Koroma’s Former Minister, Miatta Kargbo Loses at Court of Appeal, Ordered to Pay Millions
The Court of Appeal presided over by Hon. Justice Ansumana Ivan Sesay (JA) has on Monday dismissed all grounds of appeal made by Madam Miatta B. Kargbo, former Minister of Health and Sanitation, against the findings and recommendations of the Judge-led Commissions of Inquiry (COI).
The empanelled Justices-Hon. Justice Ansumana Ivan Sesay (JA), Hon. Alhaji Momoh-Jah Stevens (JA) and Hon. Adrian J. Fisher (J) ordered the Appeallant to pay the sum of one hundred million Leones (Le100,000,000) as cost for the appeal.
The said sum is to be paid forthwith while interest shall be awarded at a rate of 10% per annum until the full payment.
The Appellant’s (Madam Kargbo) appeal emanated from matters that were the subject of the Commissions of Inquiry, set up by His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio, upon his assumption to office in 2018 to investigate allegations of widespread corruption and abuse of office by former government officials under former President Ernest Bai Koroma’s administration.
In his twenty-one grounds of appeal, Lawyer Melron Nicol Wilson who represented the Appellant, argued that the Sole Commissioner erred in law and wrongly misdirected himself that the Appellant was Minster of Health and Sanitation from 2013-2015.
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He went on to argue that the Sole Commissioner erred in law and misdirected himself, when he held that based on the account balances and financial transactions of the Appellant at Zenith Bank, the Appellant maintained a standard of life above that which was commensurate to her official emoluments.
He stressed that the adverse findings and recommendations relating to the Appellant in respect of the Ebola investigation are against the weight of the evidence presented at the proceedings among others.
Representing the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Lawyer Robert B. Kowa, argued that because the Appellant served as Minister for 18 months between February 2013 and August 2014, which falls within the period of the investigation (2007 -2018), the Sole Commissioner didn’t work outside his mandate.
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He went on to argue that there are sufficient breaches of the procurement rules as well as evidence of monies paid out without supporting documents, accounting for funds over and above her official emoluments.
Lawyer Kowa stressed that notwithstanding the tenure of office of the Appellant, there were infractions during the management of Ebola funds, which led to financial loss to government even after the Appellant had left office.
He said among other things, there was evidence that the Appellant acted wilfully in a manner which caused loss to government and that there were wilful acts of corruption under her watch while she had direct control and authority over government finances.
Delivering the judgement on the leave of the presiding judge, Hon. Justice Fisher stated that, “it is inherently clear that the findings of the Sole Commissioner against the Appellant are not just mere comments but reasoned findings, based on the evidence adduced before him.”
“There can be no argument that the findings of the Sole Commissioner which are properly referenced with the evidence contained in the transcript of proceedings are adverse findings against the Appellant which will result in loss of penalty, forfeiture or loss of status,” Hon. Fisher stressed.
While they upheld the findings of the Sole Commissioner against the Appellant, the Hon. Justices jointly agreed that the Appellant pays compensation to the Government of Sierra Leone by way of forfeiture to the state of the sums of Le1,932,569,405 and USD$102, 305, held in her bank accounts at Zenith Bank (SL) Ltd, as part of the unaccounted loss to Government of Le33, 643, 447,070.00, for which she is jointly and severally liable, forthwith.
Pursuant to the provisions of section 78 (1)(a) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008, the Court referred the former minister to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for investigation in relation to the non-declaration of assets and the unexplained wealth, as found by the sole commissioner.