Sierra Leone bishop accused of stealing Ebola funds

 

Sierra Leone bishop accused of stealing Ebola funds

Author: 

George Conger

The Bishop of Bo in Sierra Leone has been released on bail following his indictment by the West African nation’s Anti-Corruption Commission. The Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Tucker stands accused of pocketing over 2 Billion Leones (approximately $275,000) in donations gathered by Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) and the United Society (USPG) in support of victims of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In February 2016 Bishop Tucker spoke to members of the General Synod of the Church of England at a gathering organized by the Anglican Alliance and the USPG with the bishops of Guinea and Freetown. An estimated 11,000 people died over 21 months beginning in 2014 from the virus in West Africa, leading to travel bans from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone from a number of Western nations, and a collapse in the local economy. The Anglican Alliance hailed the work of the Anglican Church in helping combat the virus through health and sanitation education, and dispelling fears the virus was a curse. The United Society’s Mike Brookes told the fringe meeting at Synod: “To halt the spread of the virus people urgently needed to understand what they could do protect their families. So the church stepped in, working with a number of agencies to raise awareness regarding how to combat the virus – such as increasing hand-washing, not shaking hands during church services, and not touching the dead.Not all church leaders survived the outbreak, but they showed immense courage in travelling to the most remote communities to ensure that fear could be replaced by hope. Following the church’s intervention, the rate of Ebola infection dropped dramatically.” However, investigators from Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission have alleged Bishop Tucker’s response to the outbreak did not match these claims of selfless service, and were viewed as an opportunity to enrich himself. The bishop has denied the charges and told local newspapers he would be vindicated at trial. On 22 Feb 2017 the Finance Officer of the Diocese of Bo and four others appeared before the High Court in Bo to answer charges that they had solicited money from BIshop Tucker in order to bribe members of the Anti-Corruption Commission to drop the case against the bishop. The five were released on bail pending a hearing later this month.

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