June 2, 2021
By Regina Pratt
The Court of Appeal on Monday, May 31st, 2021, set aside the COI recommendations and findings of Justice Biobele Georgewill against Diana Finda Konomanyi, former Minister of Lands and Local Government, respectively.
Two among the three judges-Justice Komba Kamanda and Justice Tonnia Barnett of the Court of Appeal, in their judgement, set aside the judgement of Justice Biobele Georgewill, while Hon Justice Bintu Alhadi gave a consequential order on the matter.
Justice Kamanda, who reads the judgment, recalled that the appellant, who was unsatisfied with the commission’s recommendations and findings, filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal for hearings.
Justice Kamanda said he considered the view of the commission’s witness No. 3, who valued the property of the Appellant situate at No.1 Albert Lavey Drive, Adonkai Goderich,used a simplistic method and that there was a variance of 20% between the two valuation documents before the court.
He further said that common sense credence presented by the other valuator, Abel Onamake of IDEAS Partners, was what the court needed to adopt and that “in my view such evidence is so overwhelming for it not to be considered so as to know that the Appellant in view of her income was able to acquire the property at 1 Albert Lavey Drive, Adonkia Goderich.”
“In that regards, the findings and recommendations of the sole commissioner ought to be overturned in relations to the confiscation of the said property,” Justice Kamanda ruled.
He further said that the earnings of the appellant have not been controverted as she has provided documents in her evidence in chief.
He also said that bank statements and other documents were enough and that it would be completely harsh and a tall order for the court to dig holes particularly in the said bank statements.
He added that the bank statements presented reflect payments made in respect of the appellant businesses.
Justice Komba Kamanda and Justice Tonnia Barnett agreed on the following orders that, the findings and report of the Sole Commissioner, Justice Biobele Georgewill, in convicting and sentencing the appellant to a term in prison or fine, be set aside,
The two judge also set aside recommendations to confiscation the appellant’s property at 1 Albert Drive, Adonkia, Goderich in Freetown, and that all adverse findings and reports made against the appellant herein by the sole commissioners, be set aside.
On her part, Justice Bintu Alhadi set aside recommendations by the commission that the appellant, a former minister and a Person of Interest was found guilty, that she be sentenced to 6 months and fined 30 million Leones.
She recalled that the commission had recommended that the appellant did not show any specific earnings and that the house at Adonkia be forfeited to the State and sold to interested persons, with proceeds paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund at the Bank of Sierra Leone.
Justice Alhadi further said that counsel for the appellant had argued that the commission was not a court of law and that it exceeded its jurisdiction, an argument she refuted.
“The business account of the appellant was not presented to the commission and also the court,” Justice Alhadi said, adding that she did not also produce records of earnings or balance sheet, qualified or verified by a credible accounting company within the period under review- 2013 to 2018.
She said that the court also note that the appellant did not complete her asset declaration according to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The judge also said that the only identified income is the salary and emoluments received between the period 2013 and 2018, stating that the appellant should be tried by an impartial court.
Justice Alhadi recommended that the Anti-Corruption Commission conducts a forensic valuation, audit and investigate the said property of the appellant at Adonkia, together with her sole proprietorship business and her companies in order to establish and recover her financial transactions, profit and loss account and cash flow.