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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Samura Kamara’s trial: Defense picks hole in building assesment reports presented by ACC

Dr. Samura Kamara

The trial of Dr Samura Kamara and five others versus the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) continued on Monday 7 March 2022 at the Freetown High Court No. 1 presided over by Justice Adrian Fisher.

When the court commenced sitting on Monday, one of the defence lawyers, Pa Momoh Fofanah, cross examined Prosecuting Witness 1 (PW1), Joseph Bockarie Noah, who works at the ACC.

During the cross examination by lawyer Pa Momoh Fofanah, PW1 was asked several questions in relation to some of the evidence he presented to the court as exhibits, particularly the assessment reports on the renovation of the Sierra Leone Chancery Building in New York.

One assessment report was the one submitted by the ACC and the Ministry of Works and Public Assets in 2021, whilst the other was an independent report in 2019 done by one Paul Bockarie, the professional Engineer at the Ministry of Works and Public Assets, who was also part of the ACC’s feasibility study team in 2021.

It was observed that there were some discrepancies in the two reports with the one in 2019 noting that 75 percent of renovation work was already done whilst the 2021 report by the ACC said it was only 45 percent that was done.

Another issue that was raised during the cross-examination of PW1 was the statement of the sub-contractor for the said project, an American citizen named David Lewis Montesi who was reported to have collected up to US$1.8 million to complete the second phase construction of the fifth and sixth floors of the building.  However, such statement was not presented by the prosecution to the defence teams during the case management conference of the trial.

Lawyer Pa Momoh Fofanah further examined the cabinet paper presented to the Government for the said project before the approval was granted by the Government of Sierra Leone for the construction work at a cost of US$2 million, which was already provided by the Government of the People’s Republic of China that was lodged at the Bank of Sierra Leone before commencement of the actual construction work.

It was also observed that, based on the details in the Cabinet Paper; there was urgent need for the renovation of the country’s Chancery building in New York and also the execution of the Chinese donor fund that was provided in 2013.

When asked as to whether they conducted interviews with other stakeholders mentioned in the Cabinet Paper, PW1 noted that the other parties were contacted for interviews, some of which was done personally whilst the others responded through correspondence.

He revealed that the former Head of Mission, Dr Francis Kaikai, told them that he had solicited funds from the Chinese worth up to two million dollars for the said renovation work but was unable to explain what caused the delay in the transfer of the money to the Bank of Sierra Leone by his predecessor, Alie Kabba, who also served as head of the said mission in New York.

According to him, part of the money was transferred to a private account instead of the Bank of Sierra Leone account. However, PW1 noted that they were able to recover part of the money from Alie Kabbah’s private account, whilst the rest was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs account for the said renovation work.

Furthermore, lawyer Pa Momoh Fofanah also applied to the court for the witness to furnish him with several exhibits and statements that they did not tender in court, including the statement of Alie Kabba, Dr Francis Kaikai and the sub-contractor David Lewis Montesi.

He also requested for some other documents that were handed over to the ACC whilst they were interviewing the first accused person including exhibits marked IRN/MS/03, which is a letter from Fairfield Constructions LLC to Alie Kabba regarding the summation of payment received by the contracting company; exhibits marked IRN/MS/04 which is a document from the Director General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Alie Kabba, and two other documents which are in the custody of the ACC, but they failed to tender them in court.

Justice Fisher ordered that the documents must be submitted by 1pm on Wednesday this week whilst the matter was adjourned to Thursday this week.

Lawyer Pa Momoh Fofanah is defending the first accused person in the trial, Saidu Nallo, the former Head of Chancery at the Sierra Leone Permanent United Nations Mission in New York.

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