Sierra Leone’s former president Koroma interrogated for corruption and money laundering

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 November 2020:

Sierra Leone’s former president Ernest Bai Koroma was today interrogated by lawyers acting for the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), after the publication of a government White Paper on the findings of a High Court Judge-led commission of inquiry, into what the SLPP government describes as massive evidence of corruption and money laundering – running into hundreds of millions of dollars by the former APC government of president Ernest Bai Koroma.

Today’s interrogation comes after several weeks of uncertainty as to whether the former president (Photo) will turn up, following reports of a warrant for his  arrest issued by the ACC  should the former president continue to refuse to turn up in the capital Freetown for interrogation.

This evening, the ACC published a statement saying that: “The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) wishes to inform the general public that it has on Monday 23rd November, 2020, commenced and proceeded with the interview of the former President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, in relation to investigations into allegations of corruption, whilst he was President of the country, from 2007 to 2018.

“The said interview took place at one of the Commission’s secured “Safe Houses”. The interview will continue on another date agreed between the ACC and former President Koroma’s lawyers. In this light, the Commission wishes to reassure the general public of its determination to continue discharging its mandate as provided for in the Anti-Corruption Act No. 12 of 2008 as Amended in 2019.”

But according to reports, today’s interrogation was made possible by the intervention of the British High Commission in Sierra Leone, after supporters of the former president blockaded ACC officials a few months ago in Makeni from meeting the former president at his home to answer questions about  allegations of corruption and money laundering whilst he was in power in 2007 to 2018.

Writing on twitter after today’s interrogation, the former president said: “I have just concluded the much-anticipated interview with the ACC. The chat was conducted smoothly and amicably. I honoured the ACC’s invitation, to demonstrate my unwavering commitment to peace and the rule of law.  It was my commitment to the fight against corruption that led me to strengthen the ACC, making it one of the strongest anti – corruption institutions in Africa, under my tenure.

“Again, I remain unperturbed and ever determined to protect my good name. Profound appreciations to supporters, well – wishers for your solidarity; and thanks to the International Community for facilitating a smooth and peaceful process. I will do everything to protect the peace I helped to build and consolidate.”

There were rumours that the presence of the former president in the capital Freetown, could spark widespread violence on the streets, as supporters of his All People’s Congress Party (APC) were alleged to be planning widespread protest against the government.

But this afternoon, the executives of the APC urged their supporters and members “to continue to remain calm and abide by the laws of Sierra Leone”.

Writing in a statement published this evening, this is what the APC party said: “The Leadership of the All Peoples Congress (APC), wishes to inform our members, supporters and the public that the Chairman and Leader of our party,  former President of Sierra Leone, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma availed himself today for the much anticipated interview with the Anti-Corruption Commission.

“The interview was conducted in a respectful, dignified and amicable environment and despite all efforts to complete the interview today, it could not be completed due to time constraints. The former President is cooperating fully and  intends to continue in that vein and the interview will continue on a date to be agreed upon by the parties.

“The Chairman and Leader has always insisted on his willingness to be interviewed and his commitment to transparency and accountability, and continues to reassure the public of this commitment.

“We urge all members and supporters to continue to remain calm and abide by the laws of Sierra Leone. The former President is not under arrest or facing any constraints. He is in good spirits and extends his thanks and appreciation to his supporters and well-wishers for their support and prayers.”

It is not certain as to when the former president will next meet with officials of the ACC to continue their interrogation.

But sources at the ACC told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that they are working towards an out of court settlement with the former president to get him to pay back ten of millions of dollars alleged to have been stolen from the State.

Outside his house in Freetown this afternoon, large crowds turned-up to meet the former president:

21 Comments

  1. Mr Rashid Thomas, I just realised that the entirety of my comment – the last part of it was not posted. May I know why sir?

    • Mr Jalloh – your comment was simpy too long. You must keep to the three paragraphs rule – with each paragraph not containing more than 6 lines. This also applies to all forumites. If your comment is too long – we will remove the last few paragraphs, sadly. Thank you.

  2. Corruption is not a new chapter in the history of the country; each and everyone knows that this scourge is embedded in the social fabric of society. So, fighting corruption in a vindictive and malicious way will not only create a suspicious and uneasy atmosphere, but will also render the process fruitless and counterproductive. Eventually, instead of the public being cautious about committing the act of corruption, they would prefer to be active spectators in a game of political brinkmanship in a vicious circle of retribution. The international stakeholders are aware of this, though it remains to be seen whether their intervention would be able to offset the course of the impending calamity.

