Sierra Leone president sacks chief of staff over timber, mine deals

FREETOWN (Reuters) – Sierra Leone’s president has sacked his chief of staff, accusing him of lack of transparency in a mining deal and involvement in the illegal export of timber from the country, the president’s office said in a statement yesterday.

The firing is likely to add weight to accusations that high-level corruption is crippling Sierra Leone’s recovery from years of war and reducing the economic benefits from the export of its natural resources.

President Ernest Bai Koroma’s office did not name the mining company involved in the alleged corruption or say when the negotiations took place.

It said that Richard Konteh, the chief of staff, had not been open and transparent in negotiations for an agreement and had therefore violated policy and potentially caused a loss of government revenue.

The statement also said Sierra Leone police were investigating reports that Konteh had handed out unauthorised open-ended timber export licenses in direct contravention of limits imposed by the president.

“Against this background, his Excellency the President has decided to relieve Dr Konteh of his duties with immediate effect while the police continue with their investigations,” the statement said.

When contacted by Reuters, Konteh refused to comment on his sacking. He said only: “Time will tell.”

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