MERE ALLEGATIONS

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By: Winstanley. R. Bankole Johnson

Here is yet another distraction for the APC Party in the social media-: “Ernest Bai Koroma former President and Chairman of the All Peoples’ Congress APC Party to be investigated by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)”.  And the fresh twist to that story the reason why since his departure from the Presidency he’s not been venturing beyond Africa. Oh Blimey!!

I consider such misinformation as mere purposeful allegations of distractions figuratively representing the last kicks and gasps of a dying horse that should be discountenanced with the disdain it deserves. As a victim of such circumstances too, I know that as long as one has served in a public office, one should not be surprised about attempts to denigrate their character, as long as one is not dead. 

As the 2023 elections loom, the APC Party being the Nemesis of the SLPP will continue to be hemmed in on every side, but it will not crushed. Even in our perplexities we will not despair, and with the persistent uses of national institutions already under state capture against our memberships, even though we would seem to be abandoned and stuck down, we shall not be destroyed (2. Corr. 4: 8 -9). I am reflecting now on one of my Mayor’s Sunday themes during which the Rev. Dr. Tom Demby in assuaging my worries about Press assassination of my character assured the congregation that in the scriptural context and I quote him -: “God Almighty PLUS just One individual could be equal to a Majority”. And it is that assurance that is keeping some of us alive.

Convictions

Truth be told as a senior Banker reasonably grounded in the Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorist Financing (AML/CTF) Act and also a Senior Corporate Executive, initial outbursts about EBK’s involvement in Money Laundering left me perplexed, having regard to their socio-economic impact on my country. More than four years on those apprehensions were unchanged, that was until I listened to an audio on the same matter about a month ago by Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden (OOR).  Thereafter anything I read or hear about the former President and Money Laundering could be summed up in just two words: “Mere Allegations”.  Honestly no disrespect intended, but that is what they will remain to me (and I dare say many other Sierra Leoneans) until the contrary is proven in a competent Court of law. And leveraging from Dr. Sylvia O Blyden’s analysis in that particular voice note, that will be my position whether or not references to probable external prosecutions to the former President on the issue are made to also include the Secret Services of Israel (MOSSAD), or the Russia (KGB) or even Britain (MI-5).  And here’s the source of my convictions.

In her narratives, Dr. Blyden (OOR) did not mention or adduce cogent evidences substantiating the former President’s overt or covert involvement in Money Laundering activities, but rather speciously relied upon a “submission” by legal luminary and Solicitor General R B Kowa Esq before Sole Commissioner the Hon. Mr. Justice John .R Bankole Thompson (now Deceased). The substance of that particular “submission” by Mr. R B Kowa before that Commission of Inquiry (COI) was that in his own opinion and from examinations of documentary evidences adduced and tendered at the Commission, glaring incongruities or mismatches existed and or were evident between the former President’s net assets and the aggregate of his earnings and emoluments during his entire period in office, and for which reason the learned legal luminary “submitted” that the former President be further investigated and prosecuted for “Money Laundering”.

Perhaps at this stage I should define or clarify what exactly constitute a “submission” in a Court of Law. It is the stage of presenting arguments. That is what “making a submission or submissions” mean. They are not intended to convict, but rather are statements made usually orally to persuade the Bench to find in favour of the Counsel making the “submission”. They were not indictments and that was exactly what the Solicitor General R. B Kowa did before the Hon. Justice J.R Bankole Thompson.

Trouble

And true to form, the Hon. Judge “upheld” the Plaintiff Counsel’s “submission” that glaring incongruities or mismatches existed and or were evident between the former President’s net assets and the aggregate of his earnings and emoluments during his entire period in office, and for which reason the former President should be further investigated and prosecuted for “Money Laundering”. But even in upholding Counsel’s “submissions”, it was not an indictment. And that from my perspectives was where the trouble began.

  1. Every Person of Interest (PoI) that appeared before those COIs had one of two fate awaiting them: Either they were indicted and given an opportunity to appeal (as happened to many others including EBK), or like in my case, were discharged as having no case to answer. There were several other areas in which the COIs found [a1] former President Bai Koroma wanting and for which appellate hearings are ongoing, but in none of them was Money Laundering included.  Otherwise as in the other cases, an appeal against it would have been lodged on his behalf.
  2. In upholding those closing “submissions” of the Solicitor General that the Former “be investigated for Money Laundering” the Sole Commissioner did recommend to HE President Bio for such investigations to be conducted. But why the variation knowing full well that President Bio is neither a Court, nor does he exercise direct influences over the Courts, nor even that apart from the COIs being the outcomes of Cabinet Conclusions, they had no direct nexus to the Executive?
  3. From her narratives in that voice note, it is from that perspective it would appear that Dr. Sylvia Blyden (OOR) would seem to be blaming President Bio for is inaction to have long implemented the “submissions” of the COI, which would by now have found the former President guilty as charged and gaoled for seven years – two years longer than was the minimum jail term under former President Kabbah before Ernest Bai Koroma  amended it upwards

