GRA OFFICER LANGUISHES AT NIA, DESPITE COURT BAIL

By Mamadou Dem

Officers of the National Intelligence Agency, continued to hold Veronic Carayol, Deputy Commissioner responsible for Enforcement at The Gambia Revenue Authority, notwithstanding that bail was granted by the court since the 23rd of September, this year.

When the case resumed yesterday for hearing, defence Attorney Awa Sisay Sabally submitted to the court that her client was re-arrested on Monday 29th September, 2014 whilst at her work place. “She is presently at the NIA,” she disclosed.

“She is not under suspension by her employee nor was she interdicted. She reported to work yesterday and while she was at the premises she was arrested and taken away,” said counsel.

Counsel further said: “I checked at the High court and am aware that there is no fresh case against her by the state. She complied with the bail granted by the court.”

At that stage, counsel cited section 169 of the 1997 Constitution and emphasized that the accused is entitled to protection as a civil servant.

“I applied for the case to be stood down for an hour for the prosecution to communicate with the NIA for her to be brought to court to face trial,” submitted counsel.

“You have the powers to direct the NIA and the Police who are in custody of the accused to produce her in court. If Veronic is not brought to court, this morning, the integrity and independence of this court will be undermined,” said the defence lawyer.

Police prosecutor, ASP Musa Camara did not oppose the application for a stood down. However, he intimated to the court that the defence did not state clearly why the accused was re-arrested.

“We can communicate to the NIA to produce the accused person,” said the prosecuting officer.

The court upheld the defence’s application and the matter was stood down for an hour.

In less than fifteen minutes, the accused was seen in court escorted by security agents who sat closed to her until the time allocated elapsed.

When the case resumed at around 11:15, PW1 began his testimony. Testifying as the first prosecution witness, Mr. Kebba Secka of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) told the court that he recognised the accused person and on the 9th of September, 2014, he was at the NIA Office.

“We received a directive from our authorities to investigate the accused, that a panel was constituted and a cautionary statement was obtained from the accused person and other witnesses concerned,” said the security agent.

According to PW1, during the course of the investigations, they discovered that the accused was ferrying people and was using government vehicle registration number G.R.A 63 to her sister’s store; adding that they also discovered that the accused wrote a Memo of an outstanding balance payments which she could not provide the investigators with a copy of that memo.

He said they discovered that in the accused person’s statement that she sometimes solicits money as gifts. “At the end of the investigations, we compiled a report,” said the witness.

Upon identification of the said report by the witness, ASP Camara applied to tender it in evidence as exhibit. The defence did not object to the admissibility of the undated report.  It was therefore admitted and marked as Exhibit “A.”

Under cross-examination, defence Attorney Awa Sisay Sabally said: “Are you a Muslim or a Christian?”

“Muslim,” replied the witness.

Madam Sabally said, “You came to court to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is that not correct?”

“Yes, “replied the witness.

She added, “In as much as you have the choice to affirm, do you know that as a Muslim you can use the Quran, do you know that is an option open to you?”

“Yes,” said the witness.

She added, “Do you also know that if you use the Quran, whatever you say is between you and your God as opposed to if you affirm?”

He replied, “Yes I know.”

“I am putting it to you that you choose to affirm because you did not believe in exhibit A and your evidence in court?,” said counsel.

“No,” replied the witness.

Counsel asked, “Can you tell the court why exhibit A is not dated?”

“That’s the way we wrote the report,” replied the NIA operative.

“Is your evidence that you receive directives from superior authorities to investigate the accused, can you tell the court who they are?”

“My authorities,” he insisted.

“You wouldn’t know how her case came to your office because you were just instructed to investigate?,” quizzed counsel.

“Yes I wouldn’t know,” he admitted.

She remarked, “You know the accused work for G.R.A, is that correct?”

The witness replied, “Yes.”

She added, “She has an overall boss, is that not correct?”

The witness replied, “Yes it is correct.”

She asked, “It is correct that one Yankuba Darboe is acting?”

The witness replied, “Yes.”

Counsel asked, “Do you know where the substantive holder of the position is at the moment?”

“I don’t know,” Secka replied.

She asked, “Do you know any Antouman Trawally of the G.R.A?”

He replied, “Yes.”

Counsel asked, “Where is he?”

He replied, “I don’t know.”

Counsel said, “I am putting it to you that Mr. Trawally is sick and not at work?”

Secka replied, “I don’t know.”

Counsel asked, “Mr. Secka in your investigations, did you go to any Shipping Agency in this country relating to imports of the business people owing the government millions under the direct delivery scheme which is the subject of the memo she wrote?”

He replied, “No.”

Counsel asked, “Did you also expect the accused person whilst in your detention to provide you with a copy of the memo when she does not have access to her office?”

He answered, “Yes.”

She asked, “Do you know that that memo was copied to all senior officers of the G.R.A and each of them have a copy?”

“I don’t know,” said the witness.

Madam Sabally asked, “Did they tell you that they were given a copy when they came to make their statements?”

He replied, “No”

“Mr. Secka did you ever see her ferrying people to her sister’s store?”

“She mentioned it in her statement,” answered the witness.

Counsel asked, “Did you have a copy of that statement with you?”

“Yes.” He added that the prosecution was availed with a copy of the statement.

At this stage, the witness informed the court that it is correct that when the vehicle (GRA 63) was assigned to the accused person neither him nor the investigators were present; adding that he doesn’t know the date it was allocated to her as well.

Madam Sabally said, “I am putting to you that, that vehicle was given to her for her use?”

“Yes;”adding that he has been working for the security apparatus for 19yrs.

At that juncture, counsel told the witness that it is correct that government vehicles on daily basis at different places carry people to markets and take children to school etc, but the witness said “I don’t know.”

Furthermore, the defence counsel puts it to the witness that with this feast coming (Tobaski), he would see rams on government vehicles which do not belong to the government. PW1 maintained his answer that he doesn’t know.

“Would it also be reasonable for government official not to carry anybody on board a gov’t vehicle?,” she enquired.

“I don’t know,” said the witness.

When asked by counsel to assist the court as to whether the government has a policy as to when a gov’t vehicle should be used, the witness said he doesn’t know.

“You know what solicited gifts are, right?”

“I don’t know,” insisted the witness.

Counsel asked, “She was asked by the panel including yourself whether she received bribe and she said no, is that not correct?

“No, we don’t ask her that,” confirmed the witness.

Counsel said, “I am putting it to you that your report was wrong because you do not know what solicited money is?”

“I don’t know,” admitted Secka.

At that point counsel told the witness that the investigators were shocked when they discovered that the duty of a container owned by the accused person’s sister was paid, but the witness responded that their purpose of being to the clearing agent was that they wanted to find out how many diapers were received.

Counsel asked, “Can you tell the court why the panel was interested in these diapers?”

“It was within the directives,” disclosed the witness.

Counsel added, “You were able to confirm that the diapers did not belong to the accused, is that not correct?”

The witness replied, “Yes.”

“Do you know that you are duty bound to give her (accused) adequate time and facilities to prepare for her defence and those statements were supposed to be given to her for preparation of her defence,” she asked.

“I don’t know,” answered the witness.

The defence finally applied under section 24 of the Constitution for copies of witness statements be made available to them for cross-examination to continue.

At that juncture, Magistrate Jacklin Nixon Hakim adjourned the case to today and said “bail of the accused is hereby extended.”

However, the accused was put in a pickup vehicle and whisked away.