Startling evidence at Janneh Commission


By Mamadou Dem

Various amounts totaling over 158 million dalasis and more than 5 million dollars were withdrawn on different dates from the account of the National Youth Development Fund at the Central Bank of The Gambia. This is what the Principal Banking Officer, Central Bank of The Gambia, Karamo Jawara told the Janneh Commission yesterday as he continued with his evidence on the Accounts opened by the office of the former President. When these two sums are added the total far exceeds 300 million dalasis.

Mr. Jawara explained about the account of the National Youth Development Fund as well as the information obtained and transactions done on this account. He said the said account consisted of both dalasi and dollar accounts; adding that the dalasi account was opened on the 13th of June, 2013 with the account number 1101004122 and was closed on 29th August, 2013 while the dollar was opened on July 4th, 2014 with the account number 1103001826.

According to the witness, the dalasi account was later closed but prior to its closure the amount deposited was D158,149,225.36 and the last transaction was D113,335,154.22 while the total withdrawal was D158,149,225.36.

The witness further disclosed that the said dalasi account was opened and controlled by the office of the President and the signatories were Momodou Sabally, Nuha Touray, Abdoulie M Sallah and Kalilou Bayo. He said no purpose was stated for the opening of the account.  

At that juncture, Counsel Bensouda applied to tender the information of the dalasi account. Mr. Jawara said the source of the fund for this account was from Republic of China on Taiwan and there were four withdrawals but the balance was transferred to the dollar account after a request was made.

Recalling the transactions on the said account, Mr. Jawara said the first withdrawal was 8th July, 2013 and the amount requested by the office of the president signed by Sabally and Touray was D33,820,620.00 and the next transaction was 11th July, 2013 and the amount paid was D7,373,451.25 after receiving an instruction from the office of the president signed by Sabally but no purpose was stated. He added that there was another transaction amounting to D3,620,000 signed by Sabally while the next transaction was D1,038,335.

On the dollar account the amount deposited was $5,301,325.75 and the source of fund for this account according to him was from the Republic of China on Taiwan. He said Nuha Touray made a request for dalasi to be converted to dollar. At that juncture Counsel Bensouda tendered the account information and change of denomination request from Governor of Central Bank which was admitted as an exhibit.

According to him the total amount withdrawn from the dollar account was $5,301,325.25. However, the witness was asked to add the total withdrawal and the cash spent on tuition since the total withdrawal from this account and cash spent on tuition were not available with him at the time. He was therefore given time to furnish the Commission with these transactions.

With regards to the State Aircraft Special Account he said this was in Euro Account denomination with the account number 09201200525. He said the account was opened on the 7th July, 2011, operated and controlled by office of the former President. Mr. Jawara testified that the first transaction was 12 October, 2011 and the last transaction was 13th December, 2011. “This request was sent to the Governor, Central Bank from the Director of Treasury for the opening of this account. The account is not closed but not active and the signatories to the account were Yahya Jammeh and Mamburay Njie, then Finance Minister and the source of funds was the State of Qatar but the purpose for the funds was not stated,” said the witness.

Counsel Bensouda at that juncture applied to tender the account opening request which was in dalasi denomination as well as statement of accounts and signatories to the account as exhibits. “Total amount deposited into this account was €3,999,000 and the purpose of the funds was not stated,” he revealed.

According to him the first withdrawal on this account was on the 23rd November, 2011 a cash withdrawal of €500,000 but they couldn’t trace the transaction documents but the order was from the Office of the President.

Mr Jawara further recalled that the second transaction was a cash payment on 1 December, 2011 and the amount withdrawn was €503, 190.97 and the transaction took place outside the banking hours but he only has a payment voucher and they have no information for the payment of this amount.

He recalled that the next transaction was €1,000,000 cash withdrawal which also took place outside the banking hours and another withdrawal of €1,000,000 paid to the Global Trading Company through a bank transfer in Brussels for the purchase of Boeing 757, noting that it was in respect of an invoice from the Global Trading Company to the Office of the President.

Mr Jawara further testified that on 2 December, 2011 there was another withdrawal of €720,000 paid to the Global Trading Company for the purchase of four coach buses and the invoice for the transaction was sent to the Kanilai Family Farm.

