Friday, December 1, 2023

3 Senior Health Officials Face 21 Criminal Charges


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Economic Crimes, Corruption, Forgery & Theft

By Kemeseng Sanneh (Kexx)

The state has pressed twenty-one criminal charges against the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health and two (2) others for alleged misuse of Global Funds Grants.

The accused persons are Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh – Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Balla Kandeh – Programme Manager of the Malaria Control Programme and Omar Malleh Ceesay – Executive Director of the Health Promotion and Development Organization. 

The three accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

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Count one is official corruption. The prosecution alleged that between 2018 and 2020, the accused persons along with Lamin Jarju (now deceased), corruptly obtained a sum of Four Million Two Hundred and Eighty-Seven Thousand Six Hundred and Forty-Five Dalasi Twenty-Six Butut (D4,287,645.26) by failing to ensure the proper hiring of consultants for malaria research.

Count 2 relates to disobedience of Statutory Duty.  The prosecution alleged that on or about 2 February 2018 the accused persons willfully disobeyed the provisions of the Gambia Public Procurement Act and signed a memorandum of understanding and awarded a consultancy contract without subjecting it to an open tender process.

The three accused persons  are charged with conspiracy to commit  felony. The prosecution alleged that in 2018 the accused persons conspired to steal Eleven Million, Four Hundred and Eighty Thousand and Twenty Three Dalasi (D11,480,023) from a grant to the Gambian Government from Global Fund.

They are charged with Economic Crimes, on count 4. It is alleged that between 2018 and 2020, Balla Kandeh and Muhammad Lamin Jaiteh, being public officers, willfully caused financial loss to the Government of the Gambia amounting to Eleven Million, Four Hundred and Eighty Thousand and Twenty Three Dalasi (D11,480,023).

Count 5 is also Economic Crimes. The prosecution alleged that Omar Malleh Ceesay, between 2018 and 2020, in collaboration with Balla Kandeh, Lamin Jarju, and Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh, willfully caused financial loss to the Government of the Gambia amounting to Eleven Million, Four Hundred and Eighty Thousand and Twenty Three Dalasi (D11,480,023).

Counts 6 to 13 relate to charges of forgery. The 3 allegedly created false curriculum vitae documents with intent to defraud, as they falsely portrayed themselves as consultants for various studies related to malaria control.

Counts 14 to 17 are charges of theft. The accused persons between December 2018 and August 2019 allegedly stole Fifty-Nine Thousand Two Hundred and Twenty-Six Dollars ($59,256.00) intended for consultancies for malaria research in the Gambia.

While counts 18 to 21 also relate to theft. The state alleged that between August 2019 and June 2020, the accused persons stole various amounts totalling Five Million, Seven Hundred and Two Thousand Dalasi, Seven Hundred and Fifty-Two Dalasi Ninety-Six Butut (D5,702,752.96) intended for consultancies for malaria research in the Gambia.

Senior Lawyer Lamin S. Camara for the accused persons informed the court that counts 18 and 19 are the same and counts  20 and 21 are the same. He also submitted that counts 14 and 15 are the same as well as 16 and 17.

State Counsel E.R. Donga conceded and requested for adjournment to enable them make the necessary amendments.

Lawyer Camara did not oppose the application by the State Counsel for an adjournment. Camara also applied to the court to maintain the earlier bail condition for the accused persons.

The presiding Judge Justice Jaiteh adjourned the case and extended the police bail. He also permitted the State to amend the indictment.

In his ruling Justice Jaiteh said the offences are bailable offences since they do not attract the punishment of death or life imprisonment. He said he granted bail to further the accused persons’ right to presumption of innocence.

The accused persons were granted bail on the following terms and conditions:

1. That the 1st Accused person, (Balla Kandeh), 2nd Accused person (Omar Malleh Ceesay) and 3d Accused person (Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh) are admitted to bail in the sum of D19,000.000.00 (Nineteen Million Dalasis) each.

2. That each of the Accused persons shall provide one or two Gambian surety(s) who shall be deposed to an affidavit of means.

3. That the surety(s) shall be an owner of the landed property worth not less than D19,000,000.00 (Nineteen Milion Dalasis) and the property shall be valued by a recognised estate valuator or government valuator and provide a valuation report not later than this order of this Court.

4. The surety(s) is to deposit the original title deeds of their property with the Principal Registrar of the High Court.

5. That the Accused person is to surrender their travel documents with the Principal Registrar of the High Court.

6. That each of the Accused persons is required to attend Court sitting on time.

7. The Police bail is hereby revoked forthwith.

The case was adjourned to Friday, 30 October 2023 at 10.

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