20 December 2017

Gambia: CBG Principal Banking Officer, UTSCO Former MD Reappear At 'Janneh' Commission

Photo: Le Pays
Former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh

Mr. Karamba Jawara, the Principal Banking Officer who deputized for the Governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia and Mrs. Lily Diab, former Managing Director of Unique Transport Services Company (UTSCO), yesterday reappeared before 'Janneh' Commission to explain numerous financial transactions and the purchase of Mahindra tractors.

Mr. Jarawa's testimony was centered on several accounts operated by the office of the former president while Mrs. Diab dwelled on the acquisition of Mahindra tractors, Sindola Safari Lodge and KGI respectively.

According to him, the first account was a dollar account operated by the Ministry of Finance, namely Second Divestiture account; that this was opened on the 8th of August 2008 and was controlled by the Ministry of Finance; that the opening balance was $2,737,117.50.

He further stated that the purpose of the account was not stated but the funds were from the proceeds of GAMTEL / GAMCEL shares and the total deposit into the account was $32,437,008.00 while the total withdrawal was $32, 364, 933.83; that the last transaction was done on the 27th March 2009, with a debit of $25,000. He said as at now there is a balance of $72,024.17 and the signatories were Musa Balla Gaye, former Finance Minister, Sering Cham and Mod A.K Secka, former permanent secretaries at the Ministry of Finance.

Jawara further explained that payments were made to the Gambian Embassy in USA for the purchase of buses; that the sum of $1,440,357.35 was the payment for the balance of 50% of the school buses and the purchase of computers respectively.

He continued to testify that $5,845,072.85 went to the embassy for the purchase of the ambassador's residence by Government; that $875,000 was payment made to the Gambian Embassy. He stated that a sum of $455,590 was also sent to the embassy through bank transfer but no purpose was stated for the transfer.

The banker disclosed that $19, 316,000 was transferred to CRA. On the Citizenship Investor account, he testified that they could not trace the account opening information but that this has to do with the office of the former president; that there was 99% credit while there were four withdrawals totaling over D2,000,000; that there were debits authorized by the Secretary General as well as over D2, 000,000 overdrafts and that the source of funds were from the sale of citizenship. Mr. Jawara revealed that the last transaction on this account was done on the 21st December 2016 in the sum of D604, 980, leaving a balance of D39, 838,107.59.

Buttressing on Construction of Kanilai Recording Studio and Conference Centre account, he disclosed that it was opened on the 18th April 2008, upon request from the Accountant General and with authority from the office of the former president; that the signatories to the account were the former president and Teneng Ba Jaiteh, former Energy Minister; that the total deposit was D30, 109,475 while the total withdrawal was D30, 015,775 leaving a balance of D93, 700.

He said there was an initial deposit of $1,000,000 which was equivalent to D19, 000,000,; that this account did not have any link to the former government; that there would be no opening of accounts without clearly stating the purpose, as some accounts are subjected to international scrutiny.

On the Divestiture Fund account, the witness testified that it was opened on the 29th December 2005, with a deposit of D117, 382,177.77 while the same amount was withdrawn and there was nothing left in the account; that major payments to this account were from Senegambia Beach Hotel and withdrawals were made under the instruction of the Ministry of Finance, signed by Permanent Secretary Abdoulie Jallow; that D24, 000,000 was transferred to the Treasury Department.

Another account he dealt with was the Special Account opened on the 11th July 2012, by the office of the former president; that there was a deposit of D2, 330, 553.05 and there was no withdrawal from the account; that the office of the former president was in control of the account. He added that there were payments into this account by Pan African Gambia Limited, amounting to D1, 000,000 and another D1, 000,000 was deposited by Guaranty Trust Bank.

Testifying on the recovery of monies owed to Public Enterprises, Jawara stated that it was opened on the 6th August 2012, upon request by the Accountant General; that it was a dalasi account, and the office of the former president was the controlling authority; that there was no transaction on the account.

At this juncture, statements and summary of the accounts, transaction documents signed by the witness together with other relevant documents, were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

Next to testify was the former Managing Director of Unique Transport Services Company (UTSCO), Lily Diab, who reappeared to shed light on the acquisition of Mahindra tractors by Kanilai Group International.

She testified that they received the said tractors as part of the inventory and were instructed by the former president to handover the tractors to KGI; that on the 19th of January 2009, she received the tractors and delivered them on the 21st January 2009, to the Chief of Protocol at State House.

Mrs. Diab, who was one time the overseer of Sindola Safari Lodge, explained that as per the summary inventory letter, they received five hundred tractors and it was agreed that UTSCO would oversee the assembling of the tractors and get delivery notes from KGI; that there were correspondences between their Company, Pa Ousman Bojang and one Sarja Camara.

"I would not have a complete report of the inventory, as I was not allowed to remove the files but I do have a handing over note of the tractors for a period of one year," she said.

According to her and to the best of her knowledge, from 2008-2012, she had handed over the tractors to one Commander Sanneh, except one which was used for the clearing of the site. "On the 26th July 2012, I was ordered to stop operations and the handing over process took two weeks," she told the Commission.

She said KGI would issue them with standard format for the handing over, further stating that she was not sure whether KGI was selling the tractors; that she never interacted with KGI in any operation but rather limited herself to UTSCO; that they were dealing with KGI purely by correspondence.

Diab explained that Sindola Safari Lodge was registered in 2010; that she recommended to the former president to put Sindola in compliance; that the former president asked her to hire the service of a lawyer which she did; that Kanilai Woni Farms owned 79% share while Muhammed Jammeh owned 21% share.

She disclosed that she was ordered to stop operation at UTSCO but did not receive any instruction on Sindola Safari Lodge and that Sindola was registered as a private company.

Next to testify, was the proprietor of TAF Holding Limited, Mustapha Njie alias 'TAF,' in connection with the AU Villas he constructed at Brufut Gardens, during the African Union Summit in The Gambia.

Mr. Mousa Mousa, Managing Director of T.K Motors, testified that he had some of the documents he was asked to produce; that when his brother died, they wrote to lawyer Haddy Dandeh Njie for the transfer of shares which is in progress; that the Company has Board of Directors including himself and Aisha Balla Gaye; that he is enjoying 25% share, and the Company is regularly audited.

Further responding to Counsel, he said the Company is registered with GPPA and have kept records from 2009-2016; that T.K Motors only deals in cars and does some repairs; that they did not tender for the supply of vehicles to the office of the former president but directives came from the office of the former president for the supply.

Mrs. Bensouda had earlier asked Mr. Mousa to avail the Commission with financial statements showing government monies received by T.K Motors in connection with vehicles and other equipment supplied by the Company, from July 1994. However, Mr. Mousa intimated that he would find it difficult to produce documents from that period, except from 1999.

He denied allegations made by Mr. Abdoulie Cham, former Financial Controller at the CBG, for a loan facility amounting to $140,000,000; that he never met Mr. Cham, and even if Cham was to sit down in the hall, he would not be able to spot him out.

Documents relating to the Company, such as Memorandum and Article of Association, Annual Returns and correspondence, were admitted as exhibits.

Responding to questions from the Chairman, Sourahata Janneh, said he could not remember where he was as at November, 2001, and it was correct that he is a British national. This prompted Commission Chairman Janneh, to order him to produce his passport to the Commission, to which he responded in the positive and added that he would check for it.

Sitting continues today.

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