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Sierra Leone graft probe to begin in January

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Hearings in the much-anticipated Commissions of Enquiry on the activities of former Sierra Leone government will commence in January, official announced.

Attorney-General and Justice minister Princilla Schwartz told a press conference in Freetown that every modality was in place ahead of the commencement of proceedings.

Three separate commissions led by judges from Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria will look into the activities of the individuals who served under ex-president Ernest Bai Koroma.

The commissions will sit at the premises used by the former UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, which prosecuted war criminals following the end of the country’s civil war.

The commission’s secretariat also issued a statement calling on the public to help in ensuring a successful process.

It listed the officials being targeted including the former president himself, former vice-presidents and those who served as ministers and deputy ministers.

The statement also listed the assets about which it was seeking information, including pieces of land, houses and bank accounts.

Sierra Leone ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Sierra Leone ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“The commission secretariat will also appreciate any other information regarding mismanagement and misconduct in their official functions,” it said.

Two email addresses and two telephone numbers were provided for the public to volunteer information, with the secretariat promising to protect the identities of potential witnesses.

The enquiry commission was sanctioned by parliament in October, following cabinet approval of a government paper, which resulted from an investigation committee set up President Julius Maada Bio after the March General Election.

That investigation found massive suspected corruption by the former government.

President Bio came to power on the backdrop of promises including stamping out corruption, and his administration says the enquiry commission was one way of realising that goal.

But preparations for the commission have been marred by controversies, as members of the former government have accused the new authorities of witch-hunt.

The procedures followed in the setting up of the commission have also been challenged vigorously.

The hearings are expected to last not later than six months.

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