28 May 2019

Sierra Leone: Isha Johansen, Chris Kamara Walk Free - ACC Boss Bows to Ruling

Few minutes after Justice Reginald S. Fynn has acquitted and discharged the suspended Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) President, Isha Johansen and her General Secretary, Chris Kamara, the Anti-Corruption Commission czar, Francis Ben Kelfala twitted 'we lost! Now is time to take a breath and review the judgment for next steps. That is what due process is'.

The legal battle which lasted for almost two years ended yesterday with a victory to the embattled SLFA President and her General Secretary .The matter acted as a stalemate to the progress of the country's football as it led to a FIFA ban on the country from all international footballing activities.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had charged the SLFA duo on eleven counts of corruption offences, including misappropriation, conspiracy, and abuse of office, contrary to the amended Anti-Corruption Act of 2008.

After the closure of the persecution's case in October last year, counsel for both defendants, Africanus Sorie Sesay, made a no case submission, insisting that the prosecution had failed to prove their case. The judge then cleared the duo on eight counts, leaving them to be tried on three.

Count one states that both accused persons misappropriated donor funds, contrary to Section 37 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008.

According to the prosecution, both accused persons misappropriated US$50,000 donated to the SLFA by the Confederation of African Football for the purpose of conducting Magnetic Resonance Imaging tests (MRIs) on 30 members of the Sierra Leone U-17 national team in Niger.

The ACC on count two alleges that both accused persons conspired to commit a corruption offence, contrary to Section 128 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008.

In his ruling in the crowded courtroom, the judge noted that the $50, 000 transmitted to the SLFA account from CAF to specifically do the MRI tests was not done as per evidence adduced in court, but that the defendants have used it for other official purposes.

"The testimony of PW8 does point at the possibility that though the $50, 000 may not have been used for the MRI tests, it may have been used for some purpose approved of by the SLFA officials. This in my opinion presents a hint of a doubt that the money was misappropriated at all," he said.

"In the absence of firm theory from the prosecution, it is my considered opinion that the defence has been able on a balance of probabilities to offer an explanation which is acceptable to the court as being more likely than not. I find that Chris Kamara took the loan from Arnie Johansen and it was paid back. It follows from my forgoing consideration therefore that none of the present charges can stand, neither those brought pursuant to Section 37 for dishonest appropriation nor that brought under Section 128 for conspiracy. I therefore acquit and discharge the accused persons on all three counts," he ruled.

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