…witness tells court
By Hawa Amara
The first prosecution witness (PW1) in the ‘timbergate’ investigation, detective Police Constable 4013 Mohamed Jusu, attached at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), on Monday (23 June) told the Freetown Magistrates’ Court No.2 that the accused had informed that the sacked Chief of Staff gave him (accused) the executive clearance to export “the value added process timber”.
DPC Jusu was being led in evidence by lead defence counsel, M.P. Sesay, Esq. in respect of the arrest, detention and prosecution of Ali Suma, who is alleged to have evaded Export Tax in the export of 415 x20 containers of timber.
Jusu told the court that on 29th May, 2014, AIG Memuna Conteh and team brought in the accused to the CID for investigation. He said the investigation team comprised himself and detective Inspector A.R. Samuka. He said the accused was interrogated in Krio, but the statement was recorded in English and that the interrogation lasted from 29th May 2014 to 4th June 2014, and that statement was read to the accused in Krio, which he admitted it to be true and correct and appended his signature on it.
He said Detective Inspector A.R. Samuka signed as having witnessed the interrogation, while he signed as recorder. The caution statement was tendered as exhibit A1 to 24.
He said he obtained additional statement from the accused from 7th and 10th June 2014, which was tendered as exhibit B1 to 24.
He further told the court that on 31st May, 2014, a team of detectives, headed by ASP S.M.N.K. Koroma conducted a search warrant at the offices and premises of the accused person, and that during the search nothing was discovered of Police interest pertaining to the investigation.
While being cross-examined, the witness reiterated he was not the sole investigative officer in the matter, as was supported by colleagues to interrogate the accused.
The witness told the court the accused told him he was requested to prepare certain documents by Ministry of Trade officials, and that he was aware the accused has a timber factory.
The witness continued that the accused told him he had obtained a license from the Ministry of Trade to carry out his operation and produced a document to substantiate his claim.
PW1 further revealed that the accused told him that the Director of Forestry, Mr. William Bangura, I.B. Kargbo, Dr. Monty Jones and Ambassador Dauda Kamara presidential advisers respectively, visited the site and gave him the green light to proceed in his operation. He said the accused also told him that officials from the Ministries of Trade and Industry, and Agriculture, Food Security and Forestry, also visited the site.
He said the accused told him that he had secured license to export value added process timber, and that the clearance came consequent to a letter he had written to President Koroma, adding that the sacked Chief of Staff, Dr. Richard Konteh, was the one who signed the executive clearance to export the timber.
During re-examination by Principal State Counsel M.M. Sesay, the witness told the court that the document of clearance from State House, Ministries of Agriculture and Trade, where in the custody of the police.
Meanwhile, M.P. Sesay again applied for bail on behalf of the accused, and relied on the authority of the State vs. Abraham Lavally & nine others, presided over by Justice M.A. Paul.
He also emphasised that the accused has 940 employees and that if he continues to be detained the employees would lost their employment, and that as a result of the matter they have not been paid for a month.
But the prosecution opposed the bail application, which was upheld by the Magistrate Komba Kamanda, who adjourned the matter to 27th June 2014.
The accused (Alie Suma) was arraigned on three counts of conspiracy to defraud contrary to law, forgery contrary to section 4 (1) of the Forgery Act and altering forged instrument contrary to section 6(1) of the Forgery Act, 1913.
The prosecution alleged that the accused on diverse dates between 1st January and 29th May 2014, in Freetown, with intent to defraud, conspired with other persons to defraud the government by means of evading Export Tax for the export of four hundred and fifteen (415) x20 feet container of value added timber.
The prosecution also alleged that the accused on a date between 26th February and 30th March in Freetown, with intent to defraud, forged a letter titled Export of Value Added Process Timber, dated 26th February, 2014, purporting to show that an-open executive clearance was granted to Timber Harvest, Processors and Exporters Sierra Leone Limited, to export value added processed timber, knowing same to be false.
The prosecution further alleged that the accused in February 2014, at the Delmas office at No.19 Charlotte Street, Freetown, altered a letter titled Export of Value Added Process Timber, dated 26th February 2014, purporting to show that an-open executive clearance was granted to Timber Harvest, Processors and Exporters Sierra Leone Limited to export value added processed timber, knowing same to be false.