By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Appeals Court presided over by Justice Fatmata Bintu Alhadi, Justice Komba Kamanda and Justice Tonia Barnett, has dismissed the appeal application by the former Deputy Minister of Mines against the recommendations of the Commissions of Inquiry (COI).
The former Deputy Mines Minister, Abdul Ignosis Koroma, through his Lawyer, Ade Macauley, had appealed to the Appeals Court against the recommendations of the Commissions of Inquiry.
“Having considered the entire appeal herein, I hereby order as follows, that the appeal is dismissed based on grounds 1,2,4,5,6 .7,8,9 and 10. The findings, recommendations of the sole commissioner against the Appellant are upheld,” Justice Kamada ruled.
The Commission of Inquiry had recommended that the house of the Deputy Minister at Railway Line, Teko Road, Makeni, which is valued six billion, four hundred million Leones, was not commensurate to his legitimate means of incomes, allowances and other earnings.
Reading the judgement on behalf of the panel, Justice Komba Kamanda said the Appellant’s appeal is based on ten (10) grounds,adding that ground one Justice Biobelle Georgewill erred in law and acted in violation of Section 150 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 of 1991, when he proceeded to conduct the Commissions of Inquiry without the “rules regulating the practice and procedure” of all commissions of inquiry to be prescribed by the Rules of Court Committee through a constitutional instrument, as provided for under Section 1509 aforesaid.
He said the Applicant had also appealed that the adoption by Justice Georgewill of the Practice Direction formulated by the three Sole Commissioners of Constitutional Instruments No. 64, 65 and 67 of 2018, is unconstitutional and an improper arrogation and usurpation of the functions reserved for the Rules of Court Committee in Section 150 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.
Justice Kamanda further recalled that, the applicant had stated that Justice Georgewill erred in Law when he impermissibly acted beyond the scope of his Terms of Reference and purported to find the appellant guilty of a criminal offence when he specifically “found the appellant guilty” for the offence of “failing to declare his assets”, an offence provided for under the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 (as amended) and which is exclusively in the domain of the Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commissioner, was in no way cloaked with the power to indict, prosecute and find the Appellant herein guilty or any other person of interest for the offence of failing to declare assets as required by the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 (as Amended).
The judge said the appellant had submitted that, the Sole Commissioner of Commission of Inquiry Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018 erred in Law when he held in volume one (1) of his report that Ministers of Government of which the Appellant was, should bear ultimate responsibility and be held accountable for the affairs and finances of the Ministry they headed.
Ground five states that the Sole Commissioner erred in holding that “in Law once a prima facie case has been made out, personal rebuttal evidence from the persons of interest is mandatory because without it all the allegations purported by prima facie evidence become duly established by the state.
He said the appellant had submitted that the adverse findings of Justice Georgewill contained in Chapter Two of Volume One (1) of his report on Commission of Inquiry Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018 dated March 2020 relating to the “Sale of Shares in Sierra Rutile Company (SL) Ltd” are against the weight of the evidence presented and the facts and evidence adduced and available to the Justice Georgewill, sitting as Sole Commissioner during the proceedings of Commission of Inquiry No. 64 did not support his specific findings.
Justice Kamanda also read that ground seven stated that findings and recommendations against the Appellant contained in volume one of Justice Georgewill report on Commission of Inquiry Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018 dated March 2020, relating to the investigation of the activities of the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources and the National Mineral Agency are against the weight of the evidence adduced before the said Commissioner.
He further that ground eight states that the adverse findings of Justice Georgewill contained in volume two of his report on Commission of Inquiry Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018 dated March 2020, relating to the Appellant’s property situate at Railway Line, Teko Road, Makeni in the Northern Province of the Republic of Sierra Leone are against the weight of the evidence presented.
He said ground nine state that the testimony and report of CW2, Olu Campbell, which the Sole Commissioner relied on in reaching his findings and recommendations that the appellant’s landed property located at Railway Line, Teko Road, Makeni in the Northen Province of the Republic of Sierra Leone and valued at Le6,400,000,000, having been found to be well beyond and far above and therefore not commensurate to his legitimate means of incomes, allowances and other earnings and shall be forfeited forthwith to the Government of Sierra Leone are unreliable and unsafe.
He said ground ten states that, by failing to publish the complete five (5) volume report of Justice Georgewill, Commission of Inquiry Constitutional Instrument No.64 of 20 18, Section 149(2) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone has been violated as a partial publication of a Commission report is not a publication of the whole.
In his analysis, Justice Kamanda said it is important to note that the legal burden of proof placed on the prosecution and or the accuser does not shift even in Commissions of Inquiry, noting that when serious allegations of unexplained wealth are made, the person against whom the allegations are made, as in the instant case, bears the evidential burden, to show that the wealth which is subject of the said litigation was acquired lawfully and not by funds obtained illegally.
“I have perused the records and the findings of the sole commissioner and it is clear that the Appellant made attempts to justify his means. In pages 2724,2 725 and 2726 of the records the housing allowances ,salaries and other benefits enjoyed by the Appellant as a Deputy Minister were not commensurate to the massive structure he built at Railway Line Teko Road, Makeni which is subject matter of these proceedings. Appellant’s attempts to justify his acts were not sufficient to discharge the evidential burden,” he noted.