Merit

The conundrum here to me is, why was Money Laundering omitted from the many indictments of the state against the former President at the COI in the first place, but that it came in much as an afterthought? Was it because the Solicitor General was convinced his “submissions” lacked merit and that he was only being mischievous in painting the former President in bad light? And further why was the recommendation from the Sole Commissioner made to HE President Bio and not direct the Courts? Could that also have been the same reason why, instead of using the regular appellate Courts systems as was expected, the sole Commissioner rather channeled the recommendations (“submissions”) of the learned Solicitor General direct to the President Bio, so that for a long time to come threats of prosecution for Money Laundering would like the “Sword of Damocles” continue to be dangled over the head of the former President deliberately to sully his image and reputation so as to keep him perpetually subservient and reticent in opposition? 

From all molestations that the former President has been subjected to by this government since leaving office, it is unfathomable that President Bio’s delay or inaction to have initiated prosecutions against former President Koroma could have been borne out of sympathy. Pundits hold the view that even if the former President were as guilty as alleged, it would be inexpedient for President Bio as a practicing Christian not to be mindful of the “Golden Rule” in the Book of Matthew 7:1; 2 & 7 to: “Judge not…….Do unto others…..(so as) ………To escape retribution in far greater measures….” especially in the twilight of his single term presidency. Many however hold the view that in the event the former President is successfully prosecuted and jailed, another milestone precedent for accountability would have been set in this country, and every former President would have to pass through those the same crucibles. And should that happen, what a great morning it will be like at the Pademba Road Prisons when both will wake up facing each other one fine morning from their opposite Cell doors in a ‘’LOOK ME AR LOOK U” faceoff, reminiscent of the encounter between Prime Minister Siaka Stevens and Sir Albert Margai at the same location in 1967. 

Away from the pun, one may want to ask: In the absence of concrete/tangible evidences, why the continued vilifications of Ernest Bai koroma and to have him prosecuted and ultimately jailed for Money Laundering?  In the mindset of a keen political observer that could be summed up in just one word: Malice!!  But I’ll make it two words: “Malicious Malice!!!”

Peace

This doesn’t mean EBK should not be prosecuted for any matter where sufficient evidences exist. After all no fewer than fourteen (14) African Presidents/Heads of government ranging from Pasteur Bizimungu in 2002 to Jacob Zuma in 2021 have all been incarcerated for corruption-related offences in their respective countries, and ours – if and when it happens – will not be a novelty. But where is the evidence against the former President?  Everyone or anyone patriotic enough with an iota of such evidence should either speak out now, or hereafter hold his/her peace. And I would insist on that because unless proven in a competent Court of law and beyond all reasonable doubts, those allegations will remain what they are and have always been since the learned Solicitor General “submitted” them to Sole Commissioner Thompson at the COI to wit: “Mere Allegations”. And I would further insist on that because from my cursory investigations into various credible AML/CTF Reports including the Suspicious Activity Report (SAR), OMNITRACK, VINCIWORKS Compliance Tools Reports – all of which are geared towards rigid implementation of the AML/CTF Regulation of 2017, not a single reference could be found about Sierra Leone – let alone on former President Koroma. Contrast that with a recent report associating the full names of a former British Prime Minister with Money Laundering. Ernest Bai Koroma’s names are not making the list of past or present African Heads of Governments, nay more for Money Laundering activities.

One fact that needs to be grasped is that whether or not the present and former [a2] President are seeing eye to eye, the towering stature of the latter strutting the continent in peace and leadership roles as senior a Pan-African statesman for the good of our country and the continent would not have been achieved without the tacit endorsement of President Bio. And even before confirming the former President into that role, thorough background checks must have been conducted on his character, integrity and suitability including for traces in Money Laundering activities. So to be continually pandering malevolence as would denigrate the character, integrity and status of the former President is not only a disservice to country and continent, but also insinuating a complicity of President Bio on account of a his dilatoriness to prosecute former President Koroma for Money Laundering as well.

We cannot be continuing in this trend of denigration against our past leaders and expect the world to be taking our several campaigns, including for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council seriously.


 [a1]Any

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