    Majority of Sierra Leoneans are now with the strong conviction that there were ominous circumstances that led to the inception of the paopa SLPP into the domain of governance of the country. And the British and other International actors, after all, have come to the realization that the ‘new direction’ government is merely a thuggish outfit hell bent in descending this beautiful country into a status quo that is reminiscent of the senseless and dreadful civil war. Since independence, the SLPP has hardly won a free and fair election, though being so power thirsty, the new crop of criminals think this is an opportunity to cause havoc and change the demographics of the country.

    Love him or loathe him, Earnest Bai Koroma (EBK) – the formidable asset of the APC – has proven to be the greatest and most popular leader that the country has ever had. Unlike EBK, who excelled throughout his tenure in office, Maada Bio is still trying to gain recognition from the general public after three years of a chaotic and confrontational style of leadership in governance. Many will come to believe that, perhaps the origin of the animosity and vendetta levelled against EBK, is as a result of this state of affairs. Nonetheless, DESTROYING EBK will not MAKE a Maada Bio. What a philosophy!?

  3. Leadership is all about making decisions. President Bio Made the right decision to draw a line on the sand by focusing on accountability of the former APC government. He strengthened the ACC commissioner by giving him his independence to perform his constitutional duties. Although the lifetime chairman of the destructive and thieving APC played all games to escape accountability, ( including PRIMITIVE AND BARBARIC TACTICS by using innocent citizens as human shields against our security forces), he has finally succumbed to pressure from the threat of issuing a warrant of arrest.

    The British thankfully intervened in order to see law and order prevailed through diplomatic channels, which I personally believe is a blow to the APC party whose intention was to once again see Freetown in ruins just to protect the biggest thief in the history of our nation EARNEST BAI KOROMA.

    Finally, I hope our young and gallant ACC Commissioner will be humbled enough to keep his head on his shoulders and follow due process, because the lifetime chairman is now a desperate and drowning man who has large followers that are capable of destroying anything useful to our citizens. but by the grace of almighty the people of Sierra Leone will continue to WIN.

  4. This is my country. I do not care how much longer I decide to live outside, but Sierra Leone will ever remain as my everlasting beloved country. I wish that, I answer the call of my Lord here “Sierra Leone”. There are too many contributors intellectuals writing, responding, commenting and so on, on this platform. My question today is this, can we put our country first?. Is Ernest Bai Koroma above the law of the land? If your answer is yes, then why? In 2007, EBK was hired by the Sierra Leoneans to serve them properly and honestly as their leader. During his tenure of office and after, if something was suspicious in his administration which was not suitable to the nation, do we have the right to question him for proper explanation? If not, why?

    This is not the end game, the current leader H.E.J.M.B. is watching; if he also goes beyond, he also will answer questions, so what’s wrong with that?. In the first place I see no reason for the former President EBK, to ignore the ACC’s invitation for corruption allegation. He was well respected and the interview was supposed to be conducted at his Makeni residence, but instead he let his men and supporters take to the street, demonstrating and showing to the world that he is not an law-abiding citizen. Shortly, we are going to witness the example from USA. There are many scholars and educators in this country, so why don’t we love our country and speak the truth? I don’t care how much you hate this president, because even our creator” Mighty God” is not loved by everybody. Can we put our country first?

    The time EBK was carrying out all this mess Bio was not in the government, was he? We are not encouraging or downplaying anyone’s mind about war comment. I want someone to educate me here. Who created ACC? Thank you

    • Hey Brima Sesay and the rest of you out here and there who are gloriously missing the point on the fight against corruption by this current administration,i want to say to you all that,STOP THE POLITICISATION OF THIS INVESTIGATION AND SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER FOR THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY AND IT’S PEOPLE. Sierra Leone is bigger than us all and we are her employees and we owe it to the country.The fight against corruption is a must, at least we all can agree on that. But also, it is a two way street that needs to tread on if we want to succeed and hold people accountable for their actions. And that 2 way street is: 1.Rule of Law and 2. to uphold the rule of law. If this government is really serious about fighting corruption in Sierra Leone, they must follow and uphold the rule of law. For example, if you are going to investigate someone for corruption charges, you first of all put in place all the necessary mechanisms in order to have a successful achievement.

