Lawyer Abu B. S. Sangarie of Le Monde Chamber in Sierra Leone who doubles as the Solicitor for the Romanian businessman Frank Vasile Timis has said that his client is ready to make a comeback to Sierra Leone if government engage and allow him to. He made this confirmation in an exclusive interview at his Percival Street Law Firm in Freetown yesterday Thursday 3rd October 2019. Many citizens received the news on the comeback of Timis to Sierra Leone to invest in the extractive industry with mixed feelings especially after his African Minerals Limited (AML) mining company at the brink of collapse was sold to the Chinese Shandong Steel, which saw him taking loan from his friend at Gerald Metal to buy-over former London Mining Company (LMC), which was later named Timis Mining Corporation’s Sierra Leone. Timis Mining Corporation never did well after few shipments hence prompted the then All People’s Congress (APC) party led government to cancel its mining lease license No. 02/2009 on Thursday 16th March 2017. According to the then Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources Minkailu Mansaray, the reasons for the cancelation of Timis Mining Corporation license was as a result of the fact that they had defaulted in paying rent for 6 months.
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Lawyer Abu B. S. Sangarie described his client as the ‘most competent’ investor that has the tendency to bring more investors into the country especially when the country’s image in terms of dealing and protecting investors is not good internationally. He said if only the current government will invite and engage Frank Timis thereby putting all records and rules straight, there is every possibility that he will come because according to the lawyer, his client was not treated fairly by the past government. In a letter to the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources Foday Rado Yokie from the legal representative for Frank Timis dated 1st October 2019 and subtitled, “Unlawful cancellation of mining lease No. 02/2009. The Law firm cited two specific clauses in the Mining Lease Agreement one of which gives exclusive rights to the Minister to revoke license if payments are not made after 6 months and also the other clause was focused more on a case of probability as to where there is a Force Majeure. In his 9 paged letter to the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources the Solicitor for Frank Timis stated that his client was never in arrears of 6 months rent to warrant the cancellation of his Mining Lease and License by the past government. He pointed out that the determination by President Julius Maada Bio to protect genuine investors in the country is urging his client into seeking an amicable solution to the cancelation of his license. There are lots of allegations across Africa in particular on how Frank Timis used his companies to escape taxes, bribed authorities to make its way thereby avoiding to also pay taxes, giving gifts to local authorities and human rights abuses, among other allegations. Abdulai Sheriff (not his real name) former senior staff at AML described the planned comeback of Frank Timis as a blessing in disguise for the country and the government in particular stating that, the present economic situation in the country can only be turned around within 6 months with investors like Timis. He pleaded with government to engage Timis and ensure proper paperwork is done to avoid a situation or blame game in the future. Alhaji Bangura is one of the victims of the April 2012 Bumbuna shooting that led to the death of one Musu Conteh, he said before the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) led government can go into any investment talk with Frank Timis they should ensure he takes full responsibility of what happened after his staff strike resulted into death and other human rights abuses. Bangura said since the incident happened in Bumbuna 7 years ago to date they are yet to have justice because few people that were in government never wanted justice for them, which he associated to the fact that they were poor and not connected with the powers that be. Aminata Kanu, middle-aged woman in Bumbuna said despite the fact that the mining created jobs for youth and women and they were making profits out from their petty trading as a result of the number of workers in the chiefdom, however they need better mining policy and agreement between government and Frank Timis from payment of royalty to protection of the environment to respect for human rights and development of its operational communities. Former Community Liaison and Safety Officer at AML Foday Mansaray said the news is welcoming on the note that it will boost the country’s economy in terms of payments and the creation of jobs for the youth in particular who according to him are jobless. He said however good Timis was, there are excesses on his side; notwithstanding that, it is the responsibility of government to ensure the right laws are in place and his operations are being monitored in the interest of the country. Mansaray said after Timis left AML the Chinese let them down thereby failing to properly manage the mine not to talk of utilizing the right resources as in the case of AML, when Timis came in with the Australians to boost the sector. He said the Chinese are good at construction so they should focus more on it than taking a venture into the mining sector especially when they failed to increase production at a time when the Iron Ore price at the World market decreased. Mansaray urged government to ensure everything is in place to avoid re-occurrence of allegations around Timis in the continent and other parts of the world before an agreement between the government and Timis is entered into. Efforts to engage government authorities on their position to engage Frank Timis on a second comeback to invest in the country as at the time of going to Press proved futile.
By Mohamed Kabba
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