16 August 2012

Sierra Leone: Mayor, Others to Pay Le455 Million or Risk Three-Year Jail

The suspended Freetown city Mayor, Herbert Akinremi George-Williams and five others were yesterday sentenced by judge John Bosco Katutsi to pay a fine of Le455 million or risk three years imprisonment after convicting them of various corruption charges last week.

It could be recalled that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) indicted the Freetown city Mayor and eight others on 25 counts of corruption charges ranging from conspiracy to commit corruption offence, failure to pay PAYE tax and NASSIT contributions, misappropriation of public revenue, wilfully failing to comply with the laws relating to the procurement of services and other related offences - all to the tune of Le2 billion. They made their first appearance in the high court on the 5th of December 2011.

The first accused person, Herbert George-Williams, was sentenced to pay a fine of Le120 million on count 24 and Le50 million on count 25; second accused person Bowenson Fredrick Philips was sentenced to pay a fine of Le120 million on count 24; third accused Sylvester Momoh Konehni was sentenced to pay a fine of Le120 million also on count 24; Alimamy Turay was sentenced to pay a fine of Le25 million while Franklyn Gabber and Aiah Brima were sentenced to pay a fine of Le10 million each.

On the other hand, acting City Council Treasurer, Arthur Kwesi-John, head of Cashier's Office at the Council Desmond Thomas, and a businessman who operated as Waka Fast Construction and General Services, Mohamed Alie Shaaban, were acquitted and discharged accordingly.

In their plea of mitigation, defence counsel Bernard E. Jones pleaded with the judge not to impose custodian sentence as all the accused persons are bread winners of their families and first time offenders. He said throughout the nine months trial, his clients have never been absent in court and that the first accused was awarded as the best Mayor by SLMTV after he was popularly elected in the 2007 elections.

Justice Katutsi noted that the sentence will serve as a warning to others in public offices as corruption has become a cancer that has been eating into the fabric of this nation. He ordered that the fines be paid within one month.

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