By Rohey Jadama
Lawyer C.E Mene counsel for Mr. Momodou Taal yesterday cross-examined the first prosecution witness Mr.Bakary Darboe in the ongoing trial of Mrs. Sira Wally Ndow Njai and nine other officials of Gambia National Petroleum Company.
The accused persons are Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Momodou O.S. Badjie, Fafa Sanyang, Cherno Marena, Seedy Kanyi, Muntaga Momodou Sallah, Momodou Taal, Louie Moses Mendy, Noah Touray and Madun Sanyang.
When the case was called before Justice O. Otaba of the special Criminal Division of the Banjul high court, lawyers Antouman A.B Gaye, Sheriff Marie Tambedou and Omar M.M Njie announced their representation for Mrs. Ndow Njai; Lawyer Lamin S. Camara appeared for Mr. Badjie, Mr. Sanyang, Mr. Kanyi , Mr. Mendy, Mr. Touray and Mr. Sanyang; Lawyer Hawa Sisay-Sabally appeared for Mr. Marena; Lawyer E. Chime for Mr. Sallah and Lawyer C.E Mene, S. Taal and S. Sillah for Mr. Taal. The state was represented by Hadi Saleh Barkun, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) M.B Abubacarr and A. Yaqubu.
At this juncture Lawyer Sisay-Sabally and E. Chime told the court that they have no questions for PW1. However, Lawyer Mene told the court that he has questions for the witness.
When the witness was asked by Barrister Mene whether his panel prepared Exhibit G (a questionnaire) as a result of their investigation, the witness responded in the positive.
Asked further whether he is very conversant with exhibit G, the witness responded in the affirmative.
At this juncture the witness was given a document and after going through it the witness told the court that he recognised it. This prompted Lawyer Mene to apply to tender it as a defence exhibit.
However, the DPP objected to the tendering of it arguing that the said document is not an original and therefore cannot be admissible as an exhibit.
Responding to the DPP’s objection, Barrister Mene argued that the prosecution was served with a notice to produce it and this is the copy that the prosecution has served him with.
Justice Otaba in his ruling overruled the objection of the DPP and admitted the said document as defence exhibit and further held that it shall be substituted with the original copy when it is made available.
“Mr. Darboe apart from this due diligence that was conducted by the 7th accused in Dubai, was there any other due diligence that was conducted in Qatar?” enquired Lawyer Mene. “Not to my knowledge”, responded the witness.
Counsel added“It is correct that , the due diligence was a fact finding mission to find out the capability of March Petroleum Company in supplying petroleum to GNPC?” However, before the witness could answer the DPP injected and objected to the said question arguing that the defence cannot read from the said exhibit.
Responding Lawyer Mene said he does not know what law the DPP is relying on. He said the law said you cannot give evidence on a document that is not before the court but in this case the document is already tendered before the court.
Justice Otaba in his ruling overruled the objection of the DPP and ordered defence counsel Mene to make reference to the said exhibit.
In answering the said question the witness responded in the positive.
Menne added, “Now the contract between GNPC and March Petroleum is it terminated?” Witness answered, “I cannot confirm that”.
The witness was again instructed to read paragraph 7 of the said exhibit to the hearing of the court, which was done. Lawyer Mene asked the witness whether he still maintains his earlier answer and he responded in the positive.
When asked whether at the time they came up with the questionnaire the contract between March Petroleum and GNPC has been terminated, the witness answered that he cannot confirm that because there was no official document.
When asked who terminated the contract, the witness responded that is beyond his knowledge.
“Now in answers to questions that were asked by Lawyer Sanneh, you told the court that you carried out a thorough investigation, do you still maintain that answer?” asked defence counsel Mene. “Yes Sir”, responded the witness.
The witness was asked whether up to the time they came up with question number 7 on exhibit G, whether his panel knows the contract between March Petroleum and GNPC had been terminated. The witness responded in the negative.
“So where did question number 7 come from then?” enquired Barrister Mene. “It came from the panel”, answered the witness. This evoked laughter in the courtroom.
Menne said, “As at the day they came up with paragraph 7 did the panel know whether the contract had been terminated or not?” He answered, “I don’t know because there was no official document leading to the termination of the contract”.
When asked whether GNPC was still receiving supplies from March Petroleum at the completion of their investigation, the witness responded that he does not know.
At this juncture the case was adjourned till Wednesday 23 November, 2016 at 3-4pm.