Court acquittal has vindicated me -- Isha Johansen

Author: Rosalind K. Amoh
Isha Johansen back to role as president of Sierra Leone Football Association
Isha Johansen back to role as president of Sierra Leone Football Association

Isha Johansen, the president of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) has described the High Court's acquittal of corrupt charges against her and the General Secretary of the FA as a vindication of her innocence and that the action by the anti-corruption agency was a hidden plot to tarnish her reputation.

According to Ms Johansen, while she was concerned that football in Sierra Leone had been hurt by the actions of the anti-corruption agency, she is relieved that her integrity has been preserved by the acquittal of the High Court and that now, football can pick the pieces and continue from there.

She was also relieved that after almost a year of unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against her, her accusers have been proved wrong.

"No doubt the persistent accusations hurt me and my integrity in a way. We have had to go through the process to ensure that my name was cleared.

Isha Johansen -- Time for Sierra Leone football to pick up the pieces

"Right from the start, I maintained my innocence about the charges levelled against me and I'm thankful that the courts vindicated me," she told the Graphic Sportsonline.

Last September, the Sierra Leone anti-corruption agency stormed the offices of the SLFA and forcifully closed the premises down, having failed to get Johansen and Kamara to resign following accusation of corruption and misappropriation of funds against the two.

Having failed to get the government to rescind its decision and re-instate the two, football's world governing body, (FIFA) eventually banned the SLFA from all football activities.

The ban also cost the national team the chance to compete in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers. At the time of being banned, Sierra Leone were third in Group E and were billed to play a home game against Ghana.

Isha Johansen, Chris Kamara and their legal team after they were acquitted by the court

Following the court's acquittal on May 27,  FIFA  on Monday lifted the ban on the SLFA after a meeting of the world governing body's council in Paris.

Johansen, currently in Paris for the FIFA Council meeting and the Women's World Cup which kicks off on Friday, described the re-instatement as good news.

"This is very good news for Sierra Leone and Sierra Leone football," Johansen told BBC Sport.

"Our football family will embrace one another once again, and focus on one agenda - which is putting Sierra Leone first."

In a statement, FIFA said the suspension was lifted "after the High Court of Sierra Leone acquitted the SLFA President and the SLFA General Secretary of all charges on May 27.

"(This) ensured that the recognised leadership has full control of the member association again," added the statement.

The SLFA president and  General Secretary have returned to their posts after they were acquitted on all counts of corruption by the court in Freetown.

The SLFA president, Isha Johansen and the General Secretary, Chris Kamara had 11 counts against them

Charges against Johansen, Kamara

In November 2017, Isha Johansen and Chris Kamara appeared before Justice Fyn at the High Court,  charged on the following counts:

Both were accused of impropriety and charged with corruption two years ago by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

Count 1 – Misappropriation of donor funds contrary to Section 37 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008. According to the particulars of offence, the two accused persons misappropriated $50,000 USD, being funds donated to the SLFA by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for the purpose of conducting Magnetic Resonance Tests (MRTs) on thirty members of the Sierra Leone Under-17 National Team in Niger.

Count 2 – Conspiracy to commit a corruption offence, contrary to Section 128 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008. According to the particulars of offence, the two accused persons misappropriated the sum of twenty-four million seven hundred and fifty thousand Leones, by issuing an SLFA cheque in the said amount and endorsed in the name of Arne Johansen, purportedly as repayment of a loan given to the SLFA by the said Arne Johansen.

Counts 4 to 10 (against the first accused Isha Johansen) – Abuse of office contrary to Section 42 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008. The particulars of offence state that the first accused on diverse dates disbursed over six thousand US Dollars of SLFA funds to facilitate the travelling of one Mohamed Ola Marah who is not an employee of the Association.

Count 11 – (against the second accused Chris Kamara) – Misappropriation of public funds contrary to Section 36(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008. The particulars of offence state that Kamara misappropriated the sum of Five Million Five Hundred Thousand Leones, purportedly as payment for the use of his personal computer.

After two years and the ACC failing to prove its case, Justice Fyn  acquitted both accused and granted them discharge.