Magistrate Komba Kamanda of Court No.2 on Friday denied bail to the former Chief of Staff at State House, Dr. Richard Konteh, and the Timber tycoon Alie Suma for allegedly conspiring to defraud the State the sum of Le 4, 45, 882, 020 (four billion forty-five million eight hundred and eighty-two thousand and twenty Leones).
Before the matter was mentioned, the entire court room had been filled by batteries of Lawyers, pressmen and sympathisers, family members, employees of the accused, all waiting for the Magistrate to take the Bench, while hundreds of others stood outside the court premises, as armed OSD officers barricaded the court entrance.
The matter was prosecuted by State Counsel Monfred Sesay while Counsel C.F. Edwards, M.Pius Sesay, I.S Koroma, U. Koroma and Julian Cole represents Alie Suma (1st accused), Counsel R.S.V. Wright, M.P Fofanah, M.C. Nicol-Wilson A.R. Sidikie, A. Fornah, J.A.K. Sesay, A. Bah and S.V.M. Thomas represent the Dr. Richard Konteh (2nd accused), R.B. Kowa, A. Fornah, S.S. Thomas and F.B. Conteh represent the Leslie Peter Crosby (3rd accused).
When the charges were read to the accused, managing Director of Timber Harvesters, Processers and Exporters Sierra Leone Limited, Alie Suma, faced seventeen count charges while the former Chief of Staff at State House, Dr. Richard Konteh, faced two count charges and Leslie Peter Crosby faces a charge of one count.
On count one, all the accused were charged with the offence of Conspiracy as particulars of offence states and that on diverse date between 1st February and 31st May 2014 in Freetown with intent to defraud, conspired with other persons unknown to evade payment of export duty to the tune of Le 4, 45, 882, 020 (four billion forty-five million eight hundred and eighty-two thousand and twenty Leones) being export duty in respect of 614 twenty feet containers of value added timber by falsely pretending that Alie Suma had authority to export the said quantity of timber and that the said duty had been paid.
The former Chief of Staff was charged together with the Timber Tycoon Alie Suma on count two with the offence of forgery contrary to section 4(1) of the Forgery Act 1913 as particulars of offence states that on a date unknown between 1st and 28th February 2014, in Freetown, with intent to defraud, forged certain documents to wit a letter titled ‘The export of valued added processed timber’ dated 26 February 2014 purporting to show that an open-ended clearance was granted to Alie Suma, to export valued-added processed timber.
The Timber tycoon, Alie Suma, was charged with the offence of altering false document contrary to section 6(1 and 2) of the Forgery Act 1913 on count three, four, five, six and seven, as particulars of offence states that on diverse dates between the 1st of February and the 31st of March 2014, altered certain false document purporting to be a letter from the Office of the Chief of Staff giving clearance to export unlimited number of containers of valued added timbers knowing the same to be false and with intent to defraud.
On Count eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen and seventeen, the Timber tycoon Alie Suma was charged with the offence of wilful evasion of export duty contrary to section 77(c ) of the Customs Act 2011 as particulars of offence states that on diverse dates between 1st February and 31st May 2014 in Freetown evaded export tax duty for 614 containers value added processed timber.
Representing the first accused Alie Suma, Counsel M. Pius Sesay, raised a preliminary objection for his client to stand trial on a consolidated file with two other accused, as the normal practice is to discharge the accused before consolidating the file, explaining that the mere fact his client is standing trial with other persons is fatal to justice and that the prosecution cannot discontinue the matter with his client on the file he was charged alone, as they have only taken one prosecution witness that have been cross-examined.
Magistrate Komba Kamanda states that discharge is not a bar to further proceedings as the matter is a preliminary investigation.
Counsel Monfred Sesay replied that the argument of the defence is a novel for him to comprehend, as both the Attorney-General and Director of Public Prosecution have the constitutional authority to continue and discontinue criminal matters as and when they want and he referred the court to section 66(4) paragraph (c) (5) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991, adding that the matter is a preliminary investigation citing section 118 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965.
Magistrate Kamanda ruled that section 66 (4) of the 1991 Act No.6 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone is very clear as it needs no further elucidation and overruled the objection of the Defence Counsel.
As part of his duties in representing the first accused, Counsel M.P. Sesay, again objected for his client to be put on trial after being discharged by the court, as the prosecution offered no evidence against him, stating that technically his client is a free man and should not be re-arrested pursuant to due process, as a result he cannot be arraigned, explaining that if the prosecution or the police feel they are very strong ‘ the Judges Rules of 1964 must be applied as the police ought to do the work properly by arresting, cautioned, question and, take statements and then charge to court, which they have not done to his client after being discharged by the court.
Again representing the prosecution, State prosecutor, Monfred Sesay, argued that on the law regarding the Judges rules which Counsel for the Defence relied on, paragraph 11 to 18 of the 36th Edition of Archibold pleading, evidence and practices in criminal case page 415 through to 421, adding that paragraph 11 to 20 deals with the status stating that ‘ Judges Rules are not rules of law but only rules on the guidelines of the police’ as a result he urged the Court to over-rule this and allow the accused to be arraigned before the court, as he is properly before the court.
Magistrate Kamanda for the second time overuled the Defence Counsel’s objection and allowed the accused to be arraigned for the matter to continue.
After the charges were put to the accused, the Prosecution called their first witness, the Acting Director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, William Bangura, who took the witness box and disclosed that value-added timber is when a tree is cut and goes through series of machinery process thereby changing the original round form to a different shape and dimension as required by the end-users.
A document was given to the witness, which he identified as a press release from the Ministry that was tendered and marked exhibit ‘A’, which states that with effect from 31st May 2013, export of road logs is prohibited except for valued- added timber that has been processed.
Another document was about to be tendered, when Counsel M.P. Fofanah objected on the basis that it is not the original, adding that count, two, three and four have to do with the offence of forgery and altering of forged document, stating that any letter purporting to have been authored by his client, Dr. Richard Konteh, must be in the original form, given the fact that there is the fantasy that his client is facing a charge of alleged forgery of a document.
State Counsel Monfred Sesay replied that in the present situation, the question to be asked on the admissibility of the piece of evidence, whether it is relevant or not, and the answer is yes, being that fact that it is the subject matter of count two, three and four, stating that he had laid the basis and fact for the document to be tendered as the witness states that he found a copy of the document in a file he met in the office where he is acting as the previous person, holding the office is now late.
Magistrate Kamanda adjourned the matter to Monday 30th June 2014 for ruling on the tendering of the document.
By Alhaji M. Kamara
Monday June 30, 2014