Defence Counsel in Health Officials Economic Crimes Trial Accuses Police

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By Kemeseng Sanneh (Kexx)

The lawyer representing three (3) senior health officials standing trial on economic crimes and official corruption case has informed the high court that her clients’ statements were not obtained voluntarily by the security personnel.

She asked the court for time to come back to make her arguments. This request was made when the prosecution applied to tender the police statements of the 3 accused persons.

Modou Gaye, a resident of Jabang and a policeman under the drug squad at the police headquarters on Tuesday, 25th June 2024, testified in the criminal trial involving three (3) senior health officials accused of theft, official corruption and economic crimes.

Gaye said he has been in the police force for thirteen (13) years. The accused persons are Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh – Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Balla Kandeh – Programme Manager of the Malaria Control Programme and Omar Malleh Ceesay – the Executive Director of HePDO. They are charged with eighteen (18) criminal charges. The charges were Official Corruption, Disobedience of Statutory Duty, Conspiracy, Economic Crimes, Forgery and Theft.

The witness, Modou Gaye, said he recongnised all the accused persons. He explained that he came to know them during an investigation that involved the audit report of the National Malaria Control Agency, which his office was investigating. He also stated that he knows

Sheriff Corr and Bakary Drammeh, adding that Drammeh is a policeman and was part of the investigating team.

The witness testified that the accused persons were questions based on audit queries. He added that their cautionary statements were obtained. He informed the court that he was the one who obtained the statements from all the three (3) accused individuals.

He said he obtained two statements from Bala Kandeh – one in January 2023 and another in April 2023. Witness Gaye explained the process of obtaining the statements, including reading the cautionary wordings, allowing the accused to write the statements themselves, ensuring understanding, and obtaining signatures from the accused, an independent witness and himself as the person who administrates the process.

Regarding the second accused, Omar Malleh Ceesay, witness Gaye testified that he obtained several cautionary statements from him on different dates, following a similar procedure of reading, confirming understanding, and signing.

He said similarly, cautionary statements were obtained from Momodou Lamin Jaiteh on different dates, with Jaiteh writing and signing the statements in the presence of an independent witness.

Gaye indicated that he can identify the statements he obtained from the accused persons based on his signature or handwriting.

The statements were handed over to him by Director of Public Prosecutions A.M Yusuf for identification, after reviewing the statements; Gaye affirmed that those were the statements he obtained from the accused persons.

The Director of Public Prosecution A.M Yusuf moved to submit the cautionary statements as evidence. These included two statements from Balla Kandeh, one from Malleh, and four from Momodou Lamin Jaiteh.

Counsel F. Jallow, representing the accused, objected saying the statements were not provided to the defence. Jallow also stressed the importance of receiving all statements the prosecution planned to use as evidence before their submission.

Counsel F. Jallow further argued that the statements were not obtained voluntarily, adding that they were taken in the absence of an independent witness.

She requested an adjournment from the court to adequately prepare her argument.

In response, Director of Public Prosecution A.M. Yusuf stated that they had indeed served the defence counsel with all the statements. He argued that the lack of service does not warrant objections to the admissibility of the statements, citing Section 175 CPC.

Amid deliberations, the defence insisted that they would withhold cross-examination until they received the statements, shifting focus from objection to submission.

In her response, Jallow reiterated the critical nature of serving all documents that the prosecution intends to rely upon in criminal cases.

In his ruling, Justice Jaiteh ordered the prosecution to provide the defence with all statements and noted the absence of copies in the court’s possession. He directed the prosecution to furnish the court with copies and serve them to the defence.

The case was adjourned to allow the Director of Public Prosecution A.M. Yusuf to supply the court and defense counsel with copies of the statements.