News / Africa

Former Sierra Leone Fisheries Minister Found Guilty of Misusing Public Funds

Sierra Leone's former minister of fisheries and marine resources was found guilty on Tuesday of misusing public funds.  She faces more than $100,000 in fines or 15 years in prison.

Former Fisheries Minister Haja Afsatu Kabba was found guilty on five counts of misappropriating public funds.  She was acquitted on two counts of abuse of office in the verdict read out in Freetown's High Court No. 2.

Justice Samuel Ademusu ordered Kabba to pay more than $100,000 within four weeks or be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Defense attorney Blyden Jenkins Johnston says the fines will be paid.

"We went through a trial," said Blyden Jenkins Johnston. "It was a proper trial.  And the judge has found our client guilty on five out of seven counts.  So we have nothing more to say than that we accept the verdict of the court.  We will look into the judgment.  And if there are grounds of appeal, we will appeal.  But for now, we accept the verdict and the fines will be paid."

Anti-Corruption Commissioner Joseph Kamara says he is pleased with the verdict.

"Today, the quality and integrity of the justice delivery system has witnessed a new dawn," said Joseph Kamara. "We stand at the corner of a new challenge.  Justice has been rendered."

Kabba was one of two women in President Ernest Bai Koroma's cabinet.  She was his first minister of energy and power, but she was reassigned to the fisheries ministry after allegations of impropriety in the awarding of contracts to bring electricity to the capital during the president's first 100 days in office.

Kabba was found guilty of ordering employees to make four withdrawals from ministry accounts last October, totaling nearly $37,000.

Justice Ademusu ruled that Kabba kept the money for herself.  Kabba was also found guilty of transferring more than $39,000 of ministry funds to the bank account of a private company that then gave most of that money to her.

Kabba was acquitted on charges that she improperly employed her sons and their friends at the ministry of energy and power, and at the ministry of fisheries and marine resources.

Joseph Kamara says the Anti-Corruption Commission, or ACC, is vigorously pursuing other cases of official corruption.

"I think I have an aggressive prosecutorial policy and it comes with the vision and conviction that I have that the ACC is that vigor of change that this country has been yearning for," he said. "And it is that conviction that is reflected in my approach and circumstances that surround events."

Kamara says that the commission will bring more cases to court before the end of the year.   

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