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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Subpoena for Sierra Leone President's Assets Declaration Forms is Highly Likely
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden (in London)
Oct 5, 2010, 14:14
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In today’s edition we have reproduced a Letter from Solicitors for the well-respected PMDC Leader and Legal Luminary, Charles Francis Margai Esq., addressed to APC-led Government Spokesman, Alhaji I.B. Kargbo and dated last Friday October 1, 2010. It is the subject of this Analysis today which seeks to simplify for my Readers, the Legal Implications of that Letter as it affects the interest of H.E. President Ernest Koroma and Alhaji I.B. Kargbo.

However, before proceeding with this Analysis, it is but prudent for me to reproduce certain sections of the Anti Corruption Act of 2008 and of the National Constitution of 1991 for my dear readers. In the Letter, Margai’s Lawyers cited one section of the Constitution; namely Section 48(4) and two sections of the Anti Corruption Act; namely Section 119(1) and 119(2). I will start this Analysis by reproducing for my readers, the verbatim text of what those three sections say PLUS another section which was not cited but which is of importance to this Analysis today (i.e: Section 119:Subsection13 of the Anti Corruption Act).

ANTI-CORRUPTION ACT, 2008
SECTION 119 - Public officers to declare assets and liabilities.
(1) Every public officer shall within three months of becoming a public officer deposit with the Commission a sworn declaration of his income, assets and liabilities and thereafter not later than 31st March in each succeeding year that he is a public officer, he shall deposit further declarations of his income, assets and liabilities and also while leaving office.
(2) Every person who at the commencement of this Act is a public officer shall within three months of commencement of this Act deposit with the Commission a sworn declaration of his income, assets and liabilities and thereafter not later than 31st March in each succeeding year that he is a public officer, he shall deposit further declarations of his income, assets and liabilities.
(13) Subject to this Act, the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Directors and other persons having an official duty under this Act, or being employed in the administration of this Act, shall deal with all documents and information, and all other matters relating to a declaration under this Part, as secret and confidential, except where a particular declaration or record is required to be produced for the purpose of, or in connection with any court proceedings against, or inquiry in respect of a declarant under this Act...

SIERRA LEONE CONSTITUTION
SECTION 48 – The President - Incidents of office, etc.
48.(4) While any person holds or performs the functions of the office of President, no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against him in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him either in his official or private capacity.
 
I.B. KARGBO’S ALLEGATIONS
Now, as can be seen from his Solicitor's Letter, Mr. Charles Margai is obviously deeply aggrieved that a powerful and very credible voice such as that of the well respected and honourable Spokesman of the Republic of Sierra Leone Government, Alhaji I.B. Kargbo has told the world through at least two public mediums that Margai blackmails whenever he needs money, he corruptly fritters away monies given to him for other purposes and he is not accountable or transparent in his dealings with others.
 
FOUNTAIN OF HONOUR
Section 40.(2) of the National Constitution embodies the sitting President as the country’s Fountain of Honour and Justice which means anything the President is named within or is associated with, has to be automatically assumed to be very honourable, just and credible.
 
PRESIDENT NAMED BY KARGBO
In allegations against Margai, Alhaji I.B. Kargbo has actually named our President and Fountain of Honour as having been blackmailed by Margai to such an extent that he was now fed-up especially as Margai has allegedly not been accountable for “huge sums of money” which the President gave “for the P.M.D.C. party”. In Global Times newspaper was sensation! Here goes:
“We can no longer yield to Mr. Margai’s blackmailing tactics. He does these things whenever he is desperate for money. As far as I know, the President has given him huge sums of money on several occasions. What the President finds annoying is Mr. Margai’s lack of transparency and accountability. The President has discovered that Mr. Margai has never properly accounted for monies he collects on behalf of the PMDC. And this is the man that is talking about corruption. He should be ashamed of himself. Some of us have lost respect for him because of the way he conducts himself,” Alhaji I. B. Kargbo was reported to have fumed over the phone to Global Times.
Margai and his buddy Ernest Koroma back in 2007 when the going was good
 
MARGAI HAS BEEN DEFAMED
Charles Francis Margai, the Leader of the third largest political party in Sierra Leone, a lawyer of repute and a well-respected citizen has been described by the Honourable Government Spokesman as having blackmailed His Excellency the President and Fountain of Honour for ceaseless streams of huge amounts of cash for use by his PMDC party but which Margai failed to account for.
 
