Hajjgate Trial: Former VP, Mines Minister, others in court

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August 23, 2018

By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

hajj
Victor Bockarie Foh: accused
alhaji
Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray: accused

Five senior members of the erstwhile Ernest Bai Koroma administration Wednesday, 22nd August appeared before the High Court of Sierra Leone to answer to corruption related charges.

Former Vice President, Dr. Victor Bockarie Foh; erstwhile Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources and Deputy Chairman and Leader of the All Peoples Congress, Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray; Special Assistant to ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma, Sheka Sahid Kamara; former Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President, Mohamed Alie Bah; former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Abu Bakarr Carew; and social worker Ibrahim Fackeh Conteh were arraigned in court yesterday before Justice Reginald Fynn to answer to eight counts of conspiracy to commit corruption offences, engaging in a project without prior planning, contrary to the Anti-corruption Act of 2008, misappropriation of public funds, and willfully failing to comply with procedural guidelines.

ACC Prosecutor Calvin Mantsebo alleges that the quintet, all members of the 2017 Hajj Committee, between 1st January to 30th September 2017, conspired to undertake preparation for the 2017 hajj pilgrimage for Sierra Leonean Muslims to Saudi Arabia, contrary to section 48(2c) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008.

Also, Sheka Sahid Kamara and Victor Foh are alleged to have conspired to misappropriate public funds in the sum of US$80,000 donated to the government of Sierra Leone for the benefit of Sierra Leonean Muslims.

In addition, the ACC alleges that Sheka Sahid Kamara, Victor Foh, Ibrahim Fackeh Conteh and Minkailu Manasaray conspired to knowingly mislead the anti-graft investigators of the anti-graft that only the sum of US$60,000 was handed over to the second accused, Víctor Foh, by the first accused Sheka Sahid Kamara, when in fact the actual amount was US$80,000.

The commission further alleges that Abu Bakarr Carew on diverse dates between 1st to 30th August 2017, failed to comply by the appropriate procedure and approved the withdrawal of US$314,000 from the Hajj account No.003001012636100 284 held at Ecobank.

Mantsebo applied for the matter to be tried by judge alone and made another application for a long adjournment to enable the ACC serve certain documents on the defense counsel.

The Judge granted the adjournment request and ordered that all the accused continue to their bail condition stipulated by the Anti-Corruption Commission prior to their arraignment.

He adjourned the matter to the 26th September 2018.

Meanwhile, first accused Sheka Sahid Kamara is being represented by A. Bundu Conteh Esq., the second accused Victor Foh is represented by Hindolo Gevao Esq., while Yada Williams Esq. is representing third accused Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray.

The alleged hajjgate corruption took place in 2017 when Muslim pilgrims complained of being duped by some committee members charged with overseeing the process.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) launched year-long investigations into the allegation and prepared a sealed indictment they allege have a case to answer. The sealed indictment was opened by new ACC Commissioner, Francis Ben Kaifala, who invited the former Vice President and his co-accused for questioning.

The men were supposed to have appeared in court on July 30th, but that was differed for the ACC to review the file, prompting additional charges.

This case is by far the biggest by the anti-graft agency since its establishment by an Act of Parliament in 2000.