Lead defence counsel lawyer Blyden Jenkins Johnston has told journalists that the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) is playing games with their client Haja Afsatu Kabbah.
A new twist in the trial of the former Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister, took place yesterday when she was docked on seven new counts, while 12 of the 17 previous counts she appeared in court for last month were surprisingly suspended.
The lead Anti Corruption prosecutor Calvin Mantsebo, informed trial judge, Justice Nicholas Browne-Marke that the State is offering no evidence in respect of counts 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15, which relates to abuse of office, while the other remaining charges be kept “in file”.
Counts 1 of the new indictment, alleges misappropriation of public funds and claiming that on the 28th of October 2009, 160 million Leones was withdrawn from the marine fines account at the bank of Sierra Leone as payment for rehabilitation work on fisheries out stations in Tombo, Gbondapi and Bonthe by Yeani Enterprises.
Counts 2, 3, 4, and 5 all allege that on the same date 27th October a total of 150million Leones was withdrawn from the same marine fines account at the Bank of Sierra Leone for activities like holding a training sessions in Pond construction and management at Bo and Makali for 45 participants (Le35million); holding preparatory training for a Frame Survey Budget workshop (Le45million); sensitization workshop on fisheries management issues at Sulima (Le30million); holding a community based monitoring control and surveillance training workshop (Le40million) “whereas in truth and in fact, the funds were for her personal use.”
The two last counts relates to abuse of office and the ACC is alleging that between October 2007 and March 2009, she improperly conferred an advantage on Messrs Ibrahim Kabba, Sorie Kabba and Abdul Malick Jobe to wit: instructing for and causing the irregular and unlawful employment of the said persons as Radiation Protection Technician, Security Officer at the Radiation Protection Unit and Administrative Consultant at the Bumbuna Project, respectively, and all under the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources.
The last count alleges that between April 2009 and March 2010 at Freetown, in the Western Area of Sierra Leone, she further abused her office as Minister by improperly conferring an advantage on Messer Abdul Wahid Kabba to wit: instructing for and causing his irregular and unlawful employment as Marine Protection Officer in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
She pleaded not guilty to all seven counts, and was granted bail in the sum of one hundred million leones and should report to the Consultant Master and Registrar every Monday.
Lawyer J.B. Jenkins-Johnston the lead counsel for Haja Kabba made an objection that the names of the witnesses were not disclosed in the indictment contrary to the ACC Act 89 (4) of 2008, and that the procedure adopted by the prosecution is wrong and must be struck off.
Responding to the objection, Lawyer Calvin Mantsebo said it’s improper for the State to disclose the names of the witnesses when the matter is not yet before the court, and at any rate if they do so I will defeat their whole purpose of asking for a non disclosure order.
In his ruling, Justice Browne-Marke overruled the applications of the defence and ordered that the names of the witnesses should not be disclosed to any person except to the accused and the defence team.
The other matter between the State and Haja Afsatu Olayinka Kabba and Paul Sandi, Permanent Secretary in the Marine Ministry was put on hold. Lawyer Jenkins-Johnston “vehemently” opposed the action of the prosecution and stated if the State is not ready to proceed with the matter the accused should be discharged.
Lawyer Calvin Mantsebo notified the court that they should be put “on file,” while Lawyer Charles Margai spoke about the tidiness of the proceedings and called on them to start thinking seriously of consolidating both matters.He was representing Paul Sandi and also stated that counts 16 and 17 are already included in the new charge sheet of Afsatu Kabba.
The matter was adjourned to May 5, 2010.
After the court session lawyer Blyden Jenkins Johnston reacted to the new charges preferred against his client saying he was “of the view that the anti corruption commission is playing games with us.”
He stated further that “unfortunately we have not been accorded the witness statement they should have given us the names of the witness to start with and then they should have given us the summary of the evidence of the witnesses which they intend to lead none of that has happened so it is all a secret it is all trial by ambush as far as we see it.”
He however went on to reiterate however that he “has confidence in the system of justice in the country which includes the Judge.”
Later scores of sympathizers with placards danced along the Street in front of the Law Court building singing “back to office” for the sacked Minister. By Samuel John