The honour of Charles Margai as a man, as a lawyer, as a politician and as a party leader is at stake. This famous man finds himself defamed in a situation where Historians and Academics now and in the future, whilst poring over journals and literature will find such negative references to him.
 
Margai's legacy of a good name which he inherited from his ancestors can be rightfully stated as haven been soiled; his children and descendants as yet unborn, are going to go through life with the allegation that their Dad and Ancestor is/was a dishonourable blackmailer UNLESS he can prove the allegations to be untrue. He is up against a tough task given the titles and perceived honourable nature of the two powerful men named in his public indictment: The National Fountain of Honour (i.e: The President) and the Honourable Government Spokesman of the Republic.
 
CHARLES MARGAI’S OPTION
Fortunately for Charles Margai, he is living in a land of Laws and not in a lawless Jungle and so he can resort to having the Law Courts restore his currently damaged reputation. But how can he do this? How can he prove that he never received “huge sums” from President Koroma? The answer is simple.
 
SUBPOENA KOROMA’S FORMS
All what Margai needs to do is to ask the Law Courts to subpoena the signed Asset Declaration Forms of President Ernest Koroma from the Anti Corruption Commission. The Courts will then examine the Forms for the last three years (i.e: the one the President lodged first in September 2008, the one lodged in 2009 before 31st March 2009 and the one which the President should have lodged again this year before 31st March 2010 which I assume he did lodge again this year).
 
COMPARING PRESIDENT’S ASSETS
Upon comparing the three sets of Assets Forms, Charles Margai will ask the Courts if there has been a significant depletion of the President’s personal Assets between September 2008 and March 2009 on to March 2010 which could explain away the “huge sums of money” that Hon. I.B. Kargbo claims H.E. President Koroma used to give to Margai for the PMDC. Naturally, since these “huge sums” could not have come from Government coffers (as that would be totally illegal and very corrupt and President Koroma being the Fountain of Honour is not a corrupt man), it means the “huge sums” cited by Minister Kargbo MUST have come out of the President’s personal wealth. This Personal Wealth of the President would thus, according to Anti Corruption Commission records, show a significant “huge” depletion between 2008 to 2009 unto 2010, as stated on the President’s Asset Declaration Forms at the Anti Corruption Commission.
 
PRESIDENT IS IMMUNE...
The President himself is immune from any form of Prosecution and Mr. Margai’s Letter makes no secret of this when he cites Section 48(4) of Constitution but such immunity, as Mr. Margai's Letter reminds us, is only for the President and does not extend beyond him which means Government Spokesman Alhaji I.B. Kargbo is not immune from being dragged to court for Criminal Libel and is also not immune from being ordered to pay significant financial damages as compensation in a Civil Libel Lawsuit.
 
PRESIDENT’S RECORDS ARE NOT IMMUNE
As I stated earlier, Mr. Margai did not cite Section 119.(13) of the Anti Corruption Act but I cited it in my Opening because this is the Section that states that whilst the Assets Declaration Forms of President Koroma and all public officials are to be kept strictly secret and confidential, if a Court is inquiring into a matter concerning the information within those assets, the declared forms (including President Koroma’s own) can be subjected to a subpoena. So, whilst the President himself is immune from personally facing any Court proceedings, his Declared Assets at the Anti Corruption Commission are not immune from being subpoenaed and examined by any Court Proceedings.
 
