GOVERNMENT OF SIERRA LEONE
BECCLES DAVIES COMMISSION
To Examine the Assets and other related matters of all Persons who were President, Vice-Presidents, Ministers, Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers within the period from the 1st Day of June, 1986 to the 22nd Day of September, 1991 and to inquire into and investigate whether such Assets were acquired Lawfully or Unlawfully
THE GOVERNMENT WHITE PAPER THEREON
THE GOVERNMENT OF SIERRA LEONE'S INDEBTEDNESS TO DR LAMARCA
Dr Lamarca, an Italian citizen, operated a timber business in this country under the name 'SILETI'. He withdrew from the business and sold his shares to the Sierra Leone Government.
The Sierra Leone Government issued promissory notes to Dr Lamarca in satisfaction for the shares that had been bought. The promissory notes were in $50, 000 denomination.
Unfortunately, the Government honoured only one of these promissory notes. Dr Lamarca consequently set the wheels of justice in motion by instituting proceedings in an Italian Court against the Government of Sierra Leone for the recovery of the amount owed to him. The promissory notes accrued interest and the debt rose to between $2,000,000 and $3,000,000 - (Two million and three million dollars)
In order to avoid further protraction of the litigation, Dr Lamarca suggested that the building in Rome which had served as the Sierra Leone Embassy's residence could be transferred to him and he in turn would make a £300,000 (three hundred thousand dollars) donation to the Government of Sierra Leone in settlement of the matter.
The suggestion was eventually discussed and accepted by Cabinet. Dr Koroma and the then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice travelled to Italy to conclude the matter.
The property was conceded to Dr Lamarca.
It was worth about $1,000,000 (one million dollars) at that time. Dr Lamarca paid the amount of $300,000 to Dr Koroma as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone.
Dr Koroma informed us that the amount had been lodged in a bank account in London - the Midland Bank. On his return to Sierra Leone, Dr Koroma addressed the following letter to the then Minister of Finance - Mr Tommy Taylor-Morgan -
7th December 1990
Hon Tommy Taylor-Morgan
Minister of Finance
You will recall that Cabinet authorised me in consultation with the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to conclude the issue of Dr Guiseppe Lamarca and Government's indebtedness to him. Following that Cabinet Conclusion and an authority to me from His Excellency the President, the Attorney-General and myself successfully concluded the issue. A full report will be sent to Cabinet.
However, as was mentioned in Cabinet, Dr Lamarca also promised to pay to Government the sum of US$300,000 (Three hundred thousand dollars). I am glad to confirm that the sum has been paid into an account in London.
I am therefore requesting your instructions as to when to remit the money for Government's use.
My kind regards to you
(SGD) A K KOROMA
Abdul Karim Koroma (Dr)
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Dr Koroma testified further, that the matter was referred to the Minister of Finance, to the Bank of Sierra Leone as to the appropriate bank account into which the amount should be lodged and that the Bank of Sierra Leone has nominated the Government of Sierra Leone's bank account into which it should be paid and it was subsequently paid into that account."
What followed next before the Commission was a trail - a curious trail of a senior government minister feigning ignorance of not knowing where to pay money received on behalf of government. Dr Koroma's lawyer, seeking to clear his client's name that he was being wrongly accused of making away with the three hundred thousand dollars wrote this to the Commission
"....he further testified that the total amount of US$300, 000 was disbursed as follows:-
(1) US295,000 to the Bank of Sierra Leone
(2) US$5,000 to the Sierra Leone Government employees attached to the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone at the United Nations in New York, United States of America."
This account of how the original US$300,000 was disbursed left the NPRC unimpressed and in a White Paper on the matter wrote
"The NPRC is of the opinion that notwithstanding the attempt in the preceeding paragraph to "explain away" the unauthorised actions of Dr Koroma regarding the disbursement of State funds, he should be made to fully account for the following:-
(i) Unauthorised payments made to a Ms Kadiatu Turay and a Mr A. Dennis Turay in New York, USA, in January, 1991, in the sum of US$5,000;
(ii) the unauthorised depositing of State funds in the sum of US$295,000 into a bank account other than a government designated account.
The NPRC orders that Dr Koroma refund the amount of US$5,000 to the State plus interest at the prevailing rate.
The NPRC further orders that Dr Koroma pay to the State, the interest, at the commercial overdraft, that must have accrued on the amount of US$295,000 for the duration of the period the said amount was in his possession i.e. from receipt from Dr Lamarca and payment into a government designated account.
NB: In the continuing smoke and mirrors created over illegal logging in Sierra Leone, kindly take a look at the Accra Declaration to which Sierra Leone is a signatory.