Former VP & Co Await Judgement on Corruption
Former Vice President, Victor Bockarie Foh and five others await judgement by Justice Reginald Fynn JA after hearing the final addresses by Counsel representing the accused persons.
It has been close to four years since the Anti-corruption Commission indicted the former VP and five others for corruption offences ranging from conspiracy, misappropriation of public funds and willfully misleading the Commission during the investigation of the matter in 2017.
1st accused, Sheka S. Kamara’s Counsel, S. Will Esq first delivered his closing address to the presiding Judge, citing reasons why his client should be acquitted and discharged on all counts. Mr. Will argued that for the offence of conspiracy to hold, there must be an ‘agreement’ between the conspirators, which he said did not exist and that the prosecution failed to prove that there was.
In addition, Mr Will argued that the prosecution also failed to prove that his client (Sheka S. Kamara) did not mislead, misinform or deceive the ACC investigators. Sheka S. Kamara was Secretary to the Hajj Committee.
“None of the prosecution witnesses could prove that the 1st accused conspired with others to mislead the ACC,” Mr Will submitted.
On the count of misappropriation of public funds, Mr Will further argued that his client never misappropriated public funds in the sum of Le 300, 000, 000.000 (Three Hundred Million Leones.) “The exact sum was retrieved by the ACC even before charges were proffered,” he pointed out.
Learned Counsel also gave reasons why the 2nd accused, former vice president Victor Bockarie Foh, could not plead ‘alibi’ as a defense, citing reasons which is for Justice Fynn JA to determine its veracity.
Lawyer H. M. Gavao, representing the 2nd accused, started his address by recounting the events of 21st September, 2017, the day Victor Foh was requested by the ACC to make a statement as a ‘suspect.’ Mr Gavao argued that by that date, 2nd accused was holding the office of Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. “I submit that the diction ‘Office of the President’ includes office of the vice president. Therefore, the prosecution of the vice president was in violation of the Constitution,” Mr Gavao maintained, citing the relevant section of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone to buttress his argument.
“This is going to be a precedent in Sierra Leone. The judgement of this court is going to be a precedent,” Mr Gavao affirmed.
In responding to the submissions by Mr Will, Counsel for the 1st accused, that two witnesses for the 2nd accused, Victor Foh, one being an employee of him who called 2nd accused his ‘Godfather,’ and the other said he was present in court during a portion of the trial, which should have disqualified him from testifying on behalf of 2nd accused, H. M. Gavoa countered by saying as long as witnesses are competent and compellable they could testify in court irrespective of the relationship with an accused.
On the issue of alibi, the corpus of the argument is in relation to a sum of US$ 80, 000 (Eighty Thousand Dollars,) of which amount the 1st accused alleged that he left US$ 20, 000. 000.00 (Twenty Thousand Dollars) with Victor Foh, at a time and place that he, Victor Foh, was not present. Witnesses were called by both accused persons to testify on their behalf which, again, is left with Justice Fynn to determine.
The 5th accused, Ibrahim Fakeh Conteh was tried in absentia as he apparently fled the jurisdiction when the investigations started in earnest. Lansana Dumbuya Esq is representing him.
Lawyer Lansana Dumbuya, who also represented the 6th accused, Abubakarr Carew, who was the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Social Welfare, prayed for the judge to acquit and discharge his client as he did not do anything that went contrary to the law. It was he that approved the disbursement of US$ 314, 000, 000.00 (Three Hundred and Fourteen Thousand Dollars) to meet the expenses for the 800 Sierra Leonean pilgrims who went to Mecca in 2017.
Mr Carew was charged with wilfully failing to comply with applicable procedure when he approved the disbursement of the said amount. Two prosecution witnesses however, had testified that in the absence of the minister, the Permanent Secretary can approve. According to the sixth prosecution witness, the minister then, Dr Sylvia O. Blyden was sick at the time.
Justice Reginald Fynn JA has reserved the file for judgment that would be delivered within the statutory period. Before rising the court, Justice Fynn asked two crucial questions. First, he asked Counsel for the 5th accused, Lansana Dumbuya Esq, what could have deterred the then Permanent Secretary, the 5th accused, from approving the release of the US$ 314, 000 in the absence of the minister. The prosecutor, C. T. Mantsebo Esq answered that the PS must act according to the law.
The second question was what the effect is in law of the testimony of one accused person against the other. S. Will Esq responded by saying one accused cannot in law testify against another accused.
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