By Mamadou Dem
Ms. Loubna Farage, counsel for former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum, Muntaga Sallah, yesterday, 6 August, reminded the magistrate court in Banjul that the order it made earlier for the prosecution to provide the defence with certain materials is yet to materialise.
According to counsel, the materials to be made available to them include the statement of the accused, memos and photographs. “We wish to apply for the same to be made available to us in line with the accused right to adequately prepare for his defence as per the constitution section (24),” submitted counsel.
Reacting to the defence’s application, Sub-Inspector Alpha Badjie told the court that he does not have the memos and photographs, adding that he has furnished the defence with what was available to him and will tender the photograph when necessary.
Prior to the above application and subsequent reply by the prosecution, Mr. Gora Njie of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) continued with his testimony under cross-examination. The witness testified that it is correct that all the packaging of the computers was intact and that he does not have any qualifications on Information Technology (I.T).
Responding to another question asked by counsel, he said: “I saw the Central Processing Unit (CPU) inside the carton and obviously I know it was CPU.”
“Does the CPU work while still in the box?” asked defence counsel. “Your Worship, I have no idea of what she is talking about. I was only assigned to conduct a search,” responded Njie.
Counsel asked, “When you get to the accused person’s residence, it is in your evidence that he led you to his room. Were you shown the computers?” “Yes,” replied the witness.
Counsel remarked, “You stated that this alleged search took place sometimes on the 24th of July, 2015.” But before the witness responded, the police prosecutor, interjected and said the witness never said that.
“Your testimony has now changed from the 24th of July to 15th June?” quizzed counsel. “Your Worship, what I have stated in my testimony was on that fateful day,” replied the witness.
“What time did you arrive at the accused person’s residence on that fateful day?” she asked. “I cannot recall the time,” said Pw1. He added that he cannot also recall the time he left the premises of the accused.
“How did you remove these CPUs from the accused person’s residence?” lawyer Farage enquired. “We took them onboard our vehicle,” responded the witness.
Counsel further asked “How did you take it from his bedroom and loaded it in your vehicle?” “We took the items and carried them,” he said.
According to Mr. Njie, after loading the CPUs on the vehicle, they took them to their office (NIA headquarters).
“I am putting it to you that you did not conduct any search on that fateful day.” But Mr. Njie insisted that they did conduct a search.
Counsel said, “You and your colleagues simply accompanied the accused to his residence to collect exhibit A to A2.” “No, Your Worship. We went there to conduct a search and to bring along the exhibits,” Njie insisted.
He said he doesn’t know whether the items (HP computers) were kept intact and sealed in cartons at the accused person’s residence.
Sallah’s attorney further puts it to the witness that they conducted no search, because if they did, the accused person’s laptop, amongst other items belonging to the Ministry of Petroleum, would have been taken along, but those were left behind.
“The use of the word conduct, search and recovered are merely superstitions, because you did not pick up some items which the accused told you belong to the ministry,” lawyer Farage said. “No we went to conduct a search,” replied Pw1.
At this point, sub-Inspector Badjie told the court that there was no re-examination for the witness and consequently applied for Mr. Njie to be discharged from the witness box and as well as for the matter to be adjourned to enable them call their next witness.
Consequently, the matter was adjourned to Tuesday 11th August for the continuation of hearing.
Readers would recall that Mr. Sallah is standing trial for allegedly stealing three HP computers valued at 25,400 dollars (approximately 990,600 dalasi).
According to the particulars of offence, Mr. Sallah, while serving as permanent secretary at the Ministry of Petroleum, without approval purchased three HP computers worth $25, 445 which he later stole and took them to his home in Senegambia.
The prosecution further alleged that the accused has stolen three HP computers worth $25,445 which he knew belonged to The Gambia government.
Mr. Sallah is also accused of abusing his office when he instructed without approval the purchase of the computers. The incident is said to have happened in the month of November 2014 in Banjul.
He pleaded not guilty as charged.