Four senior officials of the Anglican Diocese of Bo in Sierra Leone have been sentenced to three years imprisonment after having been convicted of stealing over 2 Billion Leones
Four senior officials of the Anglican Diocese of Bo in Sierra Leone have been sentenced to three years imprisonment after having been convicted of stealing over 2 Billion Leones (approximately $275,000) in donations gathered by Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) and the United Society (USPG) to support of victims of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The trial continues for the Bishop of Bo, the Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Tucker, who remains free on bail after posting a 500 million Leones bond.
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.
In February 2016 Bishop Tucker was lauded by the USPG’s Mike Brookes, who told a fringe meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod the bishop had helped combat the virus through health and sanitation education, and dispelling fears the virus was a curse.
“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, the corruption trial indicated these claims of selfless service were untrue.
A 1 March 2018 press release issued by the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission said Justice Mohamed Momoja Stevens “sentenced Franklyn Jenkins, Lawrence Amadu Kpangu, Austin Kposowa Bockarie and Christopher Kamoh to three years imprisonment and a fine of one hundred and fifty million leones (Le 150,000,000) each following their conviction on five count charges of misappropriation of donor funds contrary to the Anti-Corruption Act 2008.”
The four men were the chairman, vice-chairman, secretary and coordinator of the Projects Implementation Team of the Diocese of Bo.
The statement said the “four convicts, who had earlier pleaded not guilty to the 13 count charges, later changed their pleas to guilty on five counts; whilst the trial of Bishop Emmanuel Tucker, Joseph Kainesie and Brima Mattia on thirteen counts of misappropriation of donor funds continues at the High Court in Bo.”
The bishop and his confederates are alleged to have “dishonestly appropriated donor funds meant for Ebola Virus Disease eradication activities in parish communities in the Southern and Eastern Regions of Sierra Leone.”
The bishop has denied the charges and told local newspapers he would be vindicated at trial.