15 June 2012

Gambia: Ex-Gamtel Director of Media Communication Convicted

The Special Criminal Court in Banjul, presided over by Justice Emmanuel Nkea Thursday, 14th June, 2012, convicted and sentenced one Ebrima Bandeh, former director of Media Communication at Gamtel on two counts of economic crimes, contrary to the Laws of The Gambia.

Ebrima Bandeh was charged alongside with two other Gamtel officials, Adama Ceesay and Sheikh Gaye alias Sheikh Jobe with four counts of economic crimes, contrary to Sections 5(f) and (h) of the Economic Crimes (Specified Offences) Act. Bandeh is alleged on count one to have caused loss to Gamtel in the sum of D84, 781.02 by illegally diverting international calls through a sim box that was illegally installed in Gamtel facility. On count two, he is alleged to have caused loss to Gamtel of the sum of D5, 000 by illegally removing a 2MB (EI) Internet cable link from the Billing Department of Gamtel.

The 2nd accused, Adama Ceesay is alleged on count four to have collaborated with the 1st accused, Ebrima Bandeh to illegally remove the 2MB (EI) internet cable link from the Billing Department of Gamtel. The 2nd and 3rd accused Adama Ceesay and Sheikh Gaye are jointly alleged on count three to have collaborated with the 1st accused Ebrima Bandeh to fraudulently install an unauthorised sim box at the Gamtel facility, offences alleged to have been committed in the month of June 2008.

The accused persons pleaded not guilty to all the counts and the prosecution called six witnesses and tendered a host of exhibits in support of its case. The prosecution's case is that sometimes around the month of June, 2008, PW3, an intelligence officer with the NIA received intelligence information of a mini communication station that had been illegally installed in the office of the 1st accused, Ebrima Bandeh at Gamtel premises in Abuko.

The 1st accused was not in his office at the time but was invited and given an appointment for a purported meeting that was scheduled to hold in his office later that day. Upon this invitation, the 1st accused called and instructed the 3rd accused, Sheikh Gaye to dismantle the mini communication station and take the gadgets away from his office. The 3rd accused obliged but was arrested with the communication gadgets as he tried to move it into his own office.

The gadgets include a simbox, a router, a modem, antenna and a laptop and were tendered and admitted in evidence as exhibits "C-G" respectively. The 1st accused used 14 different Gamcel registered numbers on the mini communication station to illegally terminate international calls for a total of 18,000 minutes on the Gamcel, Africell and Comium networks.

The 1st accused had also instructed the 2nd accused to remove some internet link cables from one of the Gamtel staff buildings at Abuko to another building in the same premises. This resulted in slow internet access in the building from which the cable was removed and the 1st accused had earlier invited the 2nd accused into his office where he instructed him to power some electronic gadgets for testing in his office.

On their part, the 2nd and 3rd accused persons, who were technicians at Gamtel at the time, maintained that they acted under the instructions of the 1st accused who was their boss. The 1st accused corroborated these facts when he maintained that he never had any assistance from the 2nd and 3rd accused persons in setting up the mini communication station in his office. Although he never sought the prior approval of management before mounting the communication devices, he claimed that the said installation of the equipment was done as part of his routine duties at Gamtel and denied any wrong doing. At the end of the trial, both sides waived their rights to address the court.

In delivering judgement, Justice Nkea disclosed that there is unchallenged evidence that the 1st accused instructed the 2nd accused to power a device and to remove or disconnect the internet link cable from the staff building at Abuko and the 3rd accused was equally instructed by the 1st accused to dismantle the communication device from his office. Justice Nkea further disclosed that there is no evidence to suggest that the 2nd and 3rd accused knew or could have known or ought to know that the 1st accused was engaged in a criminal activity.

Justice Nkea stated that he however found out that these were instructions to unsuspecting subordinates, which were innocently carried out without the foreknowledge that they were assisting the 1st accused in the commission of an offence. The presiding Judge further stated that there is an unchallenged evidence of the 1st accused that he was never assisted by the 2nd and 3rd accused persons in mounting the communication devices.

The presiding judge declared that there are copious and unchallenged evidence that the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt in count one and two against the 1st accused, Ebrima Bandeh but failed to so on count three and four against the 2nd and 3rd accused persons.

In view of the court findings, the court ordered the discharge and acquittal of the 2nd accused, Adama Ceesay and the 3rd accused, Sheikh Gaye (alias Sheikh Jobe) on count three and the discharge and acquittal of the 2nd accused, Adama Ceesay on count four, but found the 1st accused, Ebrima Bandeh guilty and convicted him as charged on counts one and two.

Bandeh was accordingly sentenced to pay a fine of D100,000 on count one in default to serve three years in jail and further ordered to pay a fine of D50,000 on count two in default to serve two years imprisonment, sentences which should run concurrently.

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