Police Witness Says Palo bypassed the scanning machine

Led in evidence by Attorney General Priscilla Shwartz, second prosecution witness, Police Constable Kemoh Varkie who is the operator of the scanner at State House testified that first accused Palo Conteh by passed the scanner at State House. In his testimony PW2 Vakie explained that the scanner is situated close to the reception at State House, and that the scanning machine goes with a metal detector. He said before accessing the reception, visitors need to drop their bags at the scanner which has a conveyor belt, and the scanner will reveal anything that is inside your bag through a monitor, and the metal detector will detect if someone has a metal on him on not. Varkie said he was on duty on that day with Sergeant Kposowa M.M. and Staff Sergeant Dauda Yemi and they were informed that there is going to be a COVID-19 press conference at State House and the list of attendees was given to them. He said he saw a group of people going in for a meeting and he ordered them to use the scanning machine which they did. Later he said he saw the first accused Palo Conteh bypass the scanning machine and did not use the metal detector. He said he recognised Palo Conteh because he knew him when he was Minister of Internal Affairs and he Varkie was the security officer in-charge of the scanning machine at the Ministry of Internal Affairs then. He testified that Palo was in a rush when he bypassed the scanning machine. He saw Palo with a bag while he was speaking to his colleagues at the reception, and he asked him to use the scanning machine and also the metal detector. That was the time he said Palo told them that the bag contained a pistol. Staff Sergeant Dauda took the bag from him (Palo) and Palo left for the conference. During that period, he took the bag from Sergeant Dauda and placed it on the scanning machine and he detected an image of a pistol. He said further that Sergeant Gima went on to report to the authorities and the Chief Security Officer One (CSO-1) Colonel Kumba came to the scene and the bag was handed over to him. He removed the pistol from the bag and “that was the first time I saw the pistol physically.” There was also some amount of money in the bag too. Later CSO-1 left with the bag and the weapon and money in it. At this point the matter was adjourned to 29th May 2020. Earlier in the day the Operations officer at Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Detective Superintendent of Police, Mohamed K. Alieu, testified that four statements were taken from Palo Conteh on the charge of unlawful possession of fire arms in a prohibited area but he was later charged to court for treason. On Wednesday 27th May 2020, Alieu further informed the High Court that the charge of Treason was prepared by the Law officers department since they are the legal authorities to advice the police on what to charge and what not to charge to court. Alieu made this statement while being cross examined by the defence counsel, Lawyer Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara during the ongoing Treason Trial of erstwhile Defence and Internal Affairs Minister Palo Conteh, and two others. Alieu also mentioned documents from small arms commission which revealed that Palo Conteh surrendered his Gluck 21 pistol to the commission when he was there to license his Gluck 17 pistol and the deputy commissioner told them the commission only checked the previous record of the former minister and after the medical check they issued the license without checking his criminal records with CID. He said the deputy commissioner told them that if the former minister had any criminal records such would have been in the public domain. He said during Conteh’s Interview on 26th March 2020 he told them that he went through police checks in 2017 because that was his first time and he was not aware that he should do the same for the Gluck 17 since he is replacing it with the Gluck 21, and that he was not informed by the small arms commission to do so. He said Conteh informed them that he did not secure importation license for the Gluck 17 Pistol but has been taking licence for his pistol every year except for 2018 when he was out of the country. Alieu told the defence lawyer that he is aware of government’s moratorium on small arms for people to acquire license and also reveal the source of how the weapon was acquired, but cannot recall if the police has charged anyone on unlawful possession of small arms since the moratorium except for armed robbers.

By Abdulrahman Koroma