Sierra Leone | The Week That Was

Jesmed F Suma , executive director,  Sierra Leone Policy Watch Inc.
It's been a busy week in Sierra Leone. News reports say the head of the state-run bank was charged, along with 13 other officials, attempting to steal around $6 million. Local papers also reported that the managing director of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank was one of nine bank officials charged Wednesday afternoon with attempting to defraud the bank of $4.8 million. The officials were denied bail until their next court date next week, reports say.

In a separate case, four people were also charged Wednesday with attempting to steal just over $1 million from First International Bank, according to press reports.

Speaking to journalists and civil society representatives, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara,  the beleaguered head of Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission,  reportedly said both cases were evidence of “wanton greed.” Based on recent Transparency International corruptions perceptions index, the AP concluded corruption is widespread. Sierra Leone was No. 123 out of 176 countries on the index.

According to Commissioner Kamara, two separate indictments were filed in court. Of the 17 indictees, nine are National Revenue Authority (NRA) officials, six from Ecobank and one each from the National Shipping Agency and Alie and Santos Clearing and Forwarding Agency.

"The case will be coming up for hearing on Tuesday [July 9] in the High Court," Kamara told reporters. "We have evidence to substantiate our claims and we will leave no stone un turned in unearthing corrupt activities in the NRA," he stated. "We have evidence where customs officials were depositing Le 2 million in their accounts on a daily basis."

Kamara alleged that employees of the Ecobank were working in tandem with officials of the NRA to defraud the state of revenues. "President Ernest Bai Koroma has given us the go-ahead. We also charge for conflict of interest and possession of unexplained wealth. We are receiving tremendous support from the police, Central Bank and commercial banks," he said.

Sewa News contacted Sierra Leone Policy Watch, Inc., an independent think tank that provides research-based proposals for public policy makers in Sierra Leone to support transformational development.

Here's their official response:

"We are closely watching the way the current wave of scandal is being handled by the administration. SLPW is wholeheartedly supporting the Govt's effort to curb corruption particularly with regards to the series of Bank fraud cases. I personally have made several statements on different fora to express my support for the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Police department.

"Many others are justifiably doubtful that anything would come out of the recent bank fraud scandal, because we have seen it many a time under this administration that some people walk out free after being found guilty of massive fraud sometimes in 100s of thousands of dollars worth of public funds perhaps after paying some ridiculous fine. We have seen serious lack of accountability within the system as noted by the auditor general report year after year. But we want to give the administration the benefit of the doubt and hope that this time the President and his team are serious about curbing corruption.

"There are many steps the Govt could take to limit the likelihood of such large scale daylight robbery taking place. But they need to bring those involved in this Bank fraud scandal, to justice. We are just hoping that this is not another facade"


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