Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Former Government Ministers Appear At ‘Janneh’ Commission


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By Mamadou Dem

Former senior officials and diplomats of the former government, namely Neneh Macdouall Gaye, Lamin Kaba Bajo and Yankuba Touray, yesterday appeared at the ‘Janneh’ Commission in connection with wide range of issues concerning the former regime.

The former Foreign Affairs Minister Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, was summoned in connection with the sale of shares at Gamtel, which she confirmed; that 50% of the shares at Gamtel was sold to Spectrum.

According to Mrs. Gaye, she did not know much about Spectrum but Mr. Muhammed Bazzi was with them; that she found Spectrum representatives at the Ministry of Finance when she was directed by the former president to sign documents with Spectrum investors; that she signed in good faith and respect for authority, even though it did not go through due process; that the documents were signed in the presence of the then Finance Minister, Musa Balla Gaye.

She informed the Commission that with the signing of documents, there was no consultation but a directive from the former president; that there should have been due process in the sale of Gamtel shares. She however said had it been she was consulted, she would have given her thought.

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Mrs. Gaye testified that despite not being consulted, she decided to involve the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Marie Saine-Firdaus, as it was a major venture and it should have been tendered; but that the former president opted for it to go his way without following due process.

Counsel Bensouda put it to her that given that she was the Minister responsible for communication, she could have advised the former president concerning the deal. She however said she could not; that refusing to sign, would have resulted to something.

She said she was not sure whether the former president had experience in selling Company shares neither did she know whether he sought advice from people with expert knowledge in the sale of shares of Companies.

At this juncture, Commissioner Saine asked her whether beside the president, any Gambian was involved or represented Gambian interest. She responded that she did not believe the former president consulted anyone. Documents produced by the witness were admitted in evidence.

Mrs. Gaye confirmed that she signed the documents to hand over the management of Gamtel to Spectrum. However, Mrs. Bensouda explained to her that when Spectrum was in charge of the management of Gamtel, they signed an agreement with Oratus Company, but she said she was not au fait with Oratus Company.

Counsel Benouda further asked her to inform the Commission the representative of the former government as shareholder and she responded that it was the Ministry of Finance; that the gateway was taken care of by Gamtel prior to Spectrum coming in.

When asked by Counsel whether she was aware that Spectrum was terminating calls, she responded in the affirmative; that as Minister, it was correct that she never investigated the issue; that she was aware of Global Voice but was not a Minister when their contract was terminated.

Asked by Commissioner Saine as to who drafted the contract between Gamtel and Spectrum, she said she believed it was drafted by Spectrum. However, Saine intimated to her that when it came to the disposal of government assets, the Ministry of Finance was seen to play the leading role. The witness said she would not know.

Mr. Lamin Kaba Bajo, former ambassador to Morocco and China respectively, was summoned in connection with the Republic of China on Taiwan loans and grants. Bajo testified that he became member of the AFPRC on the 31st January 1995, after the failed attempt by Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara; that he was not involved in the restoration of relationship between The Gambia and Taiwan but could recall that the restoration was in 1995 and it was also announced.

On whether he was aware of the $30,000,000 loan granted by Taiwan to The Gambia, he responded in the affirmative, noting that Captain Ebou Jallow came with a briefcase containing the sum of $5,000,000 and later an account was opened.

According to the former AFPRC military Junta member, he was a signatory to a Special Development Account which was opened at the Central Bank for the purpose of development projects; that he became signatory to the account after Ebou Jallow absconded with $3,000,000 which he lodged in a bank in Switzerland; that he was part of the 3-man delegation who travelled to Switzerland to recover the money stolen by Ebou Jallow.

Bajo further testified that the court in Switzerland ruled in favour of the Gambia Government which enabled the state to recover some of the money.

He disclosed that the Special Development Account was meant for infrastructural development, such as the building of the Farafenni General Hospital, Airport and some schools; that he would not know whether properties were purchased from this loan.

The former diplomat turned farmer revealed that he did not know formally that the former president owned a property in Morocco but was informed that the former president used to own a property in Morocco. On the relationship between the late Baba Jobe and former President Jammeh, he said he believed everybody knew that Mr. Jobe was a man of the former president before they fell out; that he did not know anything about the grant from Libya.

