sierra Leone have confirmed the detention  last night of journalist Sallieu Tejan-Jalloh of the Times newspaper. The head of CID, Chief Superintendent John Alpha told me that it was in connection with an SMS the journalist sent to the county’s Chief Minister Prof David Francis, enquiring about an alleged payment of $1.5 million into his private bank account by SL Mining which had its license cancelled recently by the state. Police are now at Ecobank seeking to confirm the alleged payment, the CID boss told me. The Chief Minister could not be reached for his comment.”

The arrested journalist is reported to have planned to publish full details of the bribery transactions today. (Photo: Sallieu Tejan-Jalloh).

It is understood that the SMS text message sent by the journalist to chief minister Francis, was simply to request confirmation of the source of the $1.5 million allegedly paid into the chief minister’s Ecobank account in Freetown.

Critics say that the arrest of the journalist last night, was aimed at silencing the journalist and to prevent him from publishing the evidence.

It is believed that the journalist had received warnings in the last few days to back off from publishing that evidence.

The arrest of yet another journalist by the SLPP government raises questions about the seriousness of the government’s intention to repeal the notorious 1965 Public Order Act, which successive governments have arbitrarily used to harass, intimidate, arrest and detain journalists in the country.

If the corruption allegations against chief minister David Francis are true, then this will be the first high profile corruption scandal to hit president Bio’s government, since he came to office last March.

According to details of the SMS text believed to have been sent by the journalist for the chief minister to comment on the allegations before deciding whether to publish the evidence, it would appear that the country’s Financial Crimes Intelligence Unit (FIU) had discovered the $1.5 million in the minister’s bank account in their investigations.

“Good evening sir, please be informed that we are currently investigating an issue of financial crime allegedly involving the Chief Minister. It was alleged that the FIU discovered the sum of USD1.5 million which was paid on diverse dates in your account at the ECOBANK. There are issues of alleged bribery from a mining company that also requires your response. We are already concluding our investigation and we would therefore need your own side of the story before publications. Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you.” That was the content of the SMS text sent to the chief minister by the journalist arrested yesterday.

The police in Freetown are yet to make a statement about the arrest of the journalist, who from the above SMS text message, does not appear to have committed a crime by merely trying to cross check his allegations with the chief minister, before going to press.

Chief Minister Professor David Francis is the most powerful minister in the Bio-led government, and possibly the most unpopular minister in the country. If he has abused his powers and influence over the police, by ordering the arrest of the journalist, then his role in the government must now be untenable.

Many believe that the role of  chief minister is an unnecessary duplication of the vice president’s role, and must be scrapped to save the government hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

These bribery allegations, if proven to be true, will test the commitment and conviction of president Bio and his fight to end corruption in high places in Sierra Leone. Will chief minister Francis be regarded as a sacred cow? Only time will tell.

16 Comments

  1. President Bio is the President of Sierra Leone and not the GOVERNOR of Sierra Leone.
    CHIEF MINISTERS are appointed by GOVERNORS and not by PRESIDENTS in my view. Did President Bio considered himself to be the GOVERNOR of Sierra Leone before creating this CHIEF MINISTER position?
    He might have just created the position of SECOND VICE-PRESIDENT as the late President Stevens did. The post of CHIEF MINISTER is unnecessary, boring and waste of funds and position title. It must be abolished in my view.
    Again, President Bio is the President of Sierra Leone and not the GOVERNOR OF THE ATHENS OF WEST AFRICA. GOD BLESS our PRESIDENCY.
    Concerning the allegations against the CHIEF MINISTER, more information is needed before hammering the last nail on the Coffin. No one should be spared when it comes to corruption. Also, intimidating journalist for doing their jobs is unacceptable and must be condemned OUTRIGHT. GOD BLESS our JOURNALISTS.

    • You had the SEA under Ernest Koroma and you were all praising, until she started insulting and belittling your brother – the puppet VP Sam Sumana. Man it is one and the same salary that the SEA then and now the Chief Minister is receiving.

  2. Mr. Emmanuel Conteh, can you kindly elucidate the functions and responsibilities of the vice president and those of the chief minister so that we can see where the duplication in their functions and responsibilities exist? Thanks.

  3. If the Chief Minister is innocent as his supporters want us to believe, why abusing and misusing the security agencies in having the journalist locked up arbitrarily? What happened to the rule of law? In civilized societies, public officials charged with a scandal, have a duty to clear their name without resorting to intimidation, coercion and any other strong-arm tactics. The Chief Minister who lived in the UK for several years before his appointment last year, should know this basic lesson in democracy and the role the media plays in society.

    As the report states, the journalist acted with caution by reaching out to the Chief Minister to give his own side of the story. That’s what we call corroborating a story, and I’m pretty sure the Chief Minister’s cheerleading team here, knows that very well. It’s a shame seeing the overwhelming support for such strong-arm tactics coming from folks who railed against them in the past under former President Koroma and the APC.

