Euro Africa Group Proprietor, Wants To Be Heard In Camera

By Mamadou Dem

Mr. Muhammed Bazzi, the largest shareholder of EURO Africa Group, yesterday through his attorney, Loubna Farage, applied to be heard in Camera, based on his personal safety and security including staff working under him. This according to his lawyer, will also give him the opportunity to tender documents showing payments from Euro Africa Group, to the personal account of former President Yahya Jammeh.

Earlier, Barrister Farage disclosed that Bazzi has provided correspondence between him and the former President and is concerned about his personal safety not only for himself but the people working for him as well; that his client was not in the Gambia in 2013-2015.

The application arose when Bazzi was asked whether he had all the documents regarding the payments his company made to the personal account of the former president’s Trust Bank Account which he confirmed.

According to him, he knows certain people currently under the civil service who could collaborate against him including supporters of the former regime, based on what he says or disclosed before the Commission. “He asked me to apply on his behalf for you to exercise your discretion in his favour for certain evidences to be held in camera,” said his attorney, Farage.

“Where does your client perceive this fear from?” asked Commission Chairman Janneh.

“If he makes disclosure on certain transfers to the former president, the supporters of the former regime might put him at risk. The content of some of the documents will support his fear,” she added.

Commission Chairman Janneh further asked the relevance of Bazzi being out of the jurisdiction from 2013-2015.  Reacting to the application, Commission Counsel, Bensouda said: “Without seeing the document the witness or applicant is relying on, it would be difficult for me to reply to the substance of the applicant. The documents should be admitted to enable me peruse them and then reply.”

The Commission Chairman and Doyen of the Gambian Bar further intimated that copies intended to be relied on by the witness be made available to the Commission through the Secretary. However, Mr. Bazzi was asked to provide documents of all fuel importations made by EURO AFRICA GROUP as well as tax records; that all payments made to Directors of other entities should also be provided.

Mr. Bazzi attempted to disclosed the debt owed to his company by NAWEC but Counsel interjected and told him that Mr. Mazagi already gave evidence and touched on some of those issues. However, Counsel told him that he should make available, the documents requested before he can dwell on that and also informed him that his Attorney has made an application for certain documents to be dealt with off record and off the cameras.

“Barajali Ferry was a sinking ferry and not a useful ferry,” said Bazzi.  He alleged that Mr. Gibba was against his Companies and their operations in the country including the development of Gam Petroleum now called Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC). “I hope I will get you all the evidence including pictures of the ferry,” said the business mogul.

At that juncture, Counsel put it to him that GPA is a public corporation and has policies in place and cannot allow them to use such ferries just like that and as a business man, he should know that the ferry borrowed to his Company, had value and GPA only discovered that the ferry was scrap after Bazzi failed to returned it.

With regards to land belonging to the Gambia Ports Authority, Bazzi testified that they had an agreement with the Ministry of Lands. He said they followed proper procedures prior to acquiring that land from ports. He promised to furnish the commission with documents regarding the leasing of the Ports land among others.

The Coordinator of MA Karafi, Momodou Lamin Sowe, was also summoned to shed light on the payment of the sum of D24, 054,000,00 paid to them from the account of Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC).

Mr. Sowe began his testimony by highlighting the projects initiated by the Company since its inception in 2002 and among them is the construction of roads and Gardening, among other projects. He said the said D24,054,000.00 was a payment made to the company regarding the construction of Sankandi-Karantaba road which was built by their Company; that out of the said sum, 20% was paid as advance payment.

On the issue of Kairaba Beach Hotel, Mr. Sowe revealed that the hotel was sold to their Company by the former President in the sum of $10,000,000.00.; that when Mr. Karafi came to the Gambia for a friendly visit, former President Jammeh opted to sell the hotel to him and the negotiation was done by Amadou Samba, who in turn appointed his sister, Mary Samba, to represent the Company and prepared documents on behalf of the Company; that the overseer of the hotel was one Mr Iyae.

Mr. Sowe was however asked by the Commission to provide the transaction documents in respect of the purchase of the hotel

Documents relating to contracts between MA Kharafi and the Ministry of Works for the construction of Sankandi–Karantaba road were admitted as exhibits.

