When the case between the State versus Francis Gabbidon came up again on Friday 18th for hearing at the High Court presided over by Justice Mary Sey, prosecutor Glena Thompson in her opening statement to the court, pointed out that Gabbidon’s appointment as Ombudsman in 2001 is not in dispute;” also not in dispute is that the office of the Ombudsman was funded by the government.”
She said “the State will show that this deceit started in 2001 almost as soon as he assumed office for almost six years, he continued this pattern of deceit.”
The Prosecutor said that she will set out to prove that Mr Gabbidon “between a two month period being the Ombudsman misappropriated a particular sum which had been entrusted to him for payment to either Christopher Peacock or Melron Nicol Wilson as monthly salary having falsely represented that these gentlemen were employed by the office of the Ombudsman.”
In short, she stated that at the end of each month, the accused will claim to have paid these people who he had presented to government were employees of the office of the Ombudsman.
She said “the State’s case is simply this; the office of the Ombudsman like all government funded department or agency sent in to government annually a budget which included the number of staff that the office had.”
She added “the accused prepared or caused to be prepared a budget which included names of people who were not employees of his office.”
“The documents of payments from the Accountant General’s office for salaries will be tendered in court,” and “you will also hear evidence from the ministry of finance about the annual budgetary allocation to that office.”
The effect of this crafty handiwork the state prosecutor disclosed “was that money allocated to this office for salary far exceeded his legitimate requirements and government became obligated to pay non-existent staff.”
She further explained that “the names of these two gentlemen who are in fact practicing Lawyers, and were identified as such by the accused in his interview were contained in a monthly staff salaries list.”
On this list she stated that, each month you will find signatures against names which signified that those people had received their salaries.
She maintained that the State alleges that those signatures are forgeries.
The prosecution will tender in evidence the vote service ledger and the monthly paid up vouchers in support of its case said Ms Thompson.
She further explained that, both gentlemen in statements made under oath to the investigators of Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) denied ever working in any capacity for the office of Ombudsman as did the existing genuine staff of that office confirmed that these gentlemen had never worked in that office.
Ms Thompson stated that the accused during his interview gave the explanation as Melron Nicol Wilson donating his salary to charity and that Christopher Peacock wanted the deal kept secret.
Glena Thompson said for “both of them the State say were victims of a cocktail of deceit a deliberate act of deception calculated, orchestrated and executed so that the accused can misappropriate the sum of over seventy million Leones (Le 70, 226,642.00) being money belonging to the government and people of Sierra Leone, the very people whose interest he was tasked to protect.”
She disclosed that, the office of the Ombudsman had an accountant from which we will hear in this trial. “I must add at this point that the accused was the vote controller, so no names or items would be inserted or paid for without his knowledge, consent and approval.”
She further disclosed that on each salary statement the accused will endorse that the people who signed against their names had in fact received their salary.
According to the State Prosecutor, such was the level of this grand scam and that is why the State says that he was the architect and the executor of this grand scam and there is no way any responsibility for this deceit can be left at the door of a junior worker under his direction, command and control.
In reply defense counsel for the accused, Lawyer Jenkins Johnston asked the court for an adjournment to the 18th September.
He told the court that they have indicated to the prosecution that the defense has not had enough time to study the court indictment.
By that time, he said the defense will have prepared themselves properly to continue with the matter.
This application was granted by the Presiding Judge Mary Sey. However seven witnesses will be testifying against Gabbidon according to the Prosecutor.
By Abibatu Kamara