By Mamadou Dem
Testifying before Principal Magistrate Lamin Mbaye as the first prosecution witness, Ousman Bah, a police officer attached to the Major Crime Unit, told the court that he recognised the accused person, Lang Conteh. He said while at the Major Crime Unit in January 2014, he was assigned to obtain the cautionary statements of the accused person.
“I call him to my desk and asked him whether he can write his own statement and he said yes,” testified the witness.
According to PW1, prior to the accused writing his statement, he read out the cautionary wordings to him after which the accused wrote his own statement and signed it. “I took the statement and endorsed it,” said the witness.
Upon recognition of the statement by the witness, police prosecutor, sub-Inspector Badjie applied to tender it into evidence as an exhibit which was not objected to by defence counsel Lamin Mboge. The statement was admitted and marked accordingly.
Under cross examination, the defence counsel asked the witness to explain to the court what he cautioned the accused about. The witness responded that it was about the panel that was constituted, adding that he cautioned the accused in respect of the case before the panel.
“What was that case before the panel,” asked counsel?
“The case was about when he was former Managing Director of Kanilai Family Farms,” said the witness.
Continuing his evidence under cross-examination, the witness said he knows nothing about the case apart from obtaining the cautionary statement of Mr Conteh, adding that when the investigation into the matter started, he was moved to the airport.
“So I cannot tell how the funds were utilized,” said Bah.
When Mr Bah was asked by lawyer Lamin K. Mboge, counsel for the accused, as to what the case is about, he replied, “it was about the funds given to him to renovate a building around the Albert market.”
When asked what happened to the funds, Mr Bah said “That was what we were investigating.”
He further told the court that he doesn’t know the amount of the funds and when the accused was arrested and arraigned before the court. “I’m putting it to you that the accused was arrested since January 2014,” Mboge submitted.
“Yes,” replied the witness.
“Is it correct that apart from obtaining exhibit A (cautionary statement), you don’t know anything else about this case?” Mr Mboge further enquired. The witness replied, “Yes.”
Readers would recall that Mr. Lang Conteh is standing trial on a single count charge of “theft”, contrary to the laws of the Gambia. He appeared in court on the 7th July this year and entered a plea of not guilty to the said charge and was subsequently remanded in prison custody at Mile II. However, when the case resumed for hearing on the 4th August, 2014, he was granted bail in the sum of two million dalasi and ordered to produce two Gambian sureties, one of whom was asked to deposit a title deed situated within the Greater Banjul Area.
According to the particulars of offence, the accused sometimes in 2012-2013 respectively, in the city of Banjul, stole the sum of “one million, five hundred and thirty eight thousand eight hundred and four dalasis ninety-five bututs (D1,538,804.95), the property of Kanalai Family Farm, thereby committed an offence. He denied any wrong doing and was consequently remanded in Prison Custody.