Next to reappear was the former Governor of the Central Bank whose evidence was centred on the withdrawals by staff and military personnel from the Office of the former President.

Mr. Amadou Colley, said throughout his appointment as Governor, he did not have the opportunity to meet the former president regarding withdrawal of cash in his name by General Saul Badjie, and therefore committed officials including service men to sign Memos after receiving cash at the Central Bank, which he claimed has been going on prior to his appointment as Governor.

At that juncture, Commission Counsel, Amie Bensouda intimated to him to give a case or provide the Commission with documentation showing such actions by former Governors, to substantiate his claim. Mr Colley however said that it was rather unfortunate that he could not make documentary evidence to the members of the Commission since he is no more working with the bank.

The former head of the Banker’s Bank further testified that he would only make calls if they had delay from General Badjie as to who was to collect money from the bank so that the money can be collected to enable his staff to close from work and go home.

He confirmed that it is correct as asserted by Captain Jammeh of the 3rd Infantry Battalion that even on a non-working day, monies were withdrawn from the Central Bank as members from the Banking Department will assemble together with some Commercial Banks for Foreign Exchange Transactions. He also confirmed that any inflow of cash from outside, the account holders will be sent a credit advice informing them that money has been credited into their account including all Government Departments. Mr. Colley reiterated that it was difficult to deal with Jammeh as they were helpless and he tried to meet the former President through Secretary Generals and Protocol Officers but it never materialised and at some point, he even received insults from staff working at the office of the former president.

According to the witness, General Saul Badjie was the messenger of Jammeh who claimed that request for cash to be disbursed were directives from Jammeh. Responding to Commissioner Saine, Colley said if Jammeh knew as President the monies withdrawn from public coffers should have been done in a right procedure then there would be no need to establish this Commission.

He said he has earlier indicated that even if monies withdrawn were actually delivered to Jammeh, he has no documentary evidence to back this. When he was further pressed by Commissioner Saine, it was put to Mr. Colley that from a banking perspective, Jammeh who was the sole signatory of certain accounts and funds, withdrew amounts in his name without his signature or approval, was fraudulent.

“I believed that the monies were delivered but I cannot provide any document to prove that,” Colley concluded.

Earlier documents showing transactions and credit payments into Jammeh Foundation amounting to $4,000,000.00, was admitted as exhibit and the Managing Director of the Bank, Ebrima Sallah, confirmed that these monies were from the Republic of China and Taiwan.

Mr. Sallah also testified that there was no narrative as to what this money was meant for and after reading out numerous transactions and withdrawals, Counsel put it to him that the sum of $1,000,000.00, was withdrawn cash and asked him whether that was normal. In response, the Banker said the law today provides that the threshold for cash withdrawal is D450, 000. It was further observed that there were numerous deposits into Yahya A. J .J Jammeh’s Trust Bank salary account.

Captain Sulayman Jammeh of the 3rd Infantry Battalion of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) in Basse, testified that he served GAF for 18 years and was stationed at state house from 2003 to December 2016, and while at state house, he served as Office Assistant to General Saul Badjie; that he assists in official transactions and assignments given to General Badjie by the former president.

On the issues of financial transactions, he informed Commissioners that he does involve in financial transactions; that in February 2016, when the former President was on his vision 2016 tour, he received a call from General Badjie, instructing him to go and receive money from the Central Bank.

According to the witness, upon his arrival at the Central Bank, he was escorted to the Governor’s office and a request of $500,000.00 was raised but he couldn’t get the sum requested but rather $200,000.00 due to the border closure between Gambia and Senegal; that at the same time, the day he went to receive the money was not a working day then (Friday).

He finally testified that he was ordered by Gen. Badjie to take the $200,000.00 to the house of the former President and deliver it to the household’s aids of the former President, Sergeant Bojang; that he did not know what the purpose of the money was for but was of the belief that it has to do with vision 2016 projects as the money he received was from the Vision 2016 Account.

Hearings continue today at Djembe Hotel.