By Kemeseng Sanneh (Kexx)
Alagie Kebbeh, a businessman, has been arraigned in court on charges of economic crime and theft for his alleged embezzlement of funds and stealing of rice that was intended for Covid-19 relief distribution.
The State Law Officer, also known as the Attorney General Chambers, has filed charges against Alagie Kebbeh before the High Court. Kebbeh pleaded not guilty to both counts.
On the charge of economic crimes, the prosecution alleged that between the years 2020 and 2021, Alagie Kebbeh received the sum of Sixty-Four Million and Eighty Thousand Dalasi (D64,080,000) from 39 vendors for the supply of Fifty-Eight Thousand, Five Hundred (58,500) bags of 50 kilogram rice to the Government. Investigations revealed that only Seventeen Thousand and Ninety-Six Thousand (17,096) bags were delivered, while the remaining Forty-One Thousand, Four Hundred and Four (41,404) bags were intentionally withheld, which constituted an offence under Section 5 (f) of the Economic Crimes Act.
On the charge of theft under section 245 of the Criminal Code, the prosecution alleged that between the years 2020 and 2021, Kebbeh stole Forty-One Thousand, Four Hundred and Four (41,404) bags of 50 kilogram rice that belonged to the Gambia Government. According to the prosecution, the bags of rice were designated for distribution to vulnerable families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The charges were read before him in court and Kebbeh denied any wrongdoing.
The accused person (Alagie Kebbeh) swore to an affidavit seeking bail from the court. He stated that he was arrested between May and June 2023 and was detained at the Police headquarters for 24 days without being charged or arraigned before any court. He further stated that he was granted bail in the amount of Forty-Four Million Dalasi (D44, 000,000), which he fulfilled, and was released. As a condition of his bail, he was required to report twice a week, which he adhered to. However, on July 4, 2023, after reporting on bail, he received a call from Modou Gaye at the Fraud Squad instructing him to come to Banjul.
Upon reporting to the Fraud Squad on July 5, he was detained and has been in detention for the past 3 months and 11 days.
Kebbeh further stated that he has four wives and thirteen children, with his youngest child being a 5-week-old boy named Abdul Latif Kebbeh, whom he has not been able to see since birth. He stated that all his children are attending school, including two university students.
He asserted that if released on bail, he will not interfere with any witnesses and emphasised that the investigations into the matter have concluded. Kebbeh stated that he is a well-known person in the community, having built a large mosque and Islamic school (madarasa) for a community. He denied knowing the witnesses who are set to testify against him and promises not to interfere with them.
Kebbeh further states that his Counsel, Lamin S. Camara informed him that the investigations have been concluded and that the charges against him are bailable offences. Kebbeh stated that he has no criminal record.
He affirmed that he will not interfere with any ongoing investigations and states that he has people ready and willing to act as sureties for him if the court grants him bail.
Kebbeh assured the court of his commitment to not jump bail and vowed to be present in court for entire duration of the trial. He also stated that his passport and other travel documents have been with the Police since his arrest.
He stated that given the cumulative period of his detention, it is fair and just for him to be granted bail.
The court granted him bail in the sum of Sixteen Million Dalasi (D16, 000,000) and ordered to produce three Gambian sureties. He was further ordered to tender all his travel documents to the registrar of the court. The State is set to call their first witness on the next adjourned date.