By Rohey Jadama
Mod Ceesay, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, yesterday, 4th December, 2014 continued with his testimony as the sixth prosecution witness(PW6) in the ongoing criminal trial involving Sheikh Tijan Sosseh, the erstwhile Coordinator of West Africa Agricultural Productivity Project (WAAPP).
When the matter was called before Justice Emmanuel Amadi of the Special Criminal Division of the High Court, Hadi Saleh Barkum, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), and M. Mendy appeared for the state whilst Edward Singhatey and Lamin S. Camara represented the accused.
Counsel Singhatey reminded the court that the witness was to produce the original copy of defence ID, and PW6 in response, said he was in possession of the said document which was shown to both the defence counsel and prosecutor. The defence counsel proceeded to apply to tender the said document which was not objected to by the prosecution. The trial judge admitted and marked it as defence exhibit 1.
“Mr. Ceesay is it correct that this letter labeled defence exhibit is a letter reply from the ministry of finance to the ministry of Agriculture?” asked defence counsel. “Yes”, responded PW6.
Counsel asked, “Mr. Ceesay this letter from the ministry of Agriculture dated 16th April 2013 is in reply to a letter dated 8th May 2013. I want you to explain the difference in dates?” “On the account of that date I can’t explain because I’m not the author, ”the witness answered.
Counsel asked, “Is it correct that defence exhibit 1 explains the ineligible expenses made by the accused?” The witness replied, “Yes.”
Lawyer Singhatey asked the Finance PS to tell the court whether this ineligible expenditure was money from the donor or the Gambia government. In response, pw6 said the ineligible expenses were from the proceeds of the WAAPP project which was sponsored by the European Union through the World Bank to the government and the people of the Gambia. “To that extent it is termed as public funds,” added PW6.
“Now, Mr. Ceesay if the project is not executed at all, what happens to the funds? asked lawyer Singhatey. “If the project is not executed at all then if it is cancelled the funds are returned,” said the witness.
Counsel asked, “Now, Mr. Ceesay if these funds belong to the government and people of the Gambia as public funds, would they have to return it if the project is not executed?” The witness replied, “My lord, the protocol of agreement setting up the project and the funds also define specific purposes funds could be utilized.”
Counsel asked, “Now for the GEAPP project, was there any counterpart funding from the Gambia government?” The witness replied, “I’m not sure about that.”
Counsel asked, “I put it to you that the entire 5.3 Million Euros came from the European Union through the World Bank?” “Yes.”
“So it is correct to say that the European Union owns the 5.3 Million Euros?” asked counsel. “No, sir, there are conditions for which the funds can be return back to the European Union,” responded the witness.
At this juncture, Lamin S. Camara consulted with their client in the dock and then told the court that they have no further question for the prosecution witness.
Under re-examination, the DPP asked the witness what time the accused person paid the per diem. “The accused will be in a better position to answer that. We only came to know the matter when it was brought to our attention in which we sent the query to the ministry of Agriculture and then they replied back and said it is true and that the money was refunded back and from the feedback we got from the Agriculture Ministry it was reported that all outstanding ineligible expenses have been refunded,” responded the witness.
DPP asked the witness where the funds were returned to, whether the donors or the Gambia Government. The defence objected to the question, arguing that this should have been said in the evidence in chief but not in re-examination, adding that the re-examination is causing ambiguity.
At this juncture, the DPP applied for the case to be adjourned to January 2015, but Lawyer Singhatey made an objection, arguing that the case has suffered too many setbacks caused by the prosecution.
However, the trial judge, in his ruling, adjourned the case to the 14, 19 and 26 January, respectively, for the prosecution to continue with their witnesses.
By Rohey Jadama