      That means, do exactly what the rule of law says and follow up with it. If EBK has said he is willing to answer every question regarding corruption charges, then give him an open free and fair platform to do so and defend himself. Because this very platform will surely going to be the benchmark for further investigations for everyone including former presidents…no one and I repeat no one, is above the law. No one should be deprived of his right to defend him or herself. However, what we are seeing today unfolding in Sierra Leone over this fight against corruption, is one side not doing his homework accurately. Once that happens, you will start to see repulsive act or action. In this case, in my humble opinion, the ACC and the COI are having trouble putting their accuracies together especially those of the ACC.

      For example, the COI has submitted a white paper, in which the former president’s legal luminaries are saying that the rule of law was not followed and therefore as required by law have submitted an appeal to the supreme court to intervene to straighten up the said clause, before going further. Since the appeal was summoned or tendered, up to the final report and presentation of the white paper to the president, the appeals court has not got back to them. One would start to wonder why the supreme court did’nt respond. ACC on the other hand, will tell you that they have served a warrant of arrest to the former president. The next day, they will tell you that, a warrant of arrest to them means that they have agreed with the president’s lawyers to sit together and have a discussion. Also ACC will tell you that they have sent a letter of invitation to the former president to appear for questioning, while the former president and his legal team will tell that, they only heard it on social media. So Sierra Leoneans will want to ask – WHO IS FOOLING WHO HERE? or who are we to believe?

    • Hey Jay, it wont just stop like that. Somebody hsd to do something to put a stop to it. And it must be done accurately.

  5. The inability to govern effectively is a worrisome thing; As disgraceful as it may appear to most prudent minds, it becomes unbearable to endure when governance is forced through incompetence to strip herself naked and dress like a homeless beggar in rags of disgust and humiliation. The British Prime minister Sir Winston Churchill who successfully led Britain through World War TWO once said,” The price of greatness is responsibility” Totally agree! But for greatness in all its forms to be authentic it must come from ones ability to endure and persevere gallantly through daunting setbacks, trials and challenges; Overcoming through struggle and sacrifice is the durable substance great men and thriving nations are made of; they are said to be badges of honor won by legendary men and women with Pride.

    A President that is unwilling or afraid to take necessary risks on his own without leaning on human crutches cannot lead his nation from darkness, obscurity and abject poverty into the glorious light of stability and prosperity. Its a disgraceful thing to let outsiders hold a Presidents hand into an arena of mutual dialogue like an itsy-bitsy crawling running-nose infant, and spoon feed him the words he has to say. Disgraceful! Of what benefit was Independence to us then if we still have to run to the Colonial Masters like toddlers with wet diapers for help, advice and support? A friend of mine once declared in total despair that,” An African can never grow up and become matured because he is deeply truly afraid of the crushing burdens that come with self-responsibility.” He was right on the money! Our people lack self confidence, even the President is unsure of himself.(lol) Heart-rending isn’t it?

    This President is a miserable failure because he lacks the skills to unite our people through dialogue; Goodness gracious, had this President been a welcoming cheerful individual instead of a disgruntle, disagreeable sullen one all this needless fracas could have easily been settled behind closed doors with smiles, champagne and a friendly handshake.

  6. No nation can progress without the rule of law. This was defined by the great constitutional theorist, A.V Dicey: vinerian professor of law at Oxford University. According to Dicey, the rule of law is based on three aspects. Cutting it short, the second aspect is that every man, whatever be his rank or condition, is subject to the ordinary law of the realm and amenable to the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals’.

    An explanation of the sale of Sierra Rutile is needed from the former president.

  7. Oh my goodness. This is a complete failure of Presidential Leadership. Intervention from outside forces before interrogating former President Ernest Bai Koroma? It’s ridiculous. Such things will never happen if you have a responsible and effective President at the helm of authority. Also, it is disgusting to hear some say, that the people have won. What do they mean by that? Would they please explain to me, why they feel the people have won? What a shame and disgust. TBC.

  8. Finally the people have WON. I personally believe that from now on, Sierra Leone has changed for the better. I could have never imagined in my wildest dream that this will be a reality in our country. Stealing with impunity has always been fashionable throughout my entire life in my country.

