4 December 2017

Gambia: Business Mogul Deny Ownership of Newspaper Company

"I have never been a proprietor of the Daily Observer Newspaper" Amadou samba told the Janneh Commission on Thursday 30th November 2017.

"This has been an error from the beginning. I have been complaining to the various managing directors of the 'Daily Observer' for the fact I was put as the proprietor, whilst I am not. Anytime I approached any Managing Director about the issue, they only give me excuses that it's the printing and it was difficult for them to remove my name on the paper", Mr. Samba said. He said he was once sued to Court by Lawyer Edward A. Gomez, but he produced documents in court that he was not the proprietor of the Company. "I succeeded only during the time of Momodou Sabally as the Managing Director, who removed my name on the 'Daily Observer' Newspaper", he said; that 20 years ago, he was approached by the late Abel Thomas, former Manager of BICI who told him that one of his friends, Kenneth Best, was out of the jurisdiction and has entrusted him to sell the Company; that Mr. Thomas asked whether he (Mr. Samba) was interested in buying the Company to which he agreed. "We negotiated the price until we agreed at 268 thousand dollars and that was how I bought it" he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Samba told the Commission that Mr. Baba Jobe heard about the transaction and approached him and expressed interest in buying the Company; that his agreement with Mr. Jobe was for him to pay the 268 thousand dollars to Mr. Best and he, Mr. Samba, will transfer the Company to him as soon as all due processes are met; that after the transactions were made with the Best Family, he approached Mr. Jobe on several occasions to finalise the transaction, but this was never successful until Buba Baldeh's tenure, who made efforts that Mr. Jobe finalise the deal and the Company was transferred to him.

The documents of the transfer of Daily Observer to Mr. Jobe and the memorandum and article of association of the Company were all tendered and admitted as exhibits. Mr. Samba said the transfer of the Company from the three shareholders to Mr. Jobe, was done on the 7th of May, 1999. He however said the date of the memorandum and article of association was done on the 22nd of October 2002, and was witnessed by Buba Baldeh; that the documents were prepared by Mr. Jobe and Buba Baldeh and was brought to him to sign but was not sure whether tax was paid. "I transferred my 100% share of the Company to Baba Jobe" he said.

Counsel Bensouda said in the transfer of shares, sellers pay capital gains tax. She probed whether Mr. Samba has paid the capital gain tax when transferring to Mr. Jobe, in his response, Mr. Samba said it was an oversight. He said he had no idea of the transfer from Mr. Baba Jobe to Keneth Best whether it was from the Central Bank fund, as stated by the documents (evidence before the Commission) or not.

He said his name came on the Observer Newspaper at a time when it was published on the Observer Newspaper that he bought the Company from the Kenneth Family, adding that his name kept on appearing on the newspaper which he protested against since that time and only succeeded removing his name when Mr. Momodou Sabally became the Managing Director of the Observer Company.

"They kept on making the mistake, I made a lot of protests and they used to tell me some technical reasons that they cannot remove it" he said.

The copies of transfer between Keneth Best and Mr. Amadou Samba dated 7th May 1999 and two other transfers dated the same date between Mr. Amadou Samba and Baba K. Jobe, as well as the letter of lawyer Edward A. Gomez dated 26th April 2004, and the reply of Mr. Samba's lawyer dated 3rd May 2004, were all tendered and admitted as exhibits.

On the issue of Excel Company, Mr. Samba said the fencing of State House was the only contract the Company carried out for the Government; that he is not too sure whether the Company was registered with the Gambia Public Procurement Authority, GPPA, and promised to find out. Counsel Bensouda asked whether there was a cash payment on the contract of the Construction of the State House fence, to which he said he will find out; that the negotiation for the construction of the fence was not done by him but one John Paul Flaw´, and promised to find out from him. He said Mr. Noah Touray was the Supervisor for the Office of the former President and the Consultant who was appointed, was Mr. Kawsu Keita; that in the contract document, there was a clause that exempts the Company from tax payment. He tendered the original copy of the memorandum and article of association of Excel Construction Company as well as the agreement between the former Government and Excel Construction Company Limited. He reminded the Commissioners that he had tendered the Business Certificate, Certificate of Business Registration and Certificate of Incorporation.

Mr. Samba concord with Counsel Bensouda, that he has shares in Gam Petroleum Company Limited; that he was part of the creation of Gam Petroleum and that the petroleum depot at Half Die, had a capacity to supply the country for two weeks; that as a concerned citizen, he decided to come up with a solution to this problem.

"I conceived the idea together with Muhamed Bazi, when the financing was offered by Total International. We started working on the location of the depot. In fact, I helped in securing the Land at Mandinary village. I helped in preparing the land because it is in a swampy area. I was part of the people who negotiated with Government to get documents and I was involved in the civil works and the construction. I built the fence because I used my Company to build the fence. I am the one who mobilised in terms of providing equipment. I provided nearly all equipment on the site and this involved moving my 80 tonnes mobile crane to facilitate the moving of heavy objects. The cost of hire of the crane was 12,000 dalasi per hour and the crane was stationed there till the end of the construction. Apart from that I supplied the cement. When I was allocated a 10% share, I did not feel happy about it because it does not commensurate in terms of what I have provided in material and other logistics", he said.

He said he could not remember the year the Company was formed but he was quick to say that the documents should prove this; Samba added that Mr. Bazzi owns 99% share while he owns a token of 1% share in the storage facility and was the Chairman of the company since inception until he sold his 10% share to the former Government, at the tune of 35,000,000.00 Euros, out of which he paid 9.3 million dalasi as tax.

"I was appointed Chairman of the Board of Gam Petroleum since inception until I sold my shares", he said. He said the shareholders of Gam Petroleum are Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation who held 31%, Gambia Ports Authority 10%, Gambia National Petroleum Company Limited 7%, Amadou Samba 10%, Muhamed Bazzi 31% and Fadi Mazegi 10.5%.

The Memorandum of Association of Gam Petroleum Storage Facility Company Limited, Certificate of Incorporation dated 10th July 2003, copies of application of Business Registration, amended Memorandum and Article of Association, a copy of a Cheque in the sum of over 9 million dalasi issued to Gambia Revenue Authority and a receipt issued by Gambia Revenue Authority to the Witness in respect of Capital Gains Tax, together with all other relevant documents relating to Gam Petroleum, were all tendered and marked as exhibits.

Commission resumes hearing today at 10am.

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