Words by Amadu L. Bah
The Head of the Economic Crimes Unit at the Criminal Investigations Department of the Sierra Leone Police has confirmed that Chief Tony Chineyere a Nigerian national and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at First International Bank (FIBank) has been arrested along with six others.
Superintendent Kamara said that Chief Tony was arrested last weekend for fraud. Madam Aisatou Abadjie, the Managing Director of the FIBank, reported that Chief Tony received a $40,000 pay off from Simeon Kabbah Kalu. Chief Tony supposedly received these funds after he used his place on the board at FIB to secure Kabbah Kalu a 6.2 Billion Leones ($1.4 million) loan from the bank. If this is true, then Chief Tony in effect was bribed to vouch for Kabbah Kalu’s credit worthiness to the FIBank.
Over the past 6 years Kabbah Kalu has reportedly loaned some $15 million from as many as 4 different banking institutions. According to news reports he operated up to 24 different bank accounts. To secure his loans, Kabbah Kalu used key officials within the various banking institutions to get loans for real estate developments which he never repaid. Awoko newspaper reports that at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, (SLCB) the government’s bank, Kabbah Kalu was given a $5 million loan. The Managing Director of SLCB, Mr Crispin Diegh, and his Deputy received luxury SUVs and kick backs for the loan. In addition to this Mr Diegh allegedly used his place as Managing Director of the bank to vouch for Kabbah Kalu’s credit worthiness to other banking institutions. He did this being fully aware that Kabbah Kalu had not paid back any of the funds already owed to the SLCB.
“We now have in custody two senior directors of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and other private individuals which include a popular Nigerian Businessman Chief Tony Chineyere who is one of the Directors at the First International Bank”, Superintendent Kamara stated.
“The case in question is a serious and complex economic issue that involves many sectors that must be investigated thoroughly before evidence can be sent to the court for prosecution”, he said.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara on a brief phone interview said that the ACC is running its own investigations into the matter. He said that they will make an official statement as soon as they have compiled enough evidence.
Reliable sources within the Criminal Investigations Department of the Sierra Leone Police attribute the current delays in the investigations to fear. The unraveling of this fraud conspiracy involves high-profile members of the society some of whom are on the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank’s Board of Directors.
As for Nigerian Businessman Chief Tony, who has been a resident in Sierra Leone for over a decade, scandal is nothing new. In 2010 Chief Tony was arrested for beating his wife. The case never went to court. No one can say when Chief Tony first appeared on the scene but he has managed to set up himself as a prominent business man. Chief Tony is a member of the board of three other companies operating in Sierra Leone. These are the International Insurance Company Sierra Leone Ltd, Slok Air International (Gambia, Sierra Leone), and Diamond Airlines which runs the on again off again hovercraft services from Lungi International Airport to Aberdeen.
First International Bank Limited, International Insurance Company Sierra Leone, and SLOK Holdings belong to companies owned by Orji Uzor Kalu former governor of Abia State in Nigeria. Mr Orji Kalu was indicted by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on 10 counts of corruption , money laundering and the diversion of public funds totaling 5 billion naira ($31 million). Mr Orji Kalu’s trial is still ongoing.
Mr Orji Kalu, Chief Tony and Kabbah Kalu were last seen together in Freetown, Sierra Leone in March of 2012 at the Bintumani Hotel. Also present at this meeting was the Managing Director of FIBank Madam Aisatou Abadjie.