If true, this scandal could seriously derail John Sisay’s bid for the presidency, a campaign many believe has now cost him millions of dollars.
Media report says that Iluka Resources has uncovered the suspected bribe payments, after it added one of the world’s largest Rutile mines to its portfolio via the takeover of the London listed Sierra Rutile Ltd for $375 million in December.
John Sisay was the Chief Executive Officer of Sierra Rutile Ltd, until recently, when he resigned his job to put forward his name for the ruling party’s presidential candidacy.
Critics of Sisay are accusing him of being the most unfit and corrupt candidate to join the presidential race.
His donation of millions of dollars to president Koroma – his cousin, to help meet the costs of running the government and supporting the ruling party, is said to be a corrupting behaviour, unbecoming of someone who is vying for the presidency.
According to the publication, Mr Sisay oversaw bribe to senior government officials in the ruling APC government, so as to secure mining licences inherited by Iluka.
The impropriety it says was uncovered during a post-acquisition investigation commissioned by Iluka Resources and conducted by corporate lawyers Freehills, and that Anti-corruption investigators in the UK and Sierra Leone are now examining the evidence, with inquiries likely to take many months.
John Sisay made this statement, denying the allegations:
"The Independent Observer published an article on Thursday 16 August entitled “Diana Konomanyi, John Sisay named in bribery.”
The article contains a number of false allegations against me that are now in the hands of my lawyers with instructions to take action as necessary to defend my reputation. However, whilst I wait for legal redress, there are key allegations that need urgent correction:
As Chief Executive Officer of an AIM listed company myself and my board operated in compliance with the highest ethical standards at all times and in full compliance with AIM rules, standards and regulations. At no stage whilst CEO of Sierra Rutile did I authorise improper payments of any kind to any Sierra Leone Government officials for any reason. Moreover, Sierra Rutile operated in accordance with government standards and all major decisions including any around the issues specified in the Independent Observer were approved by the board of Sierra Rutile Limited.
I categorically deny the allegation that I oversaw the payments of bribes, whether in the form of payment of travel costs or otherwise, in order to secure mining licences.
At no time since its acquisition of Sierra Rutile in December 2016 has Iluka, its accountants or its lawyers raised with me any issue concerning any payments made by the company whilst I was CEO. Nor have I had any contact from any investigators, whether in Australia, Sierra Leone, the UK or anywhere else. The original publication by the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday 16th August was the first time that I was aware of any allegation of impropriety made against me and my former company.
At no stage was I given the opportunity to comment on this article before its publication, which I regard as a clear and highly dubious breach of recognized professional standards of journalism.
Finally, from the timing of the publication of these false allegations and from the fact that recklessly they were not put to me for comment in advance of publication, I believe it is clear that the intended effect is to influence the up-coming party leadership elections and interfere with the proper democratic process. It will not work. I trust the people of Sierra Leone to be far too smart and proud to let foreign outside influences impact on their vote.
I will continue giving every ounce of my energy to the service of the people of Sierra Leone to create a better, more prosperous and stronger country for the benefit of all.”