  4. The APC are behind all the scandals that most of the journalists are doing to prevent president Bio and the commission of inquiry from investigating them, but it would not work. They will pay back all the government money that they took from the people of Sierra Leone through the commission of enquiry.

  5. I am neither an APC stalwart, nor an SLPP praise singer. As a concerned Sierra Leonean I believe that we are slowly moving towards the APC propaganda of the mid 1960s. The majority of us did not witness that era. Sheep and goats were slaughtered and their blood used to deceive Sierra Leoneans that cannibalism was rife in the country. It is the same propaganda that is up today, but in another form; the media. In as much as we allow media freedom, censorship of what we publish or intend to publish should be maintained. Therefore, the need exist to publish an unbiased report. From all logical reasoning (Inductive, deductive and tranductive) the Chief Minister cannot do such.

    1. This is a mining company whose operational license has been cancelled by the same government the Professor is serving. 2. He cannot ask the company to deposit money into his local account, given that he has offshore accounts. 3. As an academic he knows that the risk of being exposed or caught is high. 4. He is aware of the fact that there are a lot of people within and outside SLPP that are fighting tooth and nail to bring him down. 5. He is also aware that there are both internal and external critics questioning his position.

    Dear Editor, please put these five points on the table and question the credibility of the information. If the five points above are anything to go by, I believe that even if money was deposited into the Chief Minister’s local account, it was meant to frame him up. Please investigate well. That is the spirit of journalism.

    • Thanks James for the sound insight over this issue. Chief minister of the Bio-led government having cancelled the licence of that company accepted a bride and deposit it into his LOCAL ACCOUNT is a complete lie, considering that amount. Please journalist if your patriotism to Sierra Leone is not there, be patriotic and stop creating unnecessary scene if there is no news to write home about.

    • You shouldn’t have received your readers by stating you’re neither APC or SLPP when you know your sympathies lie with the Chief Minister, Dr. David Francis. In civilized societies, the onus should have been on the Chief Minister to demonstrate and convince the public of his innocence and not to order the security forces to detain the journalist accusing him of wrongdoing. I’m disappointed by your overt support for censorship, which you know runs against the very spirit of democracy and the rule of law. You should bow your head in shame for being disingenuous!

  6. Mr. Thomas, we all stand for the truth, justice, transparency and high standards in public life but unfortunately from different point of view. If what you’ve deleted from my comment was treacherous to your newspaper what about the divisive, insulting  and hate messages especially from  my country man Mr. Saidu Conteh towards this current administration and certain regions of our Salone?

    We all do appreciate and thank you for giving us the opportunity to help in nation building.

  7. The Honorable Abdul Rashid Thomas, on the road to Greatness. As usual, sharper than a Samurai’s gleaming sword, flexing his intellectual muscles there – love it! The problems and challenges facing our country are insurmountable, and deeply spiritual. It will take sincere collective efforts to move Sierra Leone forward. Anything less than that will not suffice.

    There are evidences to prove this – the limitless numbers of men and women with Doctorate degrees, whose efforts put together count as nothing, speaks volumes in this regard. Academic prowess, robust, refined intelligence, and unmatched skill will always be insufficient in our quest for lasting, sustainable change. Ours is a Spiritual problem, and spiritual problems need divine solutions and interventions.

    There’s a curse that comes with war that can never be removed, like the shell on the back of a giant sea turtle, unless it is dead. And there is another eerie one that comes with overthrowing legitimate power. It moves effortlessly like smoke in the wind to every direction; none can stop, reverse or contain it, but Almighty God. Pray! Inshallah, Existence will consider the prayers of the holiest ones among us, our little children – and send us God fearing, spiritual, competent leaders in the nearest future….Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  8. I went to Kampala, Uganda, on some UN tribunal Investigations. One of the senior police officers who had bagged his post-graduate degree at the Makerere University was happy to engage me in a conversation during one of our breaks.

    When I finally had time to give him ears, he told me that he heard that I was from Sierra Leone. I asked him why, and he said that he heard that one of his former professors at Makerere University is now a cabinet minister in Sierra Leone. I asked him who that could be. He said that the person is Professor David Francis. He was full of praises and admiration for Professor Francis, referring to him as one of the best and respected professors at the Makerere University during his time at that university.

    I have never met Professor Francis in life since I did not know him from before, and I have not journeyed to Sierra Leone since 2011. However, after my encounter with the Ugandan police officer, I decided to do a bit of digging about this man when I eventually returned to my duty station.

