Sandline lost out in Sierra Leone

SANDLINE International, the mercenary company which was investigated by a parliamentary commission, a select committee and the world's media over its involvement in the war in Sierra Leone, has now admitted the ultimate ignominy - it actually lost money on the deal, writes Jason Nisse.

Sandline was eventually cleared of doing anything illegal, but it has now emerged that its Sierra Leone contract was a loss-maker.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent on Sunday, Tim Spicer, Sandline's chief, said that the group was due to be paid $10m (pounds 6.2m) by a controversial Canadian businessman, Rakesh Saxena, who had a side deal with President Kabbah to exploit mineral rights in the African nation.

Unfortunately for Sandline, Mr Saxena ran into difficulties with the Thai government, which accused him of fraud. He was arrested early last year in possession of a fake Serbian passport. At that point he had paid only $1.5m and has not paid any more since.

Mr Spicer, a former Lieutenant-Colonel in the British army, said that the entire $1.5m was spent on hiring mercenary soldiers and equipping them in the Sierra Leone conflict. "We did not make a profit, and once we had gone through the saga with Customs it cost us quite a lot of money."