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NEWS : Politics  

SLPP Blasts APC Corruption over 1 Million Dollars Waiver to President's Brother
By Arnold Akibo-Betts & Abdul Karim Kabia
Apr 9, 2009, 17:27
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The Secretary General of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party has blasted the Ernest Bai Koroma led APC Government as "corrupt and not at all sincere with the suffering women and children of Sierra Leone". Mr. Jacob Jusu Saffa contacted this press yesterday to condemn the move by the ruling party Government to grant a tax waiver of almost one million dollars (Le2,746,813,483.44) to the Harmony Trading company being managed by the younger brother of the President, Sylvanus Koroma Junior.


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J.J. Saffa believes that money was Government money that could have been used to reduce Maternal and Child Death Rates amongst women and children in Sierra Leone. He is particularly enraged that when the SLPPs Hon. Elizabeth Alpha-Lavalie stood up in Parliament last year to request the APC Government to grant duty and tax waivers to all rice importers, she was ridiculed by the APC only for the same APC to now turn around and "make a secret arrangement" to grant the Presidents brother duty free and tax waivers.

Saffa says the SLPP hierarchy is also "disillusioned" that the almost one million dollars waiver Sylvanus Koromas company was granted, was signed on the day after President Koroma returned home to meet the same Sylvanus Koroma publicly indicted as amongst those who had allegedly led an attack on the SLPP Party offices the Friday before.

"It is almost as if President Koroma came back home on the 15th March and on 16th March, he instructed the Finance Minister to pay his younger brother for allowing thugs to attack our offices on March 13th. As if to say, well done my boy. Here is one million dollars for helping to attack SLPP offices. We are disillusioned at the timing," Saffa lamented.

"That almost one million dollars could have built numerous Maternal and Child Heath Centers all over this country and thus saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leonean children. Instead, it is going to stay in the pockets of those at the helm of a shady company known as Harmony Trading," Saffa lamented adding that, in his opinion, the letter from David Carew giving preferential treatment to the Presidents brother, shows that "the President is not sincere to fight corruption but to benefit those who are close to him."

According to the David Carew letter first published by Ace Journalist Sorie Fofanah of the new Global Times Newspaper yesterday and reproduced in todays edition of Awareness Times, the almost one million dollars money was for the taxes and duty that Sylvanus Koromas company was supposed to have paid on the korbukor rice and others which Harmony Trading imported into the country last year. The rice was called korbukor because it had an awful smell and so it was sold at dirt cheap rates as most citizens turned their nose up at it and so despite its cheap cost, people were frightened it might be diseased.

However, the then Finance Minister and current Trade Minister David Carew, in a letter dated 16th March 2009 with reference MF-PD 203/77/01 Vol.1, instructed the Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority, Mr. Allieu Sesay that the Ernest Koroma Government wanted him to ignore the revenue that the company of younger brother of Ernest Koroma was owing to the Government in respect of duties and taxes for the korbukor rice because the rice had been sold at "concessional" rates.

J.J. Saffa says the SLPP finds this to be untenable and the party will be officially reacting to these revelations after the Easter holiday break. It will be recalled that Hon. Elizabeth Alpha-Lavalie and other elected MPs of the SLPP had stood up in Parliament last year to make a passionate appeal to the ruling APC for a duty and tax waivers to be granted to all importers of rice so as to reduce the economic burden that the citizenry were facing as a result of world trends. Their suggestion had been totally rejected and they had even been ridiculed by the APC back then.

"The APC is claiming that the Sylvanus Koroma rice was sold at concessional prices but what they are forgetting is that if they had given the same duty free waivers to other rice importers as SLPP had rightfully demanded in Parliament, they could all have benefitted and sold cheap rice to our people. Our people were forced to buy rice at extremely high prices just because the APC rejected the SLPPs suggestion which would have benefited everyone. They rejected what could have benefitted every rice importer just to go ahead and secretly benefit the Presidents brother alone. This is corruption and Abdul Tejan Cole should act on it immediately," Saffa ended.

The SLPP Chairman, John Benjamin told this newspaper that the issues surrounding the duty free waiver as instructed by David Carew seem to be "of a complex nature and multi-faceted" as the SLPP was "also receiving disturbing information from some of the local banks surrounding this same Harmony Trading." He confirmed that the SLPP would be calling on the President and the ACC Commissioner Abdul Tejan Cole to follow the law if indeed acts of corruption had occured.

Efforts to contact Harmony Trading company proved futile as the company seems to have gone bankrupt and shut down operations. A brand new company is now operating from the exact same premises of Harmony Trading at 29 Regent Road in Central Freetown but with a new name this time: Sierra Commodities.

It is not clear if Harmony Trading and Sierra Commodities are run by the same group of persons but it is a fact that Sylvanus Koroma is definitely linked to Sierra Commodities, as it is Sylvanus Koroma, the Presidents brother, who is currently paying for the ongoing full paged newspaper adverts in Awareness Times and other local presshouses which announces that Sierra Commodities is selling rice from the 29 Regent Road premises where Harmony Trading used to operate.

The Presidents brother, Mr. Sylvanus Koroma himself was reported to be too busy to answer questions these writers had for him yesterday but rather he pleaded for our understanding by sending a member of his staff late yesterday to give this newspaper 1.2 million leones cash ($400) which was described as payment in advance for additional adverts in addition to the ones we are already running for him.


THE DAVID CAREW LETTER FOLLOWS:

Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Ministerial Building George Street Freetown

MF-PD 203/77/01 Vol.1

Mr. Allieu Sesay
Commissioner General
National Revenue Authority
Bathurst Street Freetown

16th March, 2009

Dear Mr. Sesay,

TAX AND DUTY WAIVER IN RESPECT OF HARMONY TRADING Co. Ltd

I write to inform you that Government has agreed to absorb the sum of Le2,746,813,483.44 in respect of duties and taxes levied on Harmony Trading for consignments of rice imported and sold at concessional price, which helped to stabilise the price during the global price increases.

In this regard, kindly liaise with the Accountant General to effect the required general entries of the above transaction.

I thank you for your cooperation.

Yours sincerely,
David O. Carew
MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECON. DEV.

CC: Accountant General
CC: General Manager, Harmony Trading Company Ltd.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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