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Shady Deals, Shady Campaign Funds, Private Jets & Helicopter Flights--A Corrupt President Seeks Re-Election

November 16, 2012
The New People Newspaper


In a BBC interview with BBC correspondent, Mark Doyle, President Ernest Koroma strenuously denied that there was corruption in Sierra Leone on his watch in spite of the dozens of financial scandals involving his family members, Vice President, Ministers, associates, and senior members of his political party the All People’s Congress (APC). He challenged Mark Doyle that if he smelled a whiff of corruption, he should personally contact him with information. The hypocrisy and irony of the moment was evident.

As Ernest Koroma goes into elections on Saturday, November 17, dark clouds hang over numerous shady deals with mining companies, shady funds, and private helicopter and jet flights.


In spite of President Koroma’s claims to have constructed the muddy, potholed, and gullied rural roads into first class roads, he has recently not travelled on those same roads especially after a number of bitter road experiences travelling to the east of the country. He and his campaign team have therefore taken to the air. Numerous insider APC sources confirm that Declan Resources, a gold mining company operating in the Kono and northern parts of Bo Districts, has, through its Financial Comptroller in Freetown, Eddie Shallop, made its helicopter available to President Ernest Koroma and his campaign team. Equally so, the local management team of the Alberta-based Talisman Energy which has partnered Russian oil giant, Lukoil and Malaysia-based Petronas and UK’s Protinal Ltd in developing oil blocks has been ferrying the APC presidential candidate, some of his ministers and the APC campaign team to various parts of the country. Both Declan Resources and Talisman Energy, by ferrying government officials and campaign staff, have blatantly sided with a political party and interfered with the internal politics of Sierra Leone.


But these shady deals are not just limited to elections helicopter flights. On the 23rd of July 2011, President Ernest Koroma’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Franklyn Kargbo, signed a settlement agreement with Oranto Petroleum of Nigeria (represented by Prince (Engr) Arthur Eze, Chairman of Oranto Petroleum Limited) in the International Court of Arbitration for Oil Block SL 5. Barely two months later, on Monday, September 19, 2011, President Ernest Koroma, his wife, and select cabinet Ministers arrived at Teteboro Airport in New Jersey to attend the 66th United Nations General Assembly meeting aboard a private jet registered and owned by Oranto Petroleum. The 1991 aircraft, which is registered as 5NPZE, is a GulfStream fixed wing aircraft, Model G-IV owned by Oranto Petroleum.


Another oil company which recently acquired Blocks SL 8A-10 and SL 8B-10 in the March 2012 round of bids allegedly paid $5million into President Ernest Koroma’s campaign funds in addition to dispatching former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo to publicly endorse the president’s campaign. On Obasanjo’s arrival at Lungi airport, he was flown on a private helicopter to Kabala – the cost of the flight is said to have been borne by another mining company operating in Sierra Leone which is said to have paid for such helicopter flights as President Koroma hops from one part of the country to another avoiding the horribly dangerous roads he says he had constructed in his infrastructural program.


Such is the shady nature of relationships between the President and mining and other foreign resource and land acquisition (biofuels) investors that there are persistent rumors of huge campaign funds being paid personally to President Koroma. Recently, in Malen chiefdom, President Koroma also publicly fraternized with executive heads of SOCFIN who are also said to have contributed significant amounts of money towards the President’s re-election campaign. The Oakland Institute recently slammed SOCFIN in an April 2012 report titled “UNDERSTANDING LAND INVESTMENT DEALS IN AFRICA: SOCFIN LAND INVESTMENT IN SIERRA LEONE" for colluding with national and local political authorities to suppress the voices of resistance against the forceful acquisition of 50 year leases of prime land in the Malen chiefdom. The document concluded that “Numerous legal flaws, the lack of transparency, adequate documentation, and proper consultation demonstrate that Socfin’s land deal in Sierra Leone has gone ahead without free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of land owners.” Yet, President Koroma is said to have received substantial funding from the Bollore group to which he has also ceded control of operations of the profitable national port.

The attorney general and Minister of Justice concluded and was the attorney of record for ADDAX as it acquired over 100 million hectares of arable land in a 99 year lease that rankled international land rights organizations.

But there are still old and outstanding scandals especially with AFRICA MINERALS of Frank Timis paying for the reconstruction of the Presidential villa, installing swimming pools, squash courts, and helicopter landing pads. There is also bickering that  Frank Timis has funded most of the media campaign and through a business associate, Junior Navo, has pumped significant funds into Ernest Koroma’s re-election campaign.

This blatant funding and shady deals to promote Ernest Koroma’s campaign is said to come amidst fears that an SLPP government would significantly review mining rights and leases and reduce the opaque deals that have characterized that sector for a very long time.