5 June 2018

Sierra Leone: Mohamed M'baqui & Co Convicted

The High Court of Sierra Leone presided over by Justice Alusine Sesay yesterday (Monday, June 4), convicted Mohamed M'baqui and Mohamed Mansaray. The duo was charged with 28 counts, including conspiracy, fraud, false imprisonment and attempted murder.

Both convicts were initially arraigned in the Magistrate Court in 2013 on 86 count charges. After the conclusion of the preliminary investigation the matter was committed to the High Court in July 2013 for further trial.

When the case file went to the Law Officers Department, the charges were reduced to 28 counts. Since then the convicts had been on remand at the Male Correctional Centre in Freetown, although the court had granted them bail but they could not meet the bail conditions set out by the judge.

The prosecution had alleged that the convicts, between 2012 and 2013, with false pretense, duped one Mohamed Malik Sariq, an Indian investor the sum of US$700,000.

The prosecution also alleged that the first convict - Mohamed M'baqui - falsely imprisoned and attempted to murder the complainant.

The prosecution further alleged that between 2012 and 2013, the convicts employed false pretense to dupe the Indian investor the above-mentioned amount of money.

According to Justice Sesay, the prosecution presented several witnesses, including the complaint who testified in the matter to prove its case against the convicts.

He said the complainant in the matter had testified that in 2012 one Abu Bakarr Conteh sent him an email from 'River Mines Company,' displaying diamonds and vast land for agricultural purpose.

The judge said the complainant further testified that he informed his boss about the website and subsequently travelled to Sierra Leone, where he met with the first convict.

According to the court records, the complainant claimed he was falsely imprisoned in Kenema, where the first convict duped him over US$700,000.

Justice Sesay said that at the close of the prosecution's case, the first convict told the court that he was going to testify on oath and would also call witnesses to testify in his defense.

However, the judge noted that even though the convict had earlier informed the court that he would take the witness stand, defense lawyer at the time - Lansana Dumbuya - applied that Mohamed M'baqui had a mental problem and was unfit to take the witness stand to testify. But following several results of medical examination were tendered in court, the presiding judge ruled that the accused was fit to testify.

The convict went on to testify and introduced himself as a businessman that deals in diamonds, electricals and general merchandise.

He disclosed that he owned several companies, including White House Diamond Company in Freetown, D-Max SM Limited, D and G International, Rivers Mining Company and M.G Limited.

He narrated that in 2012 he went to Conakry, Guinea, for a visa interview to travel to Japan and Moscow and that while in Guinea a certain Sierra Leonean lady introduced him to six investors - two Indians, two Nigerians and two other nationals he couldn't identify.

He said the investors displayed electrical products to him through their laptop computers, and they exchanged contacts.

"After the sharing of e-mails and cell numbers, I later travelled to Japan where I spent two weeks. I also went to Moscow and stayed there for four weeks. When I returned to Freetown, I found out that my e-mail was flooded with unread messages and one of the mails stated that they are coming to Sierra Leone. A week later, I collected six of them at Masiaka and brought them to Freetown," he testified.

While ruling on the matter, Justice Sesay said he had found both convicts guilty on conspiracy, with the first guilty of fraud, false imprisonment and attempted murder as charged.

He told defence lawyer Francis Ben Keifala that the court has a duty to protect the image of Sierra Leone and that the act of the convicts have the potential to discourage investors who might want to invest in the country.

The matter was adjourned to Thursday, June 7, for sentencing.

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