Sierra Leone detains Chinese national for electricity theft


A magistrate court in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown has sentenced a Chinese man by name Li Shichao to prison after being found guilty of electricity theft.

The court heard that Li Shichao, who owns a mechanical company in the city’s east end, illegally tapped the national grid and sold it to the public.

According to police prosecutors, Li obtained power from the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA) and delivered it to his workshop in Cline town, where he then distributed it to numerous homes in the region.

The Pa Demba Road Magistrate Court in the city’s west end heard the case.

Li was sentenced to four years in prison by the magistrate, with the option of paying a fee of US$1,500 if he paid the fine.

According to sources, the punishment was decreased because the defendant pleaded guilty to the offense, sparing the court’s time being wasted.

The case that has gotten the most attention is only one of many in Sierra Leone’s courts, and it was discovered as part of a statewide crackdown on energy theft, which the government blames for the country’s inadequate power supply.

Only approximately 20% of Sierra Leone’s seven million people have access to electricity, which is generally unreliable.

In May of this year, the Energy Ministry proposed the creation of a special court to deal with the issue of electricity theft, which it claims is one of the causes of the country’s inadequate power supply. According to the ministry, not only do cases involving power theft drag on in court, but those found guilty frequently receive low punishments or fines that do not reflect their crimes.

As part of efforts to improve the power sector, it was unbundled in 2015. As a result, EDSA was formed as a government organization responsible with power distribution, while generation was privatized.

To accommodate the growing demand for electricity in Freetown and nearby communities, the Authority claims it spends large sums of money procuring power from the government-owned Electricity Generation & Transmission Company (EGTC) and Independent Power Providers (IPP). However, fraudulent activities, including unlawful connections, have hampered this endeavor, according to the report.

An examination by the Authority two years ago revealed that even businesses, like as supermarkets and hotels, were involved in the criminal conduct.

In 2019, it was discovered that a Chinese-run housing development had unlawfully joined to the wrong tariff system, consuming more power than it was paying for.


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