''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 9 No 1

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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State House on Monday this week denied the Wikileaks cable reports in which the US embassy in Freetown hinted and actually threw doubts on the integrity of President Ernest Bai Koroma over his government's handling of Sierra Leone Police (SLP) investigations into the landing of a Cessna aircraft loaded with some 700 kilograms of cocaine.

The BBC's Umaru Fofanah in a report for Focus on Africa on Monday this week quoted the Director of Communications in the President's Office veteran and professional journalist Unisa Sesay as saying, in a nutshell, that what was contained in the cable report from the US embassy in Freetown was not only "somebody's personal opinion", but that his boss the President could not have ordered the police to shield his former Transport and Communications minister Kemoh Sesay.

The man himself, who is at the centre of this latest controversy is reported to have again declared his innocence - a day or so after he was appointed a Special Adviser to President Koroma.Head of Police Francis Munu - was he rewarded for not charging Kemoh Sesay?

The denial from State House has prompted even more questions from watchers of the scene since that dramatic Sunday July 13, 2008 incident at the country's main international airport at Lungi in the north of the country.

As police investigation intensified with the media and general public pressing for answers at every turn, the authorities would now and again brief the press on the state of the case, those that had been caught in the police dragnet and what would be the fate of the abandoned Cessna aircraft and its cocaine cargo.

The government's attempt to distance itself from that Sunday night event took a battering when it emerged that the Cessna made the night landing on the same evening that President Koroma and his delegation landed after a visit to the Gambia. Conspiracy theories of every description were freely offered with fingers pointed at State House itself.

International interest in the matter saw officers from Britain's Serious Crime Office as well as other law-enforcement agencies from other countries visiting what was then a crime scene at Lungi airport, the examination of the plane as well as the secure custody of the cocaine.

Indeed care had to be taken to ensure that some of the seized cocaine did not find its way into the ready markets of Sierra Leone and neighbouring countries.

There have been a number of incidents where such contraband items seized from the airport would lose considerable weight in the journey from the airport to the offices of the Criminal Investigation Department, CID of the Sierra Leone Police. When a question about this was raised by a journalist in one such event, the terse and probably well-rehearsed answer given for the differences in weight was

"The scales used to weigh these things at Lungi are very faulty. The weight we give you here at the CID are the true weight of the items because we have efficient and reliable scales"

Among those eventually charged to court was the brother of the Transport and Communication minister, one Ahmed Sesay as well as a dozen or so others including a couple of foreigners from the sub-region as well as South America. The involvement of his brother who had been appointed Team Manager of the national team Leone Stars increased calls for the arrest and prosecution of Kemoh Sesay who had by now been relieved of his ministerial duties (sacked) so that, according to State House, investigations would be conducted unhindered.The Cessna plane used in the cocaine plot at Lungi airport

It is worth noting that at the time of this investigation, the top gun in the Sierra Leone Police in charge of crimes was one Assistant Inspector-General (AIG) Francis Munu who is reported to have told the AWOKO newspaper that

...the suspended Minister of Transport and Aviation Kemoh Sesay was not among the eighteen (18) suspects who were yesterday taken to court, because he was never found culpable after police investigation into the cocaine saga. He was quoted to have said that the administrative stance of President Ernest Koroma in asking Kemoh Sesay to step aside while investigation into the controversial cocaine saga was in progress, should not be misconstrued as criminal liability on the suspended Minister, as  he did it in the best interest of justice and transparency. The AIG added that, had he stayed in office while investigations were on-going, the public would be suspicious; as some officials of the Transport Ministry were under investigation. The decision of the President to relieve Kemoh Sesay off his duties was to avoid any incidence of political interference into the matter.

The former AIG Francis Munu is now the Inspector-General of the Police, pitch-forked into a position where more experienced and senior officers were bypassed.

Was his promotion a reward for the protection of Kemoh Sesay as ordered by President Koroma himself?

The worms keep crawling all over the place.

Take the observation of the judge who presided over the matter.President Koroma - is he telling the truth?

Justice Nicholas Browne-Marke in his 100-page report on the case is said to have expressed his unhappiness, if not anger and frustration over the failure of the police to charge Kemoh Sesay to court noting that drug traffickers had "compromised key state agencies as well as senior government officials". This from a situation report by another veteran journalist and researcher Lans Gberie

"Browne-Marke also implied that the government had been guilty of obstruction of justice for preventing the trial of the former Minister for Transport and Aviation: 'I must express my strong disapproval,' he wrote, 'of the prosecution's failure to charge Sesay since, apart from withholding vital evidence, this meant that the judge had to acquit two accused who would otherwise have been convicted.' 'In my view,'

Browne-Marke wrote, 'the [state] prosecution was holding back vital evidence and was prepared to jeopardise their case in order to save perhaps one person from perdition.'

This was, he continued, 'a blatant act of subornation of perjury' by the state. Sesay's brother was charged and convicted in the case. During the trial, he told the court that it was his minister brother who gave permission for the landing of the cocaine plane: the plane had arrived at the airport without notice and was held up by a young air traffic controller whom the traffickers and their accomplices had not brought into the plan".

In his ruling at the High Court Justice Browne-Marke instructed that the impounded Cessna aircraft, which landed with the cocaine consignment, be released into the custody of the Director of Civil Aviation, for protection. He ordered the sale of the aircraft to the highest bidder on the fifth of May.

The Cessna aircraft was bought by the then Mines and Mineral Resources minister for over a hundred thousand US dollars.

It is worth noting too that among those wanted by the police at the time of the cocaine plane investigations was a well-known and well-connected criminal, one GK who mysteriously slipped the police dragnet only to surface in neighbouring Guinea.

He was among those eventually caught, not by the Sierra Leone Police, but Liberian and US law enforcement operatives in a sting operation in Liberia.


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