October 10, 2018
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Senior Investigating Officer at the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Joseph. B. Noah has stated in court that the first accused deposited Le300 million Leones of the Hajj money into a joint bank account.
Noah was being cross-examined in the on-going 2017 hajj corruption trial involving officials of the of the former All Peoples Congress administration.
The ACC had indicted Sheka Sahid Kamara, former Special Assistant to former President Koroma; former Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh; Minkailu Mansaray, Deputy Chairman and Leader of the APC and former Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources; Mohamed Alie Bah; Ibrahim Fackeh Conteh; and Abu Bakarr Carew, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, on eight counts of corruption.
Responding to cross-examination from counsel representing the 1st accused, Aruna Bundu-Conteh, the ACC Senior investigator told the court that the Ministry of Social Welfare was the custodian of both the Leones and United States Dollar accounts of the 2017 Hajj.
The witness said that during investigation, the 1st accused disclosed to him that 6th accused Abu Bakarr Carew and an accountant at the Social Welfare Ministry were signatories to the accounts.
He said the Ministry of Social Welfare was only handling the accounts while budgeting was done by the Hajj Committee of which the 1st accused was Secretary, adding that the latter would always write to the ministry for disbursement and that all his requests were granted.
He said the breakdown of pre and post Hajj activity expenditure was Le475,205,000 (four hundred and seventy five million, two hundred and five thousand Leones), adding that some of that money was disbursed into the private joint account of the 1st accused and his wife.
He said the 1st accused had told ACC investigators that 3rd accused Minkailu Mansaray and others had instructed him to pay the money into his private account for easy access should the committee need money while in Saudi Arabia.
He said that on 18th August 2017, the sum of Le300 (three hundred million Leones) was disbursed into the joint private account and that during investigations the ACC retrieved the said money and transferred it into the account of the Ministry of Social Welfare.
According to the investigator, the second and third accused persons – Victor Foh and Minkailu Mansaray – denied they had advised the first accused to keep the said Le300 million in a private account.
The investigator-cum-witness further told the court that the 4th accused had also told him that while on flight to Saudi Arabia, the 1st accused informed him that he had received the sum of US$314,000, adding that he was advised to keep some in Freetown as the amount was huge.
He further narrated that 4th accused Mohamed Alie Bah had told him that he witnessed when the 1st accused handed over the sum of US$220,000 to the Sierra Leonean Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
According to the ACC, all accused persons on diverse dates between 1st January and 30th September 2017 allegedly conspired to commit corruption offences by misappropriating eighty thousand United States Dollars (USD $80,000), donated to the Government of Sierra Leone for Muslims to perform pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
The ACC also alleges that Sheka Sahid Kamara, Victor Bockarie Foh, Minkailu Mansaray, Mohamed Alieu Bah, and Abu Bakarr Carew on dates unknown between 1st of January and 30th September 2017 conspired to engage in a project without prior planning and conspired to undertake preparation for the 2017 Hajj pilgrimage.
The Commission further claims that the accused persons conspired to knowingly mislead the ACC by making statement to the investigators that the sum of US$60,000 was handed over to 2nd accused Victor Foh by 1st accused Sheka Sahid Kamara, when the actual amount was US$80,000.
Again, the ACC says that Sheka Sahid Kamara on dates between 1st July and 30th September 2017 misappropriated the sum of Le300, 000,000 donated to the government of Sierra Leone for Muslims intending to perform Hajj in Saudi Arabia.
In addition, the anti-graft agency alleges that Abu Bakarr Carew on diverse dates between 1st and 30th August 2017 failed to comply with the appropriate procedure by approving the withdrawal of US$314,000 by Sheka Sahid Kamara from the Hajj Account No.003001012636100284 at ECObank.
The matter continues.