    One of the shocking discoveries that I made in my quest to know who Professor Francis is was that inasmuch as outsiders acclaim him for his prowess in academia and discipline, he seems to be in the wrong profession in the wrong country. I was shocked to know that Professor Francis mentored the current Ethiopia Prime Minister and Nobel Prize winner at some point. While the mentor came to a country where honesty and disciple are akin to a death wish, the student went to a country that is striving for Excellency, honesty, and discipline. Ironical!

    The corrupt gang in Sierra Leone I have learned from talking to people in and outside the country, and also open-source information have targeted Professor Francis as the key to unlock and undermine all the mechanisms that are being put in place or taken to heal the cancer call corruption and indiscipline in the country. I would not be surprised if people in the same government that the Professor is serving might not see him as an impediment to any evil thing they would want to do.

    He is labelled as the chief tribalist in the government. A claim that cannot be supported because I learned that when he dosed out grant and scholarship to Sierra Leoneans to study in the UK while he was at Bradford, he never dictated who was to benefit or not. The only condition was that the person selected should have the requirement stipulated by the Universities. For proof of this, asked former IGP Acha Kamara and Francis Munu, who received the grants or scholarship on behalf of the police.

    At another time, he was said to have said it was okay to keep one percent of contract money and not the other way round. That clip was reported in such a way that if one was not fortunate to hear it, you would think that the Professor had advocated for the contractor to keep ninety-nine percent of the contract money for him or herself.

    I know that sensational journalism is what we all see as news. Nevertheless, it could be true that Professor Francis might have one or more foreign accounts since he had spent most of his adult life working abroad at top academic institutions. A million questions are, would he be dumbed to ask a foreign company who had sued the government he is serving to put money that is a proceed of bribes into his local account when he has several foreign accounts? Why would he choose a Sierra Leone account in a country where he is aware that people have been fighting tooth and nail to burst his jugular even when he has not done anything wrong?

    This article and the subsequent follow-up are seen to be insinuating that the allegation against the Professor is true. Be it as the articles want us to believe, why would the Professor report the matter to the two investigative bodies in the country, the CID and the ACC if he knows that he is guilty as insinuated?

    I know that the Sierra Leone Telegraph does not have paid journalists or reporters sending articles for publication from within the country. It rely most from contributions from sometimes anonymous writers. However, before publishing any news article contributed by anonymous or ghost-writers using different monikers, I would beg the publisher of the Sierra Leone Telegraph to do some due diligence. What if the author intends to assassinate the target’s integrity knowing very well that his article or information is false, it would be tough to repair the target’s integrity especially after he has already been taken to the slaughterhouse.

    May this matter be investigated, and the outcome published for all to read as the fight against graft and corruption in Sierra Leone is at a critical crossroads. We either support to win it, or we support to regress and be always at the bottom of all indexes.

    • Mr Jones, please be advised that your comment has violated our word count rule. In future please keep to this rule, or else your comment will be deleted. But be it as you are new to the commentary page, and the importance of your comment, we have published it in full on this occasion.

      Our job is not to pass judgement on anyone but to report and ask questions in pursuit of the truth, transparency and justice. Our job is to hold public officials and government to account, irrespective of tribe and political affiliation. We did exactly that when APC where in power, which ironically, some foot soldiers of the current government where quite happy to see us do when they were in opposition. Double standards is bad for development.

      Your point about due diligence is totally out of place. Where in our story have we accused the minister of corruption? Please be specific, rather than let your emotion cloud your judgement. What is false about our stories? Please be specific. As to the questions that you raised about the integrity or otherwise of the minister, that is a matter for the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission to decide. Our commitment to upholding public officials to the highest standards of public life for which they are paid, will not be compromised by any attempt to brow-beat the Sierra Leone Telegraph. Thank you.

  9. If it is just an attempt of blackmailing the Professor, then the Journalist might end in the prison for 10 years for Defamation.

  10. Could it be true that the Sierra Leone Telegraph is also bent on bringing down the chief minister Dr. Francis and the simple question is why? This paper and the APC opposition have always questioned and strongly criticised  the creation of this government position. This man has been accused several times of power abuse and now it’s corruption

    We need the position of the chief minister baldly irrespective of who is  in power to oversee the day to day running of our governmental institutions. Sorry, this accusation does not make sense and the presentation is also very very poor. Undermining a government that is trying to correct the mess our country is in, is the worst service one can render SALONE  now.

    • Mr Moiba, as editor I have taken the liberty of deleting those treacherous statements you made in your comment about the Sierra Leone Telegraph, simply because we are standing up for the truth, justice, transparency and high standards in public life without favour. Please be mindful. The history about the causes of the war in Rwanda is worth remembering.

    • The Chief Minister position is unnecessary, especially in a cash-strapped country like Salone Mr. Moiba. Its very creation duplicates the functions of the vice presidency, which the Constitution accommodates. A govt that has a sense of fiscal responsibility, would not create a position that duplicates another or bloat its cabinet as President Bio and his SLPP have done.

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