Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 April 2016
It is now two days since serious allegations were made about president Koroma’s real connection with the Panama corruption papers, following the publication of information concerning Koidu Holdings by Bloomberg on its website. (Photo: Poverty-stricken Freetown suburbs).
It is alleged that president Koroma is not only serving as the president of Sierra Leone, but is also and contrary to the country’s Constitution, registered and acting as the President of Koidu Holdings – the largest diamond mining company in Sierra Leone.
Koidu Holdings is one of the companies listed in the Panama corruption papers, involved in dodgy offshore investment dealings.
The information which appeared to have been published on the Bloomberg website, but now thought to have been redacted, named three executives for Koidu Holdings SA: Jan Joubert – Chief Executive Officer; Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma – President, and Ibrahim Kamara – Chief Communication Officer.
Diamond export data, obtained by the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR), show that from 2012 to 2015, Octea – the parent company of Koidu Holdings, exported more than US$330 million in rough diamonds.
But the company is alleged to be more than US$150 million in the red, with dozens of creditors – including president Koroma’s government, waiting to be paid.
The mining agreement signed between the government of Sierra Leone and Koidu Holdings, states that Koidu Holdings would pay a US$200,000 annual lease every year, with a 3% increase from the prior year; income taxes of 35% would be deducted from Koidu’s net profit; the government would impose an 8% royalty rate for exceptional diamonds valued at more than US$500,000 per stone, with other diamonds priced on received sales value.
The agreement also stated that a government valuator would oversee the company’s sorting and pricing process and grant the company the right to deploy armed security forces throughout the concession. It also stipulates that on or before the 15th of each month, data concerning weight, value, size and categories of diamonds must be provided to Sierra Leone’s director of mines and the Central Bank.
The data leaked from Mossack Fonseca, confirms a secretive financial structure connecting Koidu Holdings and Octea to wholly owned Steinmetz entities in Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands and Switzerland.
According to the Sierra Leone 1991 constitution, Section 46(3); “The President shall not, while he continues in office as President, hold any other office of profit or emolument in the service of Sierra Leone or occupy any other position carrying the right to remuneration for rendering services.” (Photo: President Koroma – right, and the man thought to be positioned to succeed him as president – John B. Sisay, the CEO of Sierra Rutile).
If proven that indeed at any time in the past nine years, president Koroma has held any position or directly involved in the running of Koidu holdings or any other private entity, he would have been in serious breach of the country’s constitution. (Photo: Bloomberg appears to have redacted the Koroma evidence on their website).
Such violation will tantamount to ‘gross misconduct’, and Section 49(1) of the constitution states that: “The office of president shall become vacant where the incumbent ceases to hold that office in pursuance of section 51 of this Constitution.”
This provision is clear, and can only apply where there is ‘gross misconduct’ by the president and fifty-percent of parliamentarians have signed and handed a petition to the speaker of parliament for his impeachment.
Section 51(1) states that: “If notice in writing is given to the Speaker signed by not less than one-half of all the Members of Parliament of a motion alleging that the president has committed any violation of the Constitution or any gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, and specifying the particulars of the allegations and proposing that a tribunal be appointed under this section to investigate those allegations, the Speaker shall:
(a)if Parliament is then sitting or has been summoned to meet within five days, cause the motion to be considered by Parliament within seven days of the receipt of the notice; or
(b)if Parliament is not then sitting (and notwithstanding that it may be prorogued), summon Parliament to meet within twenty-one days of the receipt of the notice, and cause the motion to be considered by Parliament.
(2) Where a motion under this section is proposed for consideration by Parliament, it shall meet in secret session and shall not debate the motion, but the Speaker or the person presiding in Parliament shall forthwith cause a vote to be taken on the motion and, if the motion is supported by the votes of not less than two thirds of all Members of Parliament, shall declare the motion to be passed.
(3) If a motion is declared to be passed under subsection (2):
(a)the Speaker shall immediately notify the Chief Justice who shall appoint a tribunal which shall consist of a Chairman who shall be a Justice of the Supreme Court and not less than four others selected by the Chief Justice, at least two of whom shall hold or shall have held high judicial office;
(b)the Tribunal shall investigate the matter and shall within the period of three months from the date on which the motion was passed report to Parliament through the Speaker whether or not it finds the particulars of the allegation specified in the motion to have been sustained;
(c)the president shall have the right to appear and be represented before the Tribunal during its investigation of the allegations against him.
(4) If the Tribunal reports to Parliament that if finds that the particulars of any allegation against the president specified in the motion have not been substantiated, no further proceedings shall be taken under this Section in respect of that allegation.
(5) Where the Tribunal reports to Parliament that it finds that the particulars of any allegation specified in the motion have been substantiated, Parliament may, in secret session, on a motion supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the Members of Parliament, resolve that the president has been guilty of such violation of the Constitution or, as the case may be, such gross misconduct as is incompatible with his continuance in office as president; and where Parliament so resolves, the president shall thereupon cease to hold office and a vacancy shall then be deemed to have occurred in the office of president and subsection(4) of Section 49 of this Constitution shall apply accordingly.”
It is highly unlikely the parliament of Sierra Leone will find the political courage and strength to bring forward a motion, calling for the impeachment of president Koroma, if these allegations are true, because of the huge control of the parliament by his ruling APC party.
President Koroma’s influence and control of the country’s judiciary is also crucial in matters of State justice in Sierra Leone.
He is responsible for appointing Judges, including those presiding at the highest court in the land – the Supreme Court. President Koroma appoints the Chief Justice.
What the leaked information allegedly published on the Bloomberg website revealed also, is that the man appointed by president Koroma to help police and monitor all mining companies in the country – Mr Ibrahim Satti Kamara as the Director of Community Affairs and Communications at the National Minerals Agency in Freetown, is also serving as Communications Officer of Koidu Holdings SA.
It is now more than twenty-four hours since the Sierra Leone Telegraph contacted the attorney general, the NRA, State House, and Mr. Ibrahim Kamara of the national minerals agency for comment about the alleged involvement of president Koroma in the running of Koidu Holdings.
No comment has been received to refute or clarify the allegations.
Such blatant violation of the constitution of Sierra Leone by senior government officials, including the head of State, cannot be acceptable.
And it is for these reasons president Koroma is being asked to go now or be impeached by parliament.
The Koroma government has recently been strongly criticised by international agencies, including the IMF, for granting tax concessions and exemptions especially to mining companies, valued at more than $200 million a year, which could help save thousands of lives lost, due to poor healthcare and lack of proper sanitation in the country.