Lawyer Mene Cross-Examines Depot Supervisor
Lawyer Mene Cross-Examines Depot Supervisor in Gam Petroleum Economic Crime Case
By Yankuba Jallow
Lawyer Christopher E. Mene cross-examined the depot supervisor of GP in the ongoing economic crime case involving the former general manager and operations manager of Gam Petroleum Storage Facility (GP).
Lamin Touray said he is the depot manager and currently the acting operations manager of GP.
The accused persons are Saihou Drammeh – the former general manager (1st accused), and Lamin Gassama former operations manager (2nd accused). Both are facing charges on 8 criminal counts (3 counts of economic crimes and 5 other counts) in the alleged corruption scandal involving about 20 million dollars.
During the cross-examination, the witness (Touray) said the 1st accused person replaced one Michael Jiralding as acting general manager, who was in that position from 2010 to 2016.
When the defense Counsel Lawyer E. Mene asked whether there was any other person before the 1st accused, the witness said he did not know.
“Do you know when the 2nd accused became the Operations Manager at Gam Petroleum?” Lawyer Mene asked.
“At around December 2019,” Touray responded.
The witness said Mr. Muhammad Bazzi Junior was the Operations Manager before the appointment of the 2nd accused (Lamin Gassama). He added that Mr Bazzi Junior left Gam Petroleum before the appointment of the 2nd accused as Operations Manager of the company.
“Is it correct to say that there was no formal handing over between the 2nd Accused and Muhammad Bazzi Jnr?”Lawyer Mene asked.
“Yes,” the witness responded.
“Is it correct that there was also no reconciliation of the physical or actual stock balances with the book balances between Muhammad Bazzi and the 2nd accused?” Lawyer Mene asked.
“Yes” the witness responded.
“You mentioned the name of the OMCs Petro Gas, Atlas etc. Do you think it is a coincidence that the same names were excluded by the PW1 in his testimony before this court?” Lawyer Mene asked.
The witness responded saying “it’s possible” but was quick to add that the names he mentioned are the major Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) in The Gambia.
Lawyer Mene said: “Will it surprise you that PW1 disagreed that these are the major OMCs when I put it to him?”
PW2 said: “As far as I know and operations is concerned, those are the major Oil Marketing Officers (OMCs) and I don’t agree with PW1 because these are the major OMCs.”
Lawyer Mene then asked whether all the OMCs have agreements with Gam Petroleum and the witness responded in the affirmative.
“Do you know why the agreement including that of Jah oil was excluded from the agreements presented to this court” Lawyer Mene asked.
“I don’t know,” the witness responded.
Lawyer Mene asked whether the relationship between the OMCs and Gam Petroleum are based on the agreement and the witness responded in the affirmative.
The Defence Counsel asked the witness whether it is not correct that all the International Traders have inspectors on the ground at Gam Petroleum.
“Yes, they all have inspectors on the ground,” the witness said.
The witness said the role of the inspectors is to inspect the stocks of the traders and to ensure that the quantities and qualities are maintained for each vessel; and said the inspectors also make sure that the out turn quantities that Gam Petroleum receive are intact.
Lawyer Mene asked: “Between 1st January 2021 to 31 October 2021, did these traders have their various inspectors on the ground at Gam Petroleum?”
“Yes,” the witness responded.
“Is it correct that the products of the various International Traders that are stored in Gam Petroleum are co-mingle with one another?” Lawyer Mene asked.
“Yes, the products with the same characteristics,” the witness responded.
Lawyer Mene said: “Is it correct for you to know if the products are of the same characteristics, you have to know the quality of the product that they are bringing?”
The witness answered saying “Yes, you have to know the quality and specification of the products.”
Lawyer Mene: You told this court about the product of the checklist and certificate of quantity. Are they not required to produce certificates of qualities of the products apart from the certificate of the quantities?
“Yes, they are required to produce the certificate of quality,” the witness responded.
Lawyer Mene then asked how products are checked at Gam Petroleum, and the witness replied saying they check the products by taking samples, adding that they check the products visually.
“No, not only visual inspection is carried out to check sediment and particles of the products and also check for the products,” the witness answered.
Lawyer Mene asked the witness whether it is correct that the daily deep-ins that are conducted at Gam Petroleum is to know the available space in the tanks and to create space before bringing products?
“Yes! It is meant for that,” the witness confirmed.
“What is the tank capacity of GASOIL?” Lawyer Mene asked.
“The total storage capacity for GASOIL is 20 thousand metric tons,” the witness responded.
Lawyer Mene: “What is the total storage capacity for Petrol?”
PW2: “The total storage capacity for Petrol is 10 thousand metric tons.”
Lawyer Mene: “What about Jet Fuel?”
PW2: “The total storage capacity for jet fuel is 5 thousand metric tons
Lawyer Mene: “What about Heavy fuel?”
PW2: “The total storage capacity for Harvey fuel is 15 thousand metric tons.”
Lawyer Mene: “What about Liquidated Petrol Gas”
PW2: “The total storage for Liquidated Petrol Gas is 1,000 metric tons.”
Lawyer Mene: “Why is it necessary to do the daily deep ins.?”
“It’s to know the available space in the tanks and it helps us to know the quantity we can receive from the vessel,” the witness responded.
Lawyer Mene: “Is it correct that the larger the available space in the tanks, the more you can receive the products from the vessel?”
“Yes, by considering the safety loading area,” the witness said.
Lawyer Mene asked the witness whether he could kindly recall the day he received 14 thousand metric tons of Petrol fuel at Gam Petroleum, and the witness responded in the affirmative.
Lawyer Mene: “Mr. Touray, can you explain how this was done at GP and how GP was able to receive this when the capacity is 10 thousand metric tons?
“When the vessel discharges and refills the empty spaces in the tanks. Then the discharge will temporarily stop and try to create a space by loading the domestic trucks and if the Malians are already around, we will load those trucks as well to create more space for the vessel to discharge more products to refill the spaces that have already been created. That is how we accommodate the excess products,” the witness said.
Lawyer Mene asked the witness whether the domestic trucks are for the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) as well as the Malians or?
“Yes, they are” the witness responded.
The Lawyer reminded the witness that he told the court that the OMCs have to submit delivery notes before they uplift products from Gam Petroleum and the witness confirmed.
Lawyer Mene: “For Gam Petroleum to allow trucks to uplift products in order to create space to enable you to receive products from the vessel, do the trucks go through the process of submitting delivery notes in order for them to uplift?”
The witness responded in the affirmative.
Lawyer Mene: “Were the OMCs allowed to uplift products even when they are on negative balance? “Yes, it does happen,”the witness answered.
Lawyer Mene: “Sometimes when you are not discharging but expecting a vessel, you still create space for the vessel you are expecting?”
PW2: “Yes, that’s where the analysis comes about by anticipating how many products you are receiving.”
Mene told the witness that he informed the Court while giving evidence in-chief that at a particular point between 1st October to 31st October 2021, that the deep-ins showed 0.00 in terms of products, and the PW2 responded in the positive.
Lawyer Mene: “Is it not correct that you were expecting a vessel during that time and the vessel is called MT High Discovery?”“Yes. It is true,” the witness responded.
Lawyer Mene: “The vessel cancelled at the last minute.” PW2:
“Yes, that’s true,, the witness said.
Lawyer Mene: “Do you know why?”
PW2: “No, I don’t know.”
Lawyer Mene: “Now can you take us through the procedures of loading trucks by the various OMCs and the Malians at the Gam Petroleum depot?”
Witness: “The whole process starts from the control room where loading tickets are prepared. When the OMCs submit their delivery notes at the control room, the control room will prepare the loading tickets. Then the tickets will be sent to the 2nd accused person’s office for authorization. The tickets will then pass to security gate number 3, for bookings and to put their signatures on it, while safety officers will inspect the trucks before their entrance. Then the loading master and the depot supervisor will request for the trucks to enter and the trucks will be properly arranged at their various loading bases. The drivers of the trucks will now handover the tickets to the loader, who will go through the tickets to inspect and make sure that the assigned quantity corresponds with the capacity of that particular truck. The loading master also confirms the emptiness of the trucks before loading them.” The witness continued that the out-bonding cables will be connected to the bonding arm of the trucks which will be lowered to the compartment of the truck. He added that the bonding arm has to make base contact, then the quantity stipulated on the tickets will now be inset in the meter.
Witness: “The driver will open the fuel valve and hold it. The loader will now put the meter on and start delivering the product to the truck. After the completion of the delivery, the loader will now reset the meter and the quantity delivered will be recorded in the control room and printed. The driver will move the truck to another place if he is supposed to load another product. So the same procedure applies to all the trucks.”
Lawyer Mene: “What is the procedure when the trucks are leaving the Gam Petroleum depot?”
Witness: “The loader will now sign the loading ticket and send it to the control room, while the driver will take the truck to the sealing area. The control room will prepare the final loading ticket and the seal numbers will be indicated on the final loading ticket. The ticket now will be sent to reception where they call the driver to come and sign and accept the final loading ticket which includes the quantity. The ticket will now be sent to the 2nd accused person’s office for signatures and then the 1st accused person’s office also for signatures. The ticket will now be resent to the reception for copies of the tickets in which the GRA get their copy from the reception. The driver also will get his own copy and the original copy will be filed in the control room. Then the driver will now leave the depot.”
Lawyer Mene: “On the basis of the copy, are Custom copies computed on every truck that leaves Gam Petroleum?”
Witness:“Yes, they are computed.”
Lawyer Mene: “Do Customs (GRA) provide escort for the trucks?
Witness: “Yes! They provide escort for the trucks up to the borders.”
Lawyer Mene: “Between 1st January to 31 October, did you follow this procedure that you explained to the Court?”
Witness: “Yes, these are the procedures we always follow at Gam Petroleum.”
Lawyer Mene: “Was it the same procedure happening at GP before the 1st and 2nd accused assumed office?”
Witness: “Yes, as far as, I know.”
Lawyer Mene: “Is it only the 2nd accused that authorized the tickets?
Witness: “No, we have other authorized signatories.”
Lawyer Mene: “Who are these other authorized signatories?”
Witness: “They are the product control assistant, junior operations assistant, 1st and 2nd accused.
Lawyer Mene: “Is it signed by the junior officers first before it reaches the 1st and 2nd accused?
Witness: “Yes, they normally sign them on behalf of the 1st and 2nd accused at the control room. This means that either the ticket is authorized on their behalf or the final ticket will also be signed on their behalf.”
Lawyer Mene: “Will the control room have a record of all the tickets they issued between 1st January to 31st October 2021?
Witness: “Yes, they should have the records.”
Then the Lawyer asked the number of personnel at the control room, and PW2 answered that there were ‘almost five’.
Lawyer Mene: “These people, were they at Gam Petroleum between 1st January and 31 October 2021?”
Witness: “I cannot remember, but four of them were there between that period. But I can’t remember when the last person joined them there.”
In addition, the Lawyer asked how many personnel were at the loading base, and the Witness said there were almost twelve loaders at the depot.
Lawyer Mene: “These twelve people were they all there between 1st January and 31st October 2021.”
Witness: “Yes, they were there between that period.”
The Defence Lawyer further inquired the number of personnel at the reception, and the witnesssaid there were three people before, but only two people were there presently.
Mene further quizzed if the number of personnel at the reception were three or two between 1st January and 31st October 2021 and the Witness said they were three at that time.
The Lawyer also asked whether GP has a Customs posts as well, apart from the people at the reception, and the security posts and the witness responded in the positive.
Lawyer Mene: “Now, the throughput charges and fees are calculated on the basis of the OMCs?”
Witness: “Yes, that’s true.”
Lawyer Mene: “The throughput agreement between GP and the OMCs has dedicated accounts to which the OMCs pay the throughput charges and fees?”
Witness: “That is beyond my level. So, I don’t know.”
Lawyer Mene: “Would you agree with me that that is done at the finance department?”
Witness: “Yes, I agree with you.”
Lawyer Mene: “Is it correct that the more uplift of the products, the more money Gam Petroleum raise?”
Witness: “Yes, that is possible.”
Mene said the finance department must have records of the throughput charges and fees between 1st January and 31st October 2021and the witness said ‘yes’.
Lawyer Mene: “The throughput charges and fees would have been computed for that period by the finance?”
Witness: “Yes, it is supposed to be computed.”
Lawyer Mene then asked the witness whether the 1st accused and 2nd accused were personally involved in the loading of the trucks, but the witness responded in the negative saying, ‘we have loaders who are assigned to load the trucks.’
Lawyer Mene: “You told the court that there are OMCs who are allowed to uplift products even when they are on negative balance, is that practice being happening before the 1st and 2nd accused assume office?”
Witness: “Yes, this practice was there.”
Lawyer Mene: “Is correct that the 1st and 2nd accused continue with the system they found at Gam Petroleum?”
Witness “Yes, that’s true.”
Lawyer Mene: “How often does GP clean their tanks?”
Witness: “Every five years for diesel and petrol. For jet fuel, we clean it every two years.
Lawyer Mene: “What did you do with the tanks during cleaning?”
Witness: “We remove non-liquid materials from the tank.
Lawyer Mene: “These non-liquid materials are accumulated residue from the fuels stored in the tank.”
Witness: “Yes, that is true and they are found at the bottom of the tank.”
Lawyer Mene: “They come from a material place of the tank over a long period.”
Witness: “Yes, this is why we always clean the tanks every five years and it can affect our measurement when creating space for other products.”
Lawyer Mene: “Apart from the non-liquid materials, if you have water, it can also affect your measurement.”
“When was the last time you did tank cleaning at Gam Petroleum?” Lawyer Mene asked. “We did it in November 2021,” the witness answered.
Responding to Lawyer Mene’s question on how much non-liquid materials have the GP remove from the GAS OIL and GASOLINE tanks during their last cleaning thar Witness said they removed almost two thousand metric tons for the GASOIL tanks and 1 thousand metric tons from the GASOLINE tank.
Lawyer Mene: “At the loading base, do you check meter reading every day?”
Lawyer Mene: “Between 1st January and 31st, from the daily meter readings, you can have the records of the uplifts of fuel at Gam Petroleum.”
Witness: “Yes, including the quantities offloaded.”
Lawyer Mene: “Do you have the total uplift between 1st January and 31st October 2021?”
Witness: “Yes, the control room will have it.”
Lawyer Mene: “Is it correct that between that period the 2nd accused was mostly out of the jurisdiction?”
Witness: “Yes, he is on leave of absence without pay.”
Lawyer Mene: “During the 2nd accused absence were you sending him the daily deep ins regularly?”
Witness: “No, I was not.”
Lawyer Mene: “You told this court that the 2nd accused person was appointed in 2019 as Operations Manager, please could you tell this court what he asked you to do?”
Witness: “He asked me to do deep-ins of all the storage tanks and verify all the physical stocks in the tanks.”
Lawyer Mene: “Have you done that?”
Lawyer Mene: “Did you discover anything?”
Witness: “Yes, he told me that he wanted to compare the book stock and the physical stock.”
Lawyer Mene: “Did he compare them?”
Witness: “Yes, he did, and I later realized that there was a huge difference between the book stock and physical stock.”
Lawyer Mene: “Can you recollect back?”
Witness: “GASOIL was more, and the difference was around 8 to 9 thousand metric tons.”
Lawyer Mene: “Are you referring to the difference?”
Witness: “Yes, I am referring to the difference, and the Gasoline was about 5 thousand metric tons.”
Lawyer Mene: “There is a difference between the open stock and the closing stock; do you have records for these stocks?”
Lawyer Mene: “What is the opening physical stock balance for 1st of October 2021 and the closing physical stock for GASOIL?”
Witness: “For GASOIL it was ten million and five thousand, four hundred and sixty-eight liters, for Gasoline, it was four million two hundred and thirty-nine thousand seven hundred and forty-nine liters,” the witness told the court.
Lawyer Mene: “What is the closing stock for October and November?”
Witness: “GASOIL was 0.00 metric tons,” the witness responded.
Lawyer Mene: “Is it not correct that the difference is the total uplift for the particular OMCs for that month?”
The matter was then adjourned at this juncture.