50th Independence Anniversary Corruption Case Resumes
The trial of Dr. William Konteh, Yeniva Sisay Sogbeh and Victor Cole over the handling of funds for the celebration of Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence Anniversary in April in 2011 recommenced trial at the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) High Court Room No.6 on main Law Court Building at Siaka Stevens Street in Freetown yesterday.
At the mention of the matter before Justice Cosmotina Jarrett, counsels representing the accused persons raised a constitutional question, pursuant to Section 124 (1) of 1991 Sierra Leone Constitution.
Lawyer Yillah on behalf of the second accused person, Yeniva Sisay Sogbeh applied for stay of the matter before the present High Court Judge and sought for a referral of the matter to the Supreme Court for constitutional interpretation and determination.
As by the authority of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965, Lawyer Yillah said there is no legal basis for the court to start a matter afresh for which trial has been concluded and accused persons await judgment to be read by the then presiding Justice Abdulai Charm, former Chief Justice of Sierra Leone.
He said the court has no jurisdiction to proceed with the matter in any manner because there is no legal basis in the CPA that empowers any court to sit on the matter in respect of which trial has been concluded since closing of defense case in 2015.
Yillah added that there is no expressed provision which confers power on this new court to proceed with a file to which trial has been concluded by a court of equal jurisdiction.
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The assignment of court file by the Chief Justice is an administrative step and does not change jurisdiction, as there is only one High Court of Sierra Leone.
He submitted that other than its right jurisdiction, any step taken on the file, will amount to violation of Section 23 sub-section 1 and Section 24 Act. No.6 of 1991, and will also violate all the accused persons right to a fair and timely trial, and ensure adequate protection before the Law as they will be subjected to another trial.
According to the defense team, the assigned High Court Judge does not have the jurisdiction to hear and determine a matter that has been presided on for a period of over a decade with the file withdrawn and adjourned for judgment.
The application and submissions were adopted by Lawyer Drucil Taylor, counsel for the first accused person, Dr. William Konteh and Lawyer Jones representing the third accused person, Victor Cole.
The accused persons were in 2011 investigated by the ACC on allegation of involvement in corrupt practices and were later charged to court for related counts indictment of misappropriation.
Justice Cosmotina Jarrett allowed the accused persons bail to be continued in the sum of One Hundred Million Leones and in the same term and conditions as in the previous trial.
The matter has been adjourned to the 26th October, 2021 for the ACC Prosecutor, M.B.E. Davies to reply to defense counsel`s application.