WHAT APC SHOULD DO
Unless the APC-led Government is 100% sure that President Koroma’s Year 2008 to Year 2009 to Year 2010 personal assets records at the Anti Corruption Commission will reflect such a “huge” depletion that went towards funding of PMDC from his personal assets, what APC should do, and do speedily, as a matter of urgency is to issue an unequivocal retraction of the utterances of Government Spokesman Alhaji I.B. Kargbo against Lawyer Charles Margai plus an accompanying undiluted apology in a public show of deep remorse; or they will leave Mr. Margai with no choice other than to defend his honour and the honour of his late father’s surname.
 
THE TWO WEEKS ULTIMATUM
In other words, if Hon. Alhaji I.B. Kargbo does not apologise to Charles Margai within the next two weeks, this might force Margai to cause an unprecedented Subpoena of President Koroma’s 2008, 2009 and 2010 Assets Declaration Form(s) from the Anti Corruption Commission for examination by a Court of Law to determine if indeed such "huge sums" left the President's personal assets as declared. If no such depletions occured, then obviously Mr. Charles Margai will ask the courts to find Alhaji I.B. Kargbo guilty of criminal defamation as well as ask the courts to order Alhaji I.B. Kargbo to compensate him a heavy, significant financial sum in damages.
 
So, will the APC apologise or will they allow...
#END#
THE SOLICITORS' LETTER IS PRODUCED BELOW
C.F. Margai & Associates
(Banta Chambers)
40 Rawdon Street, Freetown / 6 Bojon Street, Bo, Sierra Leone, West Africa.
Tel: 232-33-393-422/232-76-640-337/232-76-606059/232-22-229349
E-mail: cfmargaiandassociates@yahoo.com

SOLICITORS:
C.F. MARGAI ESQ.
ROBERT B. KOWA ESQ.


OUR REF/IBK/TH/10
YOUR REF:

Mr. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo,
Minister of Information and Communications,
Youyi Building,
FREETOWN.

October 1st 2010

Dear Mr. Kargbo,

A programme aired over Universal Radio F.M.98.7 on Thursday 30th September, 2010, referred to a statement allegedly made by you and referable to Mr. Charles Francis Margai, a Barrister-At-Law and Leader of the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (P.M.D.C) which words were clearly defamatory of Mr. Margai in the following terms:-

1. Mr. Margai is in the habit of black mailing whenever he needs money.

2. The President (meaning President Ernest Bai Koroma) has given Mr. Margai huge sums of money for the P.M.D.C. party which he did not account for.

3. The President is annoyed with Mr. Margai because of his lack of Accountability to the party.

4. Mr. Margai is the Lawyer for Cellcom a very corrupt Mobile Company in whose favour Mr. Margai wanted us to corruptly compromise our policies; when we refused he was annoyed.

You jolly well know that all of the above were and are false. Nevertheless, you chose to take the risk because you had to say something in defence of an address by Mr. Margai to his party supporters in Kenema alleging corruption in the A.P.C. government.

May we draw your attention to Section 119(1)&(2) of the Anti-Corruption Act No.12 of 2008; in particular lines four (4) commencing with the words "and thereafter not later than 31st March in each succeeding year he is a public officer, deposit further declarations of his income, assets and liabilities."

By reason of your irresponsible and malicious utterance, our client’s character has been unjustifiably defamed and therefore demands that:-

1. you are to furnish us with facts supportive of your outburst.

2. you render an unqualified apology preceded by a retraction using the same channel of communication.

The above demand to be complied with within two weeks from [today’s] date, failing which, you will have yourself to blame.

We are not certain if the statement in question was made by you for and on behalf of the A.P.C. party or on behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone?

Please be under no illusion that Section 48(4) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991 does not extend beyond the President.

A word to the wise is quite sufficient!

Yours faithfully,
C.F. Margai & Associates

Copy:
1. Secretary-General A.P.C.
2. Secretary-General P.M.D.C.
3. Awareness Times Newspaper
4. SLAJ President
5. Mr. Christo Johnson
6. Universal Radio, F.M. 98.7.



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