Thursday, October 22, 2020

Mohamed Bazzi Banned from entering The Gambia

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Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Bazzi is of Lebanese origin. He also held a Gambian Diplomatic Passport No. 000129 due to his position as Consul General of The Gambia in Lebanon. Mr. Bazzi came to The Gambia sometime end of 2000 into early 2001. He was invited to The Gambia by Mr Terek Musa because he was in the electricity power business. He was declared a close associate of former President Jammeh on 13th October, 2017.

The Commission found, inter alia, that Mr Bazzi was involved in extensive business dealings both with former President Jammeh through their companies, and with the Government of The Gambia with the full support of former President Jammeh. Mr Bazzi’s main foreign partner was Mr Fadi Mazegi, while his main local partner was Mr Amadou Samba. Mr Bazzi and Mr Amadou Samba were introduced around the same time Bazzi met former President Jammeh. Some of Mr Bazzi’s family members were also involved in the operation of his companies in The Gambia.

The Commission found that Mr Bazzi is known to have interest in at least fifteen (15) companies which either directly or indirectly had business dealings with the Government and former President including Euro Africa Group Limited (EAGL), Global Trading Group NV (GTG), Gam Petroleum Company Limited, Gamveg Oil Company, Gambia Milling Corporation Limited (GMC), Gambia-African Mining International Company Limited (GAMICO), Royal Atlantic Residence etc. Mr Bazzi’s first business in The Gambia and dealing with former President Jammeh, Mr Amadou Samba and Mr Baba Jobe (deceased) was through GTG in respect of supply of Generators, rehabilitation of the Distribution Network, and supply pf Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) to NAWEC.

The full extent of the Commission’s findings regarding Mr Bazzi is contained in the Report particularly in Volume 9, pages 127-142. These include findings that Mr Bazzi’s companies were awarded exclusive contracts by NAWEC using funds illegally withdrawn from the Central Bank of The Gambia and SSHFC under the directives of former President Jammeh. For instance, GTG was single sourced for the supply of 3 generators in 2001 on the directive of former President Jammeh even though same was fully financed by the Exim Bank of Taiwan in the total sum of $15,686,000. The Export-Import Bank of Taiwan provided $5 million which was made available to GTG through the Central Bank (CBG). GTG was paid a further $10.9 million by the CBG to pre-finance the purchase of the generators. In 2002, Exim Bank of China provided a loan of $25,542,000 to partly pay off GTG the pre-financed sum of over $10 million.

The Commission found that a reconciliation of the loan amount, the contract sums and the money advanced from CBG show GTG received $16,658,700 in 2001 instead of the agreed $15,686,000. This was $972,700 and did not account for this sum.

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Furthermore, the Commission found that from July 2002 to May 2015, GTG under directives from former President Jammeh, was awarded the exclusive rights to supply heavy fuel oil to NAWEC at  a margin of PLATS +17%. The Commission found that 3% was for the construction of a storage tank facility in Banjul for the sum of $2 million which was never built. The agreements were renewed on two occasions with different managing directors of NAWEC but the directors of the GTG Mohamed Bazzi and Fadi Mazegi never informed them of the 3% make-up, although at the time of the first renewal, they were in charge of NAWEC under a management contract between NAWEC and Global Management Systems. GTG maintained the 17% make-up until the exclusivity ended and also used the same rate for fuel supplied under the IPP thus inflating the prices. The 3% difference charged by EAGL from October 2002 to July 2013 under the Fuel Supply Agreement between GTG and NAWEC amounted to $3,886,981.53.

The Commission also found that EAGL took over the exclusive contract awarded by the Government under the executive directive of former President Jammeh to supply all the country’s petroleum needs from Euro African Oil Company Ltd. Fadi Mazegi was authorized by Mohamed Bazzi on GTG letterhead to become signatory to the two companies’ accounts in 2004. The Contracts were extended in 2006, and 2010. The Commission found that both EAGL and GTG respectively had 100% control of the supply of petroleum products/HFO and were therefore monopolies under Gambian law. These two companies were also engaged in conduct that prevented, restricted or distorted competition contrary to the Competition Act. The Commission further found that the basis for the sole agency status awarded to EAGL and GTG was a direct violation of the Government procurement rules, as it created a favored status founded on the personal relationship between the directors of EAGL and former President Jammeh, which is shown to have been sustained by, and through, direct bribery and other corrupt practices.

