Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Sierra Leone’s former president Koroma faces corruption, money laundering allegations

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Sierra Leone’s former president Ernest Bai Koroma was interrogated by lawyers acting for the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), after the publication of a Government White Paper on the findings of a High Court Judge-led commission of inquiry, into what the SLPP government describes as massive evidence of corruption and money laundering – running into hundreds of millions of dollars by the former APC government of President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Today’s interrogation comes after several weeks of uncertainty as to whether the former president (Photo) will turn up, following reports of a warrant for his arrest issued by the ACC  should the former president continue to refuse to turn up in the capital Freetown for interrogation.

This evening, the ACC published a statement saying that: “The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) wishes to inform the general public that it has on Monday 23rd November 2020, commenced and proceeded with the interview of the former President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, in relation to investigations into allegations of corruption, whilst he was President of the country, from 2007 to 2018.

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“The said interview took place at one of the Commission’s secured “Safe Houses”. The interview will continue on another date agreed between the ACC and former President Koroma’s lawyers. In this light, the Commission wishes to reassure the general public of its determination to continue discharging its mandate as provided for in the Anti-Corruption Act No. 12 of 2008 as Amended in 2019.”

But according to reports, today’s interrogation was made possible by the intervention of the British High Commission in Sierra Leone, after supporters of the former president blockaded ACC officials a few months ago in Makeni from meeting the former president at his home to answer questions about allegations of corruption and money laundering whilst he was in power in 2007 to 2018.

Writing on Twitter after today’s interrogation, the former president said: “I have just concluded the much-anticipated interview with the ACC. The chat was conducted smoothly and amicably. I honoured the ACC’s invitation, to demonstrate my unwavering commitment to peace and the rule of law.  It was my commitment to the fight against corruption that led me to strengthen the ACC, making it one of the strongest anti-corruption institutions in Africa, under my tenure.

“Again, I remain unperturbed and ever determined to protect my good name. Profound appreciations to supporters, well-wishers for your solidarity; and thanks to the International Community for facilitating a smooth and peaceful process. I will do everything to protect the peace I helped to build and consolidate.”

There were rumours that the presence of the former president in the capital Freetown, could spark widespread violence on the streets, as supporters of his All People’s Congress Party (APC) were alleged to be planning a widespread protest against the government.

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But this afternoon, the executives of the APC urged their supporters and members “to continue to remain calm and abide by the laws of Sierra Leone”.

Writing in a statement published this evening, this is what the APC party said: “The Leadership of the All Peoples Congress (APC), wishes to inform our members, supporters and the public that the Chairman and Leader of our party,  former President of Sierra Leone, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma availed himself today for the much-anticipated interview with the Anti-Corruption Commission.

“The interview was conducted in a respectful, dignified and amicable environment and despite all efforts to complete the interview today, it could not be completed due to time constraints. The former President is cooperating fully and intends to continue in that vein and the interview will continue on a date to be agreed upon by the parties.

“The Chairman and Leader has always insisted on his willingness to be interviewed and his commitment to transparency and accountability and continues to reassure the public of this commitment.

“We urge all members and supporters to continue to remain calm and abide by the laws of Sierra Leone. The former President is not under arrest or facing any constraints. He is in good spirits and extends his thanks and appreciation to his supporters and well-wishers for their support and prayers.”

It is not certain as to when the former president will next meet with officials of the ACC to continue their interrogation.

But sources at the ACC told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that they are working towards an out of court settlement with the former president to get him to pay back ten of millions of dollars alleged to have been stolen from the State.

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