Sierra Leone government minister charged to court over Chinagate rice scandal

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 April 2020:

Sierra Leone scored two firsts yesterday, with the president announcing the country’s confirmation of its first COVID-19 victim, and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) announcing that it has charged a senior minister in the Bio-led government to court for the missing 49,000 bags of rice donated by China.

After several months of investigations by the ACC into what the Sierra Leone Telegraph has dubbed the “Chinagate Rice Saga”, the ACC yesterday said that it has charged five people with corruption, including Alpha Osman Timbo – the Minister of Labour and Social Security, who also served as Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education when this huge consignment of rice went missing.

The stolen rice was meant to assist the government in feeding hundreds of thousands of malnourished school children across the country.

Also charged, are: Emily Kadiatu Gogra – the Deputy Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education; Charles Tom Kamanda – the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education; Mamusu Massaquoi – Director of Nutrition in the School Feeding Programme; and Zainab Binta Kamara – a business woman who was caught by police packaging some of the alleged stolen rice for sale. (Photo: Standing right – with president Bio on left, is Minister Alpha Timbo, accused of stealing 49,000 bags of government rice).    

All of the accused including Minister Alpha Timbo have been charged with Fifteen counts of corruption offences, including misappropriation of public property, contrary to Section 36(1); failure to comply with applicable procedures and guidelines, contrary to Section 48(2)(b); conspiracy to commit a corruption offence, contrary to Section 128; converting property knowing same to be proceeds of corruption for the purpose of disguising the illicit origin, contrary to Section 52(1)(a); and abuse of office, contrary to Section 42(1), of the Anti-Corruption Act No. 12, of 2008 respectively.

According to the ACC, between October 2019 and December 2019, Alpha Osman Timbo, Emily Kadiatu Gogra, and Charles Tom Kamanda, misappropriated Forty-Nine thousand bags of 50 Kg rice, meant for the government’s school feeding programme.

All three have been jointly charged with one count of misappropriation of public property, contrary to Section 36(1); one count of failure to comply with applicable procedures and guidelines, contrary to Section 48(2) (b); one count of conspiracy to commit a corruption offence, contrary to Section 128; and one count of abuse of office, contrary to Section 42(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act No. 12, of 2008.

Between October 2019 and December 2019, Mamusu Massaquoi – the lady in charge of the government’s School Feeding Programme misappropriated forty-nine thousand bags of 50Kg rice, and has been charged with one count of misappropriation of public property, contrary to Section 36(1); one count of conspiracy to commit a corruption offence, contrary to Section 128; and three counts of abuse of office, contrary to Section 42(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act No. 12, of 2008.

And, between October 2019 and November 2019, Zainab Binta Kamara – a local business woman, is accused of converting four thousand – one hundred bags of 50Kg rice, meant for the school feeding programme.

Zainab has been charged with one count of misappropriation of public property, contrary to Section 36(1); one count of conspiracy to commit a corruption offence, contrary to Section 128; one count of converting property knowing such property to be proceeds of corruption for the purpose of disguising the illicit origin, contrary to Section 52(1)(a); one count of concealing the true nature of property which is the proceeds of corruption, contrary to Section 52(1)(b); and one count of possessing property knowing same to be the proceeds of corruption, contrary to Section 52(1)(c) of the Anti-Corruption Act No. 12, of 2008.

All accused are expected to appear at the High Court in Freetown on a date to be set by the Master and Registrar of Courts.

Meanwhile, the ACC says that it “wishes to reassure the general public of its determination to curb graft at all levels in Sierra Leone, especially in the implementation of the Free Quality Education programme”.

10 Comments

  1. There are different categories of theft. In some cases theft can be forgiven where, for example, somebody steals food to survive. But the thievery in this case is monstrous and displays a lack of conscience. How can one bring one’ s self to steal rice meant to help feed children in a country where most people cannot afford one decent meal a day?

    If convicted the accused must be severely punished and given a dressing down by the judge. Part of the punishment has already started, the nation is now talking about them and their family members and friends can’t look at people directly.

