By Kemeseng Sanneh (KEXX)
Four (4) people have been charged with 15 counts of money laundering and drug related offences at the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, 13 September 2023.
The accused persons were Paulo Djabi, Nandine Pereira, Mamadu Djabi and Secuna Jabi. They were arraigned before Principal Magistrate Omar Jabang.
On count one, Paulo Djabi and Nandine Pereira were charged with conspiracy under Section 53 (1) (a) of the Drug Control Act 2003. According to the particulars of the offence, the two accused persons on or about 27 August 2023 at Fajara water point conspired to engage in the dealing of MDMA, with a gross weight of 1 gram 670 mg and a net weight of 1 gram 220 mg, a prohibited drug.
On count 2, Paulo Djabi and Nandine Pereira are again charged with conspiracy under Section 53 (1) (a) of the Drug Control Act 2003. The prosecution alleged that the two conspired to engage in the dealing of both prohibited and controlled drugs on 27 August 2023.
On count 3, the accused persons were Paulo Djabi and Nandine Pereira. They were charged with money laundering under Section 22 (a) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating of Terrorist Financing Act. They are alleged to have been found in possession of various currencies totaling Sixty-Five thousand Nine hundred Fourth Euros (£65,940), Five thousand three hundred Dollars ($5,300), Twenty Pounds (20), Nine Thousand Five Hundred CFA (CFA9,500), and One Thousand Eight and twenty Dalasi (D1,820) at their residence in Fajara. The funds are believed to be proceeds of drug crime.
On to count 4, Paulo Djabi and Nandine Pereira were charged with the possession of prohibited drugs under Section 35 (1) (a) of the Drug Control Act. The prosecution alleged that on 27 August 2023 at Fajara water point, they were found in possession of MDMA, with a gross weight of 1 gram 670mg and a net weight of 1 gram 220mg, a prohibited drug.
On Count 5, Paulo Djabi was charged with possession of prohibited drugs under Section 35 (1) (a) of the Drug Control Act. It was alleged that on 27 August 2023 while in Fajara he was found in possession of MDMA, with a gross weight of 1 gram 60mg and a net weight of 840mg, a prohibited drug.
On count 6, Paulo Djabi and Nandine Pereira were charged with dealing with prohibited drugs under Section 33 (1) (d) of the Drug Control Act 2003. The prosecution alleges that on 27 August 2023 at Fajara Water Front, they were found dealing in MDMA, with a gross weight of 1 gram 930mg and a net weight of 1 gram 290mg, prohibited drugs.
Count 7 involves charges of dealing in controlled drugs under Section 34 (1) (b) of the Drug Control Act. Paulo Djabi and Nandine Pereira on 27 August 2023 were alleged to have been found in possession of 3 bottles of Methadone and 4 bottles of Amfctaminc, which were controlled drugs, without a valid license.
Counts 8 to 15 are offenses related to money laundering. The drug enforcement agency has charged Paulo Djabi with converting significant sums of money suspected to have illicit origins into various assets such as properties and vehicles between the years 2021 and 2023.
It is alleged that Paulo Djabi converted illicit money totalling 587,043 Euros by purchasing properties valued at 166,124.75 Euros, 151,918.25 Euros, and 169,000.00 Euros at Kololi Sands. Furthermore, he is accused of converting 1,694,000 Dollars into four landed properties at the Fajara waterfront, valued at 315,000 Dollars, 425,000 Dollars, 529,000 Dollars, and 425,000 Dollars, respectively.
Additionally, Paulo Djabi is charged with converting 10,000,000 Dalasi into five properties at ORCIHID WATERFRONT. Further charges involve the conversion of 162,000 Dollars into two properties at the Baraka estate.
Paulo Djabi is also accused of converting 170,000.00 Euros into three properties at FOREST VIEW, as well as converting various sums of money into assets such as vehicles, including a Benz G Wagon, Benz GLE, Range Rover, Jeep, Porsche, and BMW.
The prosecution alleged that these conversions were carried out with the purpose of disguising or concealing the illicit origin of the funds, with Paulo Djabi knowing or having reason to believe that the said money was proceeds of crime.
After the charges were read to the accused persons in the language they understood they all pleaded not guilty.
Commissioner A. Ceesay representing the Drug Law Enforcement Agency of the Gambia (DLEAG) asked the court to transferr the case to the High Court. Commissioner Ceesay also asked the Magistrate to remand at DLEAG the accused persons pending their appearance before the high court. The request for transfer of the case was made under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Lawyer Lamin S. Camara for the accused persons opposed the transfer request. Lawyer Camara argued that the trial magistrate has the powers to hear and decide the case. He submitted that there is nothing in the law cited by the prosecution that oust the magistrate the power to hear the case. Barrister Camara made reference to sections 5 and 27 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CPC) to support his argument. He also emphasised that the 15 charges do not attract death or life imprisonment sentences. He requested for bail relying on Section 99 of the CPC, adding that bail is considered a fundamental right.
Lawyer Camara informed the court that the accused persons were arrested on 27 August and have been held under detention for 18 days without having access to a lawyer.
He said the accused persons were first arraigned at Bundung Magistrate’s Court and the matter was transferred to Kanifing Magistrate’s Court for trial because it is the court that has the jurisdiction to hear the case. He said the Bundung court granted the accused persons bail, but the drug law enforcers disregarded the court order as they continue to hold them under detention.
He said, if granted bail, the accused persons won’t flee and they would not interfere with potential witnesses.
Commissioner Ceesay replied to Lawyer Camara citing section 2 of the Anti-Terrorism Act which defines “Court” to mean High Court. He submitted that the Anti-Terrorism law is a specific legislation, and thus, a general provision under section 5 of the CPC cannot be applied in this case. Therefore, Commissioner Ceesay requested the court to overrule the defence’s application and transfer the case to the high court.
Commissioner Ceesay argued that bail is not automatic but at the discretion of the court.
After listening to both arguments the presiding Principal Magistrate Jabang adjourned the case to today for a ruling on the applications.