When asked by the Commission whether he specifically raised concern to the then president about extraordinary expenditures over the expensive buildings in his (Jammeh) home village, he replied that he knew Jammeh was constructing houses at Kanilai but did not know his source of funds as he was not privy to the construction.

He however said he only came to know his source of funds during the testimony made by witnesses before the Commission and had on several occasions, raised concern to the former president regarding the construction in his home village.

Next to testify was Yankuba Touray, another member of the then AFPRC, who said he is currently a farmer and trader in his home village of Nawleru, in Central Badibu.

Mr. Touray gave evidence on the grants and loan from the Republic of China on Taiwan and the 3M Account as well.

According to him, he was a member of the Council from 1994-1996; that when they took over, the AFPRC had discussions in order to restore bilateral relation with Taiwan which was discussed among all the members including the co-opted members as well as civilians; thatEbou Jallow led the delegation to Taiwan to restore the relationship; that he was not involved in the loan agreement but the amount involved was $35,000,000; that he was not aware of the $3, 000,00 stolen by Ebou Jallow but heard this on radio as he was not in town.

Mr. Touray said he did not know the amount of money disbursed because he was not managing the funds neither was he aware of the $5,000,000 brought by Ebou Jallow in a briefcase to the Council; that they could not challenge some of the decisions taken by the Chairman (Jammeh) as civilian and military set-up was different.

When asked about the relationship between Baba Jobe and the Council, he replied that they did not have any direct relationship.

Earlier, Mr. Omar P. Ndow, former Executive Chairperson of GAMTEl, was summoned in connection with GAMTEL Memorandum of Understanding with Global Voice Group. He told the ‘Janneh’ Commission that the fraud at State House was outrageous.

Further testifying, he disclosed that he worked in various capacities at GAMTEL and served as the Executive Chairperson responsible for technical operations of the Company and was also the board chairperson.

He testified that he started working at GAMTEL in 1984; that he was detained at the NIA for three months and was charged with Economic Crimes at the high court; that the case was transferred to the magistrates’ court for one year when he was eventually acquitted and discharged; that he left GAMTEL on 17th September, 2009; that he signed the memorandum of Understanding produced by Global Voice Group.

He was told that the Commission was looking into the interference of the former president with GAMTEL; that through the billing machine, they could see what was going out but not see what was coming in.

Mr. Ndow stated that they could not recover over $600,000 through their service; that through the billing system, the revenue came to $1.5 million per month. He however said the fraud was outrageous as there was termination of traffic at State House which he said affected their bilateral relations.

The witness further disclosed that there were operational problems and he decided to come up with the idea to link with the international market because in terms of revenue, what was going out of the Company was known while what was coming in was not.

According to him, equipment were installed at State House including a satellite at the backyard of State House and there was blockage of traffic; that they could not detect all the fraud coming into the country; that the purpose of partnering with Senegal was to serve as a backup should in case there was a problem with the system in The Gambia; that they could not detect all the flow coming into the country; that nobody could go to State House to install a satellite to block the traffic without the knowledge of the former president.

He further stated that one Mr. Hakim was involved in the international traffic of Global Voice instead of the local calls he applied for; that the amount of loss incurred by State House was unquantifiable; that it would have been an option to ask Global Voice to manage their system.

Responding to Commissioners, he said among the advantages from Global Voice was that there was increase in revenue and quality services at GAMTEL because the Company was able to discover numerous fraud caused by mobile operators and IPS installers; that the system they had could not detect some of their problems but Global Voice was able to do so.

Mr. Ndow explained that there was a better relationship to involve Global Voice with the management because they gave GAMTEL $3,000,000 for the investment.

The former Executive Chairman informed the Commission that he did not know the contract duration of the said Company but was quick to confirm that Gamtel staff were trained by them so that they could take over the management of the Company.

He revealed that the sum of $5,000,000 loan from Trust Bank was endorsed to pay Spectrum their 50% share in Gamtel / Gamcel. He however said he was not aware of the 50% share owned by Spectrum as he was not in the system at the time of the contract agreement; that the management of the gateway had always been the responsibility of GAMTEL and not the stakeholders.

He said he would not know where the funds were directed to; that the Director of Finance should be able to explain where the funds have gone to. He said the management of GAMTEL decided for the Company to be privatised because the environment was getting more and more hostile.

At this juncture, documents produced by the witness were tendered and admitted as exhibits.


Sitting continues today


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