    The ACC has thrown a blow just when most of us believed that it was on the way down and out because of political interference. Now a sitting Minister is in the dock, the shock must be killing him. President Bio should suspend all the government workers involved until the case is resolved.

    The role of social media these days cannot be underestimated in putting pressure on public servants to do the right thing. Many thanks go to Abdul Rashid Thomas and The Telegraph for providing the conduit through which we are able to express our views to maintain our mental balance. I really don’t know how A.R Thomas is able to keep up with the dizzying pace of events in our country.

    • “ The ACC has thrown a blow just when most of us believed that it was on the way down and out because of political interference. Now a sitting Minister is in the dock, the shock must be killing him.”

      My brother Mr. Sorie, I will advice we wait and observe before jumping ahead of ourselves with optimism when it comes to the ACC. We have seen this movie time and again. May I remind you that former president Koroma allowed ACC to institute corruption charges against sitting ministers and senior officials in the likes of Haja Hafsatu Kabbah, Kemoh Sesay, Momoh Conteh etc. we all know the end result, so please let’s wait and see how this part 2 of this movie ends.

  2. I don’t trust ACC at this moment.The selective fights on corruption is completely one sided and ACC is a dead brain institution.The Court or ACC has exonerated many cases in this current and past government.The ASSL Report that contains so much evidence,has been buried and not a single scape-goat was indicted.

    Electricity thief has been cancelled.Tell me about Hon.Paran and Tawa’s radio democracy accusation on each other? The first lady scandals and Chief Minister $1.5million that was solicited by the bank and SL Mining company Ltd?

    • It’s all optics without substance. Pretending to make my own supporters scapegoats in “Garygate”, to “square balance” it with the selective investigations on my opponents, is a betrayal to the justice that my people entrusted in me. Again, it’s all cosmetics and lipsticks in front of the mirror. I am happy to be one sided on behalf of my people so that, I could make their lives better.

      My Alternative Council Committee (ACC) is not doing a good job. I have to see into their activities. God graciously hear the voice of the true lovers of the Paradise of Africa and punish the servants helping their masters with their loot. God bless Mr. Bangs Allusine Salleh. God bless Sierra Leone.

  3. Showdown, in the case for the scramble of Chinagate rice. This is what happens when the ACC boss, time and time again, breaks his Triple A interview promise and the Bio Administration lose control over his Ministers. No proactive strategy by the ACC to interrupt such massive and well organized Mafia underground thieving operations by some Bio Administration ministers and officials. What about the missing billions of leones that was penned down in the Auditor General’s most recent report and the First Lady’s project funds investigation.

    The ACC has yet to set a date. Without these investigations taking center stage, we will be seeing what I call, selective investigation by the ACC. What an Awkward and Disgraceful situation to be in, especially, by a Bio Administration that is preaching anti-corruption as we speak. Firstly, the Chinagate, followed by the Coronavirus dilemma, thirdly, the Retired Major Paolo Conteh’s Treason trial, fourthly, Sahr Matturi’s relentless effort to discover the “in-To-Tos” of the subject matter. Lots of headaches down the road, Mr. President. God help the ACC.

  4. God bless ACC for their relentless effort in combating corruption at all levels. May God save our nation from the COVID 19 Pandemic. God bless MAMA SALON.

  5. Wow unbelievable thats maybe 1.5 million US dollor or 1.2 million Pounds. Credit to the president for implementing procedures to catch these corrupt people. This is a crime against Sierra Leone.

  6. I think the ACC are really doing very well for the nation. They should not be afraid of anybody. Not even the president if he commits corruption offence.

  7. Outstanding development emanating from the ACC. We are looking forward to a fair trial devoid of any political influences and the implementation of all appropriate measures prescribed by the country’s enhanced ACC Act. Not forgetting, we are also waiting for charges to be instituted relating to the 2018 audit report which revealed the misappropriation and unaccounting for billions of Leones under this new administration.

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