By Philip Neville
One does not need to be a student of jurisprudence to understand the merit and demerit of the Aljazeera documentary aired some months back. This professionally fraud episode has attracted legal battles from two different fronts, namely in America; by the Law Firm of Robert E. Levine representing an aggrieved party who felt that he was maliciously defamed by a group of discredited free-lancers that conspired with some employees of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Co,operation(SLBC) in the person of Albert Momoh, used the available facility of the establishment to put together materials that have been scrutinized by media experts in the United States of America(USA) and assessed as professionally flawed, incorrect and defamatory. This professionally fraud and flawed material is unfortunately what the country’s Anti Corruption Commission has used to proffer criminal charges against two individuals, Momoh Konte whose retainer with the Washington Law Firm is current and Alex Mansaray who is outside the jurisdiction of Sierra Leone since news about the documentary broke out.
Many curious minds would want to know why Alex Mansaray left the country after the publication. He may have his reason(s) for doing so, but what is being peddling around is that he left not because of the story, but because he was being pestered by his family to join them since he has not been able to secure a job in Sierra Leone for all the years he has spent in the country and the only job he was lucky to secure was that of a bag bearer to some politicians, he thought it fit that he could no more continue being a bag bearer but to join his family in America, which may sound coincidental, but disturbing. There may be other reasons apart from what is stated in this piece, but since this author has not been privy to other reasons it would be unfair to state and publish untruth.
While the Washington Law Firm is pushing Aljazeera to the corner after the failure of a non-disclosure meeting in Brussels, the Anti Corruption Commission in Sierra Leone has slammed a seven-count indictment on the two individuals using the professionally fraud and flawed material as its evidence.
First, before taking a close examination of the extract and findings of the commission and the charges leveled against the suspects, it would be worthwhile to ask if the Anti Corruption Commission has a case. Though, that is left for the court to prove, but going by the legal doctrine that a lawyer is as good as his/her case and no lawyer can make a bad case good, but can make a good case bad based on either his prosecutorial knowledge and the law or his defence strategy employed at the material time.
Looking at the number of counts and statement of offences of the Anti Corruption Commission Act 2008 under which Momoh Konte and Alex Mansaray have been charged, the conclusion is that the Commission has done a great injustice to these individuals by refusing to treat and charge Sorious Samura and his team with corruption offences as they too committed corruption related offences under the same Act.
Despite being a layman in law, but not ignorant of the law and the 2008 Act under which the individuals have been charged. One would want to know why the Anti Corruption Commission did not charge Sorious Samura and his team as they are equally chargeable. In counts 1,3,4 &5 are repetitious as they read “Soliciting an Advantage, contrary to Section 35(1) of the Anti Corruption Act 2008” under this section, the particulars of offence is the same, which has provoked the question as to how many times did Momoh Konte and Alex Mansaray solicited advantage from the Aljezeera free-lancers? The Act states that the dates the solicitations were done should be stated, which should amount to an offence; unfortunately the Commission states that the commission of the offence of solicitation was done on a date unknown between 1st October 2011 and 31st December 2011, which to the layman means on each of the unknown date an advantage was solicited. The absurdity could only be explained by the ACC prosecutor to the presiding judge when the matter kicks off. This would also require the tendering of the traveling documents of Sorious Samura and his team in court to show the dates of their arrival and departure. The soliciting, according to the Act must be done in one transaction, but the Commission has presented its case to make it appears that the solicitation was done on several dates. The ACC prosecutor would have to justify that in court.
In Count 2, the element of grave injustice by the ACC clearly manifested its ugliness by refusing to charge Sorious Samura under section 31(1), if Momoh Konte and Alex Mansaray have been charged under section 31(3), they too should be charged under Section 31(1), which among other things state
“A person who gives or agrees to give, offers an advantage to another person to cause a public officer to use his influence, real or fictitious to obtain any work, employment, contract or other benefit from a public body commits an offence” In view of this section and related sections, such as Sections 31(2)(3), the question is why did ACC refuse to slam charges on Sorious Samura if he claims that he offered or was asked to offer something by these private citizens to pave the way to see the Vice President to discuss the timber deal. In this section of the ACC Act ANY PERSON could mean or be referred to either a PUBLIC OFFICER, a BUSINESSMAN or a PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL which suits the description of the two ACC accused persons, but the Act went further to state “Public Officer” “Public Body” this description fits the Vice President as a public officer and public body as his office, therefore; if Sorious Samura as he alleges in the documentary agreed or offered something as demanded by these persons to influence a public officer of a public body he too should be charged.
Additionally, Section 29(1) authorizes the ACC to prescribe charges against Sorious Samura and his team whether out of the country or not. It states “Any person who, whether in Sierra Leone or elsewhere, gives or agrees to give or offers an advantage to a public officer as an inducement or reward for, or on account of such public officer giving assistance or using influence whether real or fictitious, or having given assistance or used influence, whether real or fictitious in (a) the promotion, execution or procurement of any contract or subcontract with a public body for the provision of any service, the doing of anything or the supplying of any article, materials or substance (b), the payment of the price, consideration or other moneys stipulated or otherwise provided for in any contract or subcontract referred to in paragraph (a) or (c) obtaining for that person or for any other person, an advantage under any contract or subcontract referred to in paragraph(a) COMMITS AN OFFENCE. This section makes Sorious Samura and his team culpable, whether the offer was fictitious or real as long an offer or consent to offer an inducement for the purpose of influencing an outcome that may be seen as positive or to one’s advantage commits an offence. So if the Aljazeera free-lancers claimed as contained in the ACC indictment papers that they were asked to offer US$1,000 to Officers assigned to the Vice President’s office means they too have committed an offence. Further, they know that their action was fictitious and that the purpose of seeing the Vice President was not for the issue of timber but were undertaking an investigation, makes it more criminal than what they were trying to expose.
No reasonable judge worths its salt would entertain or accommodate a matter that lacks the necessary ingredients that constitute a criminal offence to hand down a conviction in his/her court. Not only is it a waste of precious time and the court, but an insult to his/her legal intelligence. Corruption is a-two way traffic and not a one lane affair. If Sorious Samura’s claims that they tried to corrupt him and he succumbed to that, he too has committed the offence of corruption as he being the briber.
What also covered the eye lids of the investigators at the Anti Corruption Commission is the act of conspiracy by Sorious Samura and his team to defraud the state and its people. They came in under the pretext of establishing a company with lofty promises of pumping US$24 Million into the project when they know that was not the case. Clearly, the viewers of the “African Investigates” documentary were able to detect the “men’s rea”, which is the state of mind of the actors in their action, which is the “actus reus” therefore it makes them criminally liable. Concealing a any object, be it a recorder, video or any item when conducting an interview without disclosing it to the interviewee is a criminal offence. It is like eavesdropping, which is not admissible in the practice of journalism. Now that the two legal battles are on, viewers and listeners would be glad to witness a beautiful conclusion to know who is corrupt, who defamed, who presented facts to the world. The Law Firm of Robert E. Levine is reportedly filing papers at the Washington Court in response to the dictates of his client Momoh Konte, similarly Lawyers in Sierra Leone are putting on their legal amour for the local battle at the Law Court Building(To be continued)