By Momodou Jarju
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Aboubacarr Tambadou, has informed lawmakers in Banjul that the Gambia Government has recovered over one billion dalasis from the sales of the property of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh.
Jammeh, who ruled The Gambia for 22 years, is currently in exile in Equatorial Guinea. He has been there since 2017.
Tambadou’s disclosure came in response to a question asked by the Serrekunda lawmaker, Halifa Sallah to indicate how much the Government spent on the Janneh Commission and how much money has been recovered so far in cash and kind.
Sallah further asked the minister to inform the assembly how much the government realistically expected to recover.
In response, Tambadou indicated: “As at 15 June, 2020 our records at the ministry of justice indicate that at a total cost of 116 million, 909 thousand and 77 dalasis associated with the Janneh Commission recovery efforts between July 2017 and June 2020, we have recovered a total amount of one billion, one hundred and ten million, two hundred and thirty-nine thousand and two hundred and twenty-seven dalasis.
“As well as an additional amount of D88, 535, 000.00 committed but still outstanding.”
Tambadou said the recoveries have all been paid into a designated special recovery account at the Central Bank of The Gambia under the control of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, except an amount of 50 million dalasis which was paid directly to the TRRC Victims Trust Fund as Government initial contribution to the fund.
He said the TRRC used the money to assist the victims to go for overseas treatment.
According to him, the total amount include the proceeds of sale of some assets, payment made by some individuals against whom adverse findings were made by the Janneh Commission and other monies generated from the activities of the Janneh Commission itself.
“With just over 11% of the total properties sole, we have almost reach the one billion dalasis target we had expected to generate from the sales of all the properties forfeited to the State and have already surpass this figure in our overall assets recovery efforts,” Tambadou said.
With regard to the amount the Government realistically expected to recover, Tambadou said it is difficult to ascertain at this point in time as they continue to exceed expectations in the sales of the assets.
Tambadou however said he is advised that based on the current process of sale, they expect to raise at least D1.4 billion from the assets already identified for sale.
Nonetheless, he said this amount may increase if the ministerial task force adds other properties to the list of assets to be sold.
“May I also add that this is based on the assumption that the COVID-19 pandemic will not have an impact on the sale process as some purchasers may rely on bank financing to purchase their assets,” he added.
Speaking further, Tambadou said they are also vigorously pursuing other leads outside the country arising from the Janneh Commission inquiry.
Minister Tambadou said a lead from the Commission’s proceedings have led to the recent discovery of millions of dollars frozen in a foreign bank account.
He added that the account has been frozen pending the conclusion of their efforts to return the money back to the country.
“This is of course a more complex process and obviously requires a high degree of confidentiality pending the final outcome,” he said.
Clarifying further, Minister Tambadou said they are working with a number of foreign governments and partners that are assisting them to recover the millions of dollars.
“Others outside the country have also reached out to initiate discussions on possible return of some monies back to the country,” he remarked.
How much has been spent on the Janneh Commission?
Minister Tambadou said it would be difficult to tell exactly how much is spent at the moment.
“And because unfortunately and regrettably some of the Commission’s payments were being done in arrears. And as I am standing here right now, there is still some payments outstanding to the Commission,” he said.
He however assured the members of the assembly that the matter is being resolved this week. He said after this week, when the final payment is done to the Commission, he would be able to provide the lawmakers with the expenditure on the Commission exclusively.
Meanwhile, Minister Tambadou indicated that even though they are at an early stage of assets recovery, what they have accomplished so far is the most successful by far to have been carried out in the country.
He informed the assembly that a full report of the assets recovery will be submitted to the Gambia Government together with an audit report of the entire process at the end of their exercise. And the Government will be glad to share these with the assembly, he added.