Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 july 2021:
On Monday 12th July, 2021 the Sierra Leone Court of Appeal presided over by Justice Ansumana Ivan Sesay and consisting of Justice Adrain Fisher and Justice Momo-Jah Stevens handed down a 34 page judgement in the Appeal filed by former Minister of Health Miatta Kargbo.
Miatta Kargbo was represented by Yada Williams and Associates at the Commission of inquiry and by Melron C. Nicol-Wilson at the Court of Appeal. The state was represented by Robert B. Kowa at both the Commission of inquiry and the Court of Appeal.
The appeal hearing was centred on Justice Biobele Georgewill’s Commission of Inquiry report (COI) which 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 COI report also stated that she had unexplained wealth and found her guilty for the offence of failing to declare her assets as provided for under the Anti-Corruption Act.
Counsel for the Appellant, Melron Nicol-Wilson filed a 21 Grounds of Appeal, stating among other things that the Commission of inquiry acted outside its mandate when it investigated two accounts opened by Miatta Kargbo at the Zenith Bank Sierra Leone almost two years after she had left office as minister and was working as a Consultant for a DFID funded project and doing private businesses.
Counsel Melron Nicol-Wilson also stated that the Commissioner Biobele Georgewill acted ultra vires by finding Miatta Kargbo guilty for the Offence of failing to declare her assets and sentencing her to a six-month term of imprisonment, maintaining that the commission of inquiry was not a criminal trial and Kargbo was not arraigned or charged for any offence.
Counsel representing the State, Robert Kowa in reply to Melron Nicol-Wilson stated that Miatta Kargbo was given an opportunity to rebut allegations of unexplained wealth in her bank accounts but her lawyer that represented her at the Commission did not cross examine the witness who spoke about the bank accounts and the non-declaration of assets, and 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.
“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 USD1,050,000.00 remained unaccounted for in relation to the Ambulances. The Ambulances were duly purchased and sent to Sierra Leone.”
Legal commentators have stated that Nicol-Wilson should have won the appeal by winning that 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.
Notwithstanding this testimony by State witnesses, the Sole Commissioner had stated that Miatta Kargbo must return the money that was allocated for the purchase of the ambulances which the Court of Appeal disagreed with.
But surprisingly, the Court of Appeal has also referred Kargbo to the Anti-Corruption Commission for unexplained wealth and ordered forfeiture of monies in her account established after she left office.
According to her Lawyer Melron Nicol-Wilson during the oral submissions in court, no such monies exist in Kargbo’s accounts and never existed. He said the amounts referred to were total deposits/payments in the Account and that since February 2018 Miatta Kargbo had less than
US$1,000 in her Zenith Dollar Account and less than Le 10million in her Zenith Leones account.
Nicol-Wilson further stated in court that the wealth is explainable as those payments were from a $6000 monthly consultancy fee paid to Miatta Kargbo for a DFID funded project for a period of over one year and deposits by two truck drivers from commercial trucks she owned.
Nicol-Wilson also stated that Miatta Kargbo had won a case against Guonji Company Limited in a matter presided over by Justice Sengu Koroma in the Fast-Track Commercial Court in Freetown and paid over US$160,000 which was deposited in her US Dollars and Leones accounts at the Zenith Bank.
It is expected that Miatta Kargbo will appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone.