Saturday, December 9, 2023

‘Loan Agreement From China Was Nowhere To Be Seen’Former ‘Action Man’ BGJ


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By Mamadou Dem

Mr. Balla Garba Jahumpa, former Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs formerly ‘Action Man’ under the AFPRC regime, yesterday told the ‘Janneh’ Commission that the loan agreement document for the sum of $35,000,000 from the Republic of China on Taiwan, was nowhere to be seen while he was Finance Minister at the time.

According to him, the document only surfaced from the National Bank (CBG), when the National Assembly was to ratify the said loan. Mr. Jahumpa revealed this to the Commission while testifying in connection to the said loan facility, awarded to the former AFPRC government.

Prior to dwelling on the subject matter, he made a synopsis of portfolios he held under the former Government and told Commissioners that the last position he held, was Minister of Works; that he was in the service for 52 years.

The former Finance Minister informed the Commission that he was involved in the acquisition of the said loan facility from China; that in March 1995, he took over from Bakary Bunja Darboe as Finance Minister while the late Ousman Koro Ceesay took over from him (Jahumpa) on the said portfolio.

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According to him, he followed the testimonies of the former members of the AFPRC, such as Mr. Edward Singhatey, Yankuba Touray and Lamin Karba Bajo; that what he did not hear from them was the architect and facilitator for the restoration of diplomatic ties with Taiwan and acquisition of the loan, Alieu Conteh, whom he said is Gambian- American based in DRC. 

Mr. Jahumpa informed the Commission that he received a call from Captain Ebou Jallow that he should answer to the former president. He added that when he entered the former president’s office, his presence was announced in front of Mr. Conteh and Captain Ebou Jallow; that the former president told him that the World Bank and IMF had suspended their assistance to the Gambia Government but that Council had agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan. He disclosed that Captain Ebou Jallow and Alieu Conteh had been travelling between Banjul and Taiwan, further stating that they were arranging for two things, namely, the diplomatic relationship and a loan of $35,000,000 from Taiwan.

He remarked, “I was never involved in the negotiation of this loan but the former president told me that Captain Ebou Jallow would lead a delegation to Taiwan and I would sign the loan agreement as the Minister of Finance on behalf of the AFPRC.”

According to him, the former president told him that he would be given Power of Attorney to sign the loan agreement. He however said he told the former president that he wanted to take the loan agreement to his Permanent Secretary Alieu Ngum, as well as his technicians, for a review of its terms and conditions.

He said the former president told him that it was already dealt with by Captain Ebou Jallow, further stating that upon their arrival in Taiwan, the former Taiwanese president told them that the former AFPRC Chairman should sign the loan agreement.

Mr. Jahumpa told Commissioners that he told the former Taiwanese president that the former AFPRC Chairman was happy that they were able to restore diplomatic relations with them and he then signed the loan; that upon their return to The Gambia, Captain Jallow came to him on two occasions asking about the loan agreement but he told him that it was with him (Jahumpa); that according to his notes, the loan was signed on the 9th August 1995, and the purpose as indicated in the Power of Attorney was for Agricultural Development and Light-Scale Industries.

He told the Commission that he took note of the maturity of the said loan which was 20 years with a grace period of 5 years and an interest rate of 4%, further noting that Captain Ebou Jallow asked him to give him the loan agreement but he told him that they had to go to the former Chairman of AFPRC.

He testified that they made an agreement to go to the former president and the Council; that he told Capt. Ebou Jallow the Ministry of Finance needed the loan agreement.

According to him, he made a follow-up and the former president told him that he gave the loan agreement to the then Governor of Central Bank, Clerk Bayo; that he told the former Governor that he needed the loan agreement and Bayo  promised to give it to him but to no avail.

Mr. Jahumpa informed the Commission that he told Alieu Conteh the difficulties he had with the former Governor, and did not brief the cabinet about the loan agreement; that the former Governor did not inform him when the loan arrived from the Exit Bank in China.

According to him, administratively, the Council was superior to cabinet; that when he requested to go with Ebou Jallow to brief Council on the loan, Jallow told him that he was not a member of Council and could not join him on the briefing session.

He said the airport terminal and Arch 22 contracts were awarded to contractors without the involvement of the Ministry; that the airport terminal contract was awarded to Pierre Kudiabi-Attepa while the construction of the Arch was awarded to Amadou Samba.

He further testified that he had no knowledge as to how the said loan was disbursed, noting that Mr. Edward Singhatey’s statement was contradictory when he said that the Finance Ministry should have taken ownership of the loan agreement when AFPRC opened a Special Development Account to which Singhatey was a signatory.

At this juncture, Commission Counsel Bensouda told him that as the Minister of Finance then, his responsibility was more substantial on the loan, and he responded in the affirmative adding that the former Governor was not helpful at the time.   

On the $3,000,000 allegedly stolen by Ebou Jallow, he said he was in Washington DC attending a meeting with his Permanent Secretary when someone told him that it was announced that the said person allegedly absconded with the said sum of money.

He however said while briefing the former Chairman on the meeting they attended in the US, he told him that he heard about the alleged theft by Ebou Jallow; but that Jammeh told him that the matter was been investigated by Council and once the investigation was completed, they would get back to Council which was not done.

 ‘Action Man’ of the APRC disclosed that he wanted to sit with the former Governor to tell him the truth concerning the $3,000,000; but that he told him that he could not say how it happened and referred him to the former Chairman; that former Army Officer, Musa Jammeh, informed him that Captain Jallow absconded with the said sum.

Responding to Commissioner Saine, he explained that the reason for having a single copy for the loan agreement was because he thought the Ministry of Finance would take ownership of the loan agreement. He said they came back to The Gambia with documents only, but not with money.

He said he came to know that a cash amount of $5,000,000 was brought in by Ebou Jallow through the testimony of Lamin Kaba Bajo and was quick to add that the said sum was never brought on the same flight he boarded with Captain Jallow.   

According to him, he did not know the signatories of the account at CBG but came to know them through the testimony of Mr. Abdoulie Cham, former Financial Controller at the bank.

On withdrawals made by the late Baba Jobe from the CBG, he said he had no knowledge of that as he was not in the country at the time. “The loan agreement was nowhere to be seen when I was a minister,” he said.

Next to testify was Mr. Dominic Mendy, Finance Manager at Zenith Bank Gambia Limited. Mr. Mendy is reappearing in connection to JFP, MALIGAM International and West Wood Gambia Limited accounts as submitted to the Commission.

According to him, the last transaction on the JFP account was on the 23rd March 2016, amounting to D607, 000 while on MALIGAM, he said all the accounts were submitted to the Commission.

On West Wood Gambia Limited, he disclosed that they had four accounts in Dalasi, Dollar, Euro and Pound Sterling denominations respectively and the signatories were Dragan Simona Geatina, Gibril Armmou  Makaeh, Dragos Andrei Buzaiann and Tony Tanneta. He said the dalasi account was opened on the 26th of June 2014, and the first transaction on this account was D10, 000 while the total deposit into the account was D6, 321,960; that the last transaction was done on the 23rd of January 2017, amounting to D103, 000 leaving a balance of D26, 513.18; that the account was frozen.

On the dollar account, he said this was opened on the 8th of July 2014, with the same signatories and that the first transaction was done on the 13th of July 2017, with a deposit of $1,759,853 while the last transaction was done on the 13th of June 2017, amounting to $2,200 leaving a balance of $309.59.

Dwelling on the Euro account, he revealed that it was opened on the 8th of July 2014, with the same signatories; that there was no transaction on the account, further stating that the Pound Sterling account was opened on the same date as the Euro account but there was no transaction on it too.

At this juncture, account opening information and bank statements of the said accounts were admitted as exhibits.    

Sitting continues today.

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