For example, the Commission found that EAGL transferred the sum of $2,550,000 into a Trust Bank Limited (TBL) account controlled by former President Jammeh as follows:

$1,000,000 – 6th March 2013;

$500,000 on 28th March 2013;

$500,000 on the 8th May 2013;

$250,000 on 31st July 2013; and

$300,000 on the 19th November 2013.

Regarding the above payments, the Commission noted that 6th March 2013, the Secretary General, Dr Njogou Bah, issued a letter on the handing over of the IPP and settlement of liabilities due to EAGL. The Commission also noted that 7th May 2013, former President Jammeh had written to Mr Bazzi threatening to terminate the exclusive contracts and instituting criminal investigations against him. Based on these, the Commission concluded that the payments were from EAGL for the personal benefit of former President Jammeh and therefore a bribe. The Government takes note of the Commission’s observation that Fadi Mazegi or Mr Amadou Samba were not aware of these payments as incentives demanded by former President Jammeh.

The Commission also found that in addition to the $2,550,000 paid into the said TBL account, EAGL illogically paid or facilitated the payment into former President Jammeh’s personal salary account over a period of 18 months the total sum of D240,280,000. The Commission concluded that there was probable cause for holding that these payments were illegally and intended to bribe former President Jammeh.

The Government accepts the Commission’s findings in so far as they relate to Mr Mohamed Bazzi. Accordingly, the Government accepts the recommendations of the Commission that Mr Mohamed Bazzi’s properties including his assets, companies, shares and other acquisitions be forfeited to the State or confiscated by the State and sold. The proceeds of sale shall be applied to the payment of monies for which Mr Mohamed Bazzi, and all companies associated with him, are found to be liable in the Report. The said properties are hereby forfeited to the State.

The Government also accepts the Commission’s recommendations that the large parcel of land along the Bertil Harding Highway in the TDA allocated by Government to Royal Atlantic Residence Ltd be re-entered and sold, and to negotiate with the Islamic Corporation for Development, a subsidiary of the Islamic Development Bank, a portion of their investment that could be refunded on equitable grounds in the continued mutual interest of the IDB and The Gambia.

The Government takes note of the Commission’s recommendation that former President Jammeh, or alternatively, Mr Mohamed Bazzi and others are jointly and severally liable for bribes paid to former President Jammeh. The Government of the Gambia is of the considered view that while former President Jammeh, Mr Mohamed Bazzi, and others are criminally liable for these acts of bribery, the said bribes should be recovered from the assets of former President Jammeh because it would amount to double-jeopardy to ask Mr Mohamed Bazzi and others to pay the same monies that they have already paid out to former President Jammeh, even as a bribe.

The Government takes particular note of the Commission’s observations that Mr Mohamed Bazzi, among others, was non-citizen and non-resident of The Gambia who was painfully exploitative and contributed nothing or very little to the economy or welfare of The Gambia. He had no respect for Gambians or Gambian institutions. In his quest for wealth, he focused only on profits mostly unlawfully obtained through bribes and other illegitimate means including collusion with former President Jammeh. He greatly contributed to the near ruin of The Gambia.

Consequently, the Government accepts the Commission’s recommendation that Mr Mohamed Bazzi be declared persona non grata, and Mr Mohamed Bazzi is hereby declared persona non grata by the Government of The Gambia and specifically banned from entering Gambian territorial jurisdiction. This recommendation is particularly reinforced by the fact that Mr Bazzi was, on 17th May 2018, designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. Department of the Treasury pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224. The U.S. Treasury also designated five of Mr Bazzi’s companies on the same date including Global Trading Group N.V. and Euro African Group Ltd both registered in The Gambia.

The Government also accepts the Commission’s recommendation that the following companies associated with Mr Mohamed Bazzi should be permanently banned, and they are hereby permanently banned, from participating in any Government procurement:

Euro African Group Ltd

Global Trading Group NV

Global Power Systems

Multi Shipping Company Ltd

GAMICO

Gammobile

Gammobile

Gamveg

Royal Residence

GEG

Votrag

Las Services

GMS

Ibrahim Bazzi and Sons

Gamilo

Gamcon

SPL

WARD

Africard

Royal Atlantic Residence

All existing contracts of Government with any of the said companies shall be reviewed forthwith and immediately cancelled where appropriate, and all shares belonging to Mr Mohamed Bazzia in these companies are hereby forfeited to the State.

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