Buttressing the Judge’s pronouncement, the Lead State Counsel, Oladipo Robin-Mason Sr. informed AYV shortly after the Judge adjourned for today that immediate steps are underway to summon the top cadre management of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB) to explain further before the Commission issues around unpaid loans made to PEPs whose names are on the Persons of Interest to the Commission list.
Earlier however, speaking under oath during re-examination, State witness Abdul Raheem Mujtaba informed the Commission that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB) issuing loans to Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).
Under cross-examination led by Lead Defence Counsel Ady Macauley, the witness Abdul Raheem Mujtaba defined PEPs as “any person elected or appointed into political or public office and his family members and associates.”
In response to the question as to whether the witness knew whether one Alex Mansaray is one such PEP, the witness relied “no” but his answer was swiftly followed by an interjection from Justice Biobele, questioning the relevance of the question put to the witness by the Defence Counsel when the latter was not there to represent Alex Mansaray.
On the question by Justice George Will as to what informs the SLCB when giving loans to PEPs, the witness said “it is tied to the salary of PEP ‘officials.’ He added that for businesses owned by PEP ‘officials’ the SLCB may consider giving loan based on the business’ turnover or level of “cash flow.”
The witness Abdul Raheem Mujtaba who is a Risk Manager at the SLCB admitted that loan recovery efforts are problematic when it comes to PEPs. He explained further that what happens is that the PEP ‘official’ signs a ‘Letter of Comfort’ with the bank in which the PEP ‘official’ agrees to repay the loan via deductions from his salary. He added however that it becomes difficult to recover the loan because the PEP ‘official’ can just shift his salary payment to another bank. He added that recovery of loans to PEPs is made further difficult when the PEP ‘official’ is dismissed.
In the area of recovering public loans made to businesses of PEP individuals, the witness informed the Commission that what happens is that the bank finds it difficult to recover the loan when the business folds. He admitted that the loans in question are what he described as ‘insecure’ loans.
The witness also informed the Commission that the bank can always revert to the courts to recover these loans and can also go in for the personal effects of the PEP individual in question to recover the loan.
However, Justice Biobele George Will made it abundantly clear that it is regular for loan arrangements of such nature should be done in conjunction with the debtor, the employer and a lawyer; as such an arrangement makes space for a repayment plan in the event of such eventuality. The matter continues today.