The last transaction he went further was €270,000 paid to Global Trading Company for the purchase of buses and the invoices were addressed to the Kanilai Family Farm and the balance left in the account was €1702.03.

Counsel Bensouda thereof applied to tender the transaction documents for the purchase of the Boeing 757, buses among other relevant documents as exhibits.

According to the CBG official the said account was opened after the fund was received from the state of Qatar.

Mr Jawara further told the commission that the total amount of cash withdrawn from the Youth Development Fund dollar account for the maintenance of state aircraft was D600,000.

He finally told the commission that there was no transaction on the Fish Landing Account which he said was opened by the Fisheries Department and the amount deposited was D4, 85,936.65 and the signatories to the account were Ismaila Sanyang and Lamin Nyabally.

Counsel Bensouda at that point applied to tender the account opening information request, statement of the account as well as the signatories to the account as exhibits.

Mr Jawara is however expected to give evidence on the account of the First Lady and the Special Account of the National Security next week.

Next to testify was Mr. Nuha Touray, former Secretary to Cabinet. He informed the Commission that he is not aware as to whether there was a policy governing the award of scholarship to students by the office of the President. He said the award of scholarship was purely discretionary by the President as he decides who and who not to sponsor.

According to Mr. Touray, the Ministry of Higher Education usually sent a list of sponsors and at times the president will even add names. At this point the witness surrendered an approval made by the former president awarding scholarships to certain students.

According to the witness, a competent company was subcontracted for renovating the complex at the Ministry of Justice but there was no tender prior to awarding the contract to competent. “I believe Sindola Safari lodge belongs to the former President. He also confirmed payments amounting to $99,000; adding that a request was sent to the former president for payments to be made to T.K Motors in respect of purchase of vehicles and the amount liable was D19,000,000 out of which they paid D10,000,000.

 Mr. Touray also confirmed payments of $280,310.00 for the purchase of red carpet from Morocco; adding that he has the invoice relating to that payment. When asked by Commission counsel why he decided to copy some of the transactions he responded that he knew that a day of reckoning will come.

The former Cabinet Secretary further testified that it is correct that he was authorized to receive the sum of $700,000 by the President as well as $300,000.00 in dalasi from Special Project Fund Account for Vision 2016 .  “I received the money and sent it to the President through his protocol officer Sanna Jarju. I don’t have anything to show that I handed over the money to Sanna Jarju,” said Touray.  He said he doesn’t know what the money was meant for.

The witness further confirmed to counsel that he was a signatory to the Sand Mining Account; adding that when Sabally used to hand over money to Yahya Jammeh, he used to call him as a witness and the orderly to the President had a quire book and used to record the handing over as they also confirmed the money handed over to the exiled President.

He said on the 31st of December, 2013 there was a payment made to Momodou Sabally amounting to D5,000,000 but he couldn’t explain what the money was meant for. He added that the sum of D600,000 was paid to various governors to enable them buy and slaughter cattle in their various localities and the money was to be refunded but he didn’t know whether the said money was refunded. He said he did not know what happened to monies derived from Ram sales.

According to him, at the time he left office there were three Aircrafts owned by the State and he witnessed the final payment for an aircraft which was a loaned from Social Security Housing and Finance Corporation (SSHFC) to government. “I witnessed the signing of an agreement between the Managing Director of SSHFC and Secretary General. For the other two aircrafts; I don’t know how they were acquired.”

At that juncture, Counsel Bensouda applied to tender supporting documents brought by the witness including payments from the Tax Recovery Account. Mr. Touray  also confirmed payments of over D13,000,000.00 for Pilgrims from Guaranty Trust Tax Recovery Account which he said the former President promised to refund but he doubted if the money was refunded. He added that he was aware of construction of boats which were given to communities in North Bank Region for fishing.

When asked about the genesis of executive directives by Commissioner Bai Mass Saine, the witness said it was a difficult question for him to answer; adding that executive directives were limited to public institutions. “Does the President has a free hand in running the country how he likes?,” Saine quizzed.  “Yes but it is not a Constitutional Mandate,” replied Touray.

Responding further, the witness informed the Commission that there were consequences for questioning or rejecting directives made by the former President because in the course of doing so, individuals or civil servants might lose their jobs, be imprisoned or possibly disappear; adding that the former president was very aggressive and ruthless.

Sittings continue today at Djembe Hotel.