By Rohey Jadama
Essa Sowe, a police officer posted to the fraud squad unit of the police headquarters testified as the fifth prosecution witness (PW5) in the ongoing criminal trial involving Sheikh Tijan Sosseh, the former coordinator of West Africa agricultural productivity Project (WAAPP).
Sowe testified at the Special Criminal Division of the High Court, presided over by Justice Emmanuel Amadi.
Before the testimony of PW5, Counsel Edward Singhatey reminded the court that he has filed a notice for the prosecution to serve them with certain documents before the closure of their case. He said the documents are the certificates of completion of the project, contract and the consultant’s report. “My lord, providing these documents will help us to prove our case, we want to know the content of the documents rather than relying on the prosecution witnesses,” submitted Counsel Singhatey.
In response, Prosecutor M B Abubacarr said he has gone through their files and has not seen the said documents. He however said he would provide it before the closure of their case if the documents are available.
PW5 told the court that he recognized the accused, adding that he was part of the panel of investigators at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and further told the court that during the course of the investigation he obtained a cautionary statement from the accused after which an independent witness signed the document. He adduced that the accused person wrote his own statement and he went through it and an independent witness also signed it and his name, rank, and number was also written on it. From there he said he also obtained a voluntary statement from the accused in the presence of an independent witness by the name Foday Sanyang.
PW5 told the court that the accused only wrote the cautionary statement and the voluntary statement was recorded by him.
The prosecution asked whether if he is shown the cautionary and voluntary statements he would recognize it? . PW5 responded in the positive; adding that his name, rank and number was written on it. It was shown to him by the prosecutor and he identified them and the prosecution applied to tender them as exhibits. There was no objection from the defence. However, the defence counsel said 1B2 is a bundle of cautionary statements which were taken at different dates and times, arguing that the foundation has been laid for one cautionary statement to be tendered and the other cautionary statements are labeled “supplementary statements.” He said the witness never mentioned in his testimony that he took two cautionary statements at different dates and time and therefore urged the court to take the first cautionary statement and reject those two statements.
However, the prosecution has withdrawn the two cautionary statements and applied to tender only one cautionary statement dated 17th June 2013. It was admitted and marked as exhibit F.
“What other thing did you do in relation to the accused in the course of your investigation”,? Asked the prosecutor. “I obtained additional statements from the accused in the presence of an independent witness. Consequently, the prosecution applied to tender those additional statements dated 2nd and 16th July, 2013 respectively as exhibits. There was no objection from the defence and they were admitted and marked as exhibit G and H respectively.
PW5 also adduced that during his investigation he came across two letters from the World Bank addressed to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance. The prosecutor told PW5 to take the question again and the defence objected to it, adding that the prosecution is putting words in the mouth of the witness.
In response the witness said the letter was addressed to the Minister of Finance and the second letter was from the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry of Agriculture.
At this juncture, the prosecutor applied for an adjournment and the matter was adjourned to the 26th of November, 2014 for continuation of PW5’s testimony.
It could be recalled that the accused person is charged with three criminal offences. Count one is omitting or failure to fully apply the Euro 5.3 Million agricultural grant from the World Bank which, it states, is an omission detrimental to the Gambian economy and the welfare of the people of The Gambia contrary to Section 5(f) of the Economic Crimes (specified offences) Act cap 13:07, Volume 3 Laws of The Gambia.
On count two, the accused is charged with neglect of official duties contrary to Section 113 of the Criminal Code, Cap 10;01 Volume 3, Laws of The Gambia.
On count three, the accused is charged with intentionally or recklessly causing loss to a public body, contrary to Section 5 (b) of the Economic Crime (specified offence) Act cap 13;07, volume 3, Laws of The Gambia.
By Rohey Jadama