The long awaited suspense as to what will be the fate of the officials of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) and Ecobank Sierra Leone who were convicted by Justice M. A. Paul of the Freetown High Court No. 1 on the offence of conspiracy to defraud the state, was yesterday brought to an end as the trial judge handed down custodial sentences.
The matter was prosecuted by Counsel Ady Macaulay representing the State, whiles Counsel I.S. Yillah represented the first, fourth and sixth accused; Counsel Eke Halloway represented the second accused, while Anthony Y. Brewah represented the fifth accused.
Before the start of the matter the court-room had been filled by family members, sympathizers, co-workers, police officers, journalists all anxiously waiting to hear the sentences.
When the matter was mentioned, all the accused in the dock appeared downcast as Madam Catherine Katta continued offering silent prayers as she had done during the entire trial.
The first accused Solomon Michael Hindolo Katta, was sentenced to six years on each of the eleven counts he was convicted upon and ordered to pay a fine of Two Billion Two Hundred Million Leones (2. 200,000, 000), Idrissa Forna Alias okala (second accused), was convicted on count one which has to do with conspiracy to defraud the state and he was sentenced to six years imprisonment and ordered to pay Two Hundred Million Leones (200,000, 000), while MomohTuray and Emmanuel Sesay (fourth and fifth accused) respectively, were convicted on two count charges and were sentenced to three years imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of 40m (forty million Leones) each.
Madam Cathereen Katta (sixth accused) who happens to be the wife of the first accused, was convicted on count one – conspiracy to defraud the State and she was sentenced to a jail term of three years and ordered to pay a fine of Le 70m (seventy million Leones)
According to the Judge, all their jail terms go back to 12th July 2013, which implies that they have already spent nine months in prison.
Upon the pronouncement of their sentences, the sixth accused persons cried along with relatives who were sitting at the back of the court while the Judge read out the sentences.
In reaction to the Judge’s decision, Counsel Eke Hallo way disclosed that the decision was draconian and that the trend of imprisonment should be a form of rehabilitation rather than punishment. He further opined that they will appeal against the decision within twenty-one days as the judgment was not based on the evidence before the court.
Counsel Reginald S. Fynn, the lead prosecutor a
t the Anti Corruption Commission, (ACC), explained that first timer does not mean the crime being committed is not serious, for as long as it has to do with corruption, drastic measures should be taken against corrupt officials. He stressed that the ACC will not condone, treat or tolerate corruption in the country.
He maintained that the Judge gave his verdict based on his experience and attitude towards corruption, adding that he was impressed with the Judge’s decision on the offence of unexplained wealth, which is very new in the legal system in relation to corruption as Sierra Leoneans should be celebrating for the success of the Commission.