    I hope and pray that the smooth marathon process continue and hopefully the lifetime leader of the APC will give back what he and his cohorts STOLE from the people of Sierra Leone. Finally I personally believe that this current government will also be held accountable for their stewardship.

  9. Mother Sierra Leone has won an important and remarkable victory, a victory that would stand for all times. Let us all make a note of it that on the 23rd of November 2020, for the first time in our history, may be in the history of Africa, a former head of state is forced to answer questions about his stewardship before a corruption commission. We should not care so much about the end result but what this historic moment portends.

    The former Athens of West Africa is beginning to show signs of life again albeit faintly. Never more will a sitting president consider himself/herself above the law. Should we care how we got to this point? Never. The humiliation inherent in the issue should be our primary concern. This was what Siaka Stevens foresaw that caused him to shove Momoh down our throat – to avoid being thrust before an inquiry as an ordinary citizen to answer embarrassing questions.

    Earnest tried to do the same thing but was less accomplished – APC were soundly beaten at the polls in 2018. Samura Kamara would have just been a continuation of Earnest in office. Is this what we call “God commot beyen am”? The future holds out some hope for our nation, for Maada Bio and his team now face the real possibility of being thoroughly investigated upon leaving office. Did I hear someone say they will therefore try to do the right thing?

  10. I say a prayer every night for Sierra Leoneans to unite and build their country. Unite and Emulate Singapore.

  11. Let the game continue. Currently the score remains at EBK 3, ACC 1. But I suspect that there are still more goals left in this match. So please don’t go away and stay tuned.

    • Mr Peter Dauda, your assessment on the ongoing corruption case against the former president EKB, has completely missed the point. Tackling corruption in Sierra leone should not be seen as a game of football. And even worst on party lines, or who is up or who is down. The danger of reducing serious issues like the cancer of corruption, that affect your life, my life, our families’ lives and every living and unborn Sierra Leonean to sound bites, and treating us Sierra Leoneans as the stupidest people that ever grace the face of this earth, and lacking any sense of comprehension about what is really going in our country, is not only an insult to the intelligence of every Sierra Leonean, but trying to undermine the work of the ACC.

      Corruption has become so cancerous in Sierra leone, it reflects the unethical, and lack of good political leadership our country has endured since independence. Our country should not be poor, Period. That much we can agree on. To be honest, I don’t blame you for thinking the way you think, because majority of Sierra Leoneans, think Corruption is normal, and a way of life. But it is not normal. We as a country have to fight it and root it out of our society. Otherwise we will never develop, like Ghana, Rwanda and other African countries that see corruption as a wrecking ball to their dreams of development.

  12. If for a simple matter like the ACC to interview the former president for allegations of corruption, the British and American Ambassadors would have to intervened before the interview went successfully, how will efforts to achieve national cohesion work, when the mistrust on both sides is increasingly stronger?

    Or should we again, have to depend on the English Ambassador to detribalize himself and speak Kissi, Kono, Koranko, Fullah, Mandingo, Susu, Loko, Limba, Yalunka, Themne, Mende, Krio, Sherbro, Vai – please help me out with more names of tribes – to help us achieve solidarity?

  13. The law is the law. No one is above the law. The only way our country can move forward, is if we as citizens learn to respect the laws of the land regardless of how high in status – rich, poor, or just struggling to get by with life. Recently former South African president Jacob Juma, was in court answering to corruption charges. Only this week Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy nicknamed “Bling-Bling” during his presidential term, 2007 to 2010, his nickname says it all, was also in court charged with corruption, for allegedly trying to bribe a magistrate in return for information in an investigation into his party finances. I think EKB is on record to say he is willing to support and cooperate with the ACC in their investigation.

    At least, thanks to the British intervention, much as we have a stake to a peaceful Sierra Leone, so is the British, and all the contributing African and other international partners that helped to bring us peace in our country during the RUF wars. If our politicians have forgotten about the RUF wars, it is very much fresh in the minds of our international peace guarantors. It goes to show they will not allow Bio and his government destroy that peace dividend we are enjoying today. Finally, the ACC will now be able to conduct their investigation without drawing too much attention to themselves. My problem now is – why they never thought of this idea in the first place?

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