By Kemeseng Sanneh (Kexx)
High Court Judge, Justice Ngui Mboob has received and admitted into the court’s record the report of the investigation into the alleged cocaine trafficking case involving Banta Keita and Sheriff Njie.
Banta Keita (who is at large) and Sheriff Njie (in custody) are facing charges of money laundering and drug trafficking after a container loaded with suspected cocaine was intercepted at the Gambian seaport sometime in 2021. Sheriff Njie denied any wrongdoing while Banta Keita is being pursued by Interpol.
Lamin Gassama, the director of Investigation and International Corporation of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency-The Gambia (DLEAG), informed the court that he was the lead investigator in the matter.
He testified that after the seizure of the suspected cocaine, a panel comprising officers from the DLEAG, Gambia Police Force, Gambia Armed Forces, Gambia Revenue Authority, and operatives of the country’s State Intelligence Services was constituted to investigate the matter.
“After the completion of the investigation, I led the writing of the report. At the conclusion of the report, we all reviewed the report together and each of us signed the document,” he said.
The investigations report was tendered through Lamin Gassama, the director of intelligence at the Drug Law Enforcement Agency of the Gambia who testified as the sixth prosecution witness (PW6). Last week, the court admitted to the records the alleged seized cocaine, two vehicles and a boat belonging to the accused person (Banta Keita).
Gassama further testified that during their investigations two real estate documents were recovered in the name of Banta Keita and the wife. He explained that one was a sales agreement and the other was a rental agreement with Karpower for the rent of the said property.
The prosecuting counsel, Senior State Counsel Lamin Jarjue asked for the original copy but the witness said during their investigation they could only recover a photocopy of the agreement. He stated that the original may be with Banta Keita.
The prosecution tendered the two documents as part of their evidence – “Investigation Report into the Cocaine Seizure at the Banjul Sea Port” together with the two real estate documents regarding the property at Fajara
Lawyer Sheriff Marie Tambadou raised an objection saying the documents are inadmissible based on reasons he put forward. Senior Lawyer Tambadou argued that a photocopy is a secondary evidence and that section 101 of the Evidence Act is clear about secondary evidence.
“The witness said maybe the document is with Banta Keita that is not established and the witness said he obtained the copy from the seller,” Tambadou said, as he referred the court to section 101(2) of the Evidence Act.
He urged the court to reject the application to tender the document.
Lawyer Babou SM Conteh for Sheriff Njie said secondary evidence is allowed only if a proper foundation is laid – that the original was nowhere to be found after all efforts are made and the photocopy prosecution intent to tender is from the original.
He further stated that the witness told the court that the original might be with Banta Keita or the seller whose office is just at Fajara.
“So due to rush work and failure to follow the law and legal procedure, they disregard the process, so based on that we urged the court to reject the document,” Conteh said.
Counsel Lamin Jarju for the State withdrew his application seeking to tender the photocopy. But before withdrawing his application, Jarju said counsel Tambadou’s argument the document is a secondary document relying on section 101 of the evident Act does not affect the document.
Justice Ngui Mboob intervened and said Jarju cannot withdraw his application at that stage. She held that the document is very relevant to the case adding the witness already testified that they (the investigators) have made several efforts to get the original copy. She admitted the document into the records as an exhibit.
Meanwhile, the admissibility of the “tenancy agreement between Binta Keita and Karpower” was challenged by Lawyers Tambadou and Conteh on the basis that the document was in the French language. The presiding judge is expected to make a ruling on the objection in the next adjournment.
The case was adjourned to the 13th and 20th of January, 2023 for ruling and cross-examination of the witness by the two defence lawyers (Tambadou and Conteh).