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Sierra Leone bank chief, others remanded

  • Deigh

By Aminata Phidelia Allie

Magistrate Komba Kamanda yesterday refused bail to the Managing Director of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB) Crispin Deigh, his deputy Patrick Conteh and nine others accused of banking fraud. The 12, who also included a property developer Simeon Kabbah Kalu and the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the First International Bank Chief Tony Izubundu Chinyere were slammed a 9-count charge, in varying order, bordering on conspiracy to defraud and intent to defraud the SLCB and FiBank to the tune of over Le 21 Billion and US$ 1 million, obtaining a credit under false pretences amounting to hundreds of millions of Leones, failure to report a suspicious intent to defraud and issuing cheques against insufficient funds. The magistrate asked the prosecution, led by Gerald Soyei, to present their witnesses to which he said he had none for the time being, and asked for an adjournment. At this stage one of a battery of defence lawyers, Ibrahim Sorie Yillah made a bail application for his clients which was enjoined by lawyers for the other accused persons. He said that even though the offences were serious, allegations they still remained. Quoting from Archbold, the man widely regarded as the father of criminal law, Yillah said that it was punishable by law for a magistrate to refuse bail in a matter that was bailable. He said that bail should not be withheld “merely as a punishment”, and assured that his clients were credible property owners, had titled deeds and were family people. He said the matter had attracted huge public interest implying that there was a trial by the media going on and expressed doubt that they would get a fair trial. Another defence lawyer, Glenna Thompson said that their clients had been “punished enough” by having been locked up in a police cell for days and in the case of some of them beyond the constitutional limit of ten days for such offences. To this the magistrate said that they should have filed a habeas corpus and overruled it on the grounds that that was not before his court. Lead prosecutor Soyie objected to the bail application arguing that they posed a flight risk. He said even though their passports and other travel documents had been confiscated they could still submerge within the country. He also cited the possibility of evidence-tampering by the accused. After a string of altercations between the defence and the prosecution, magistrate Kamanda sent the men to the central prison at Pademba Road. This is the biggest crisis to rock the banking sector in Sierra Leone since the International Bank for Trade and Investment was liquidated in 1994 and already customers of some commercial banks have told Politico that they have started experiencing liquidity problems with their banks. The full list of the accused reads: Simeon Kabba Khalu, Festus Crosbie, John Benjamin Sankoh, Festus Abiomo Jones, Salieu Mohamed Barrie, Yakuba Kargbo, Daniel Dennis Mattia, Patrick Saidu Conteh, Crispin Bishop Dhey, Chief Tony Izubundu Chinyere, Henry Emmanuel Mbayo and Samuel Kainde Huggins (C) Politico 04/07/13