1 March 2018

Gambia: 'MGI-Swiss Paid Gamtel $500,000 While Outstanding Balance Is $1,000,000'

Gamtel's Director of Finance, Mr. Banding Sillah, yesterday revealed to the 'Janneh' Commision that MGI-Swiss paid the National telecom company, Gamtel, the sum of $500,000 but there is a remaining balance of $1,000,000 from 2015-2016 respectively.

Mr. Sillah reappeared in connection to the Gamtel gateway contract and explained to the commission that he came with two reports, for 2015 and that of 2016 reviewed relating to the international gateway.

At this juncture, compliance audit report, statement of accounts were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

Mr. Lamin Barrow, the Chairman of the Timber Association, was summoned in connection to Westwood Gambia Limited.

During his testimony, he told the commission that he knows Westwood company and that his association was formed in 2010 with a ten-man committee.

According to him, they were informed that Westwood was taking over the importation of timbers but he did not know who was behind it as he was out of the jurisdiction then.

He further testified that they were told that anyone who wanted to export timber should inform the said company, and that this was communicated to his vice chairman Babucarr Janneh.

Assisting the chairman, Baboucarr Janneh told the commission that in 2014 he was approach by some people including the Managing Director at Ocean Bay Hotel in a meeting where he was told that they wanted to see those dealing in timber business.

He added that, one of the exporters told him that Westwood took over the exportation of timber and they were charged $4,000 and subsequently reduced to $3,000.

Mr. Janneh further acknowledged that there was a letter from the Forestry Department which was shown to him, noting that their treasurer had a phone call from General Saul Badjie that if they did not comply they will send some soldiers to arrest them. He disclosed that some Chinese businessmen paid $3,000 to West Wood for exportation of timber.

At this point, Mr. Barrow came in and told the commission that they sold the timber to Chinese businessmen who will export them, noting that they paid clearance fees of D9000 in 2010, then D1000 to custom, D2500 to Gambia Chambers of Commerce as members of the chamber and D2500 for bill of lading.

He also said the total payment for the whole transaction was about D12,000; adding that they would write to the former president to resume operation which was going on-and-off and finally the business closed.

When put to him that the department of forestry did not have the authority to lift the ban without the consent of the former president. In respond he replied in the affirmative.

Next to testify, was the assistant director of forestry, Malang Jassey who was also summoned in connection to West Wood Company.

According to him, he held the position since November 2014 and Muhammad Jaiteh is the director who is currently out of the jurisdiction.

Commission counsel, Amie Bensouda, told him that his director was summoned in relation to the said company. He said he knew the name of the company through their file, stating that the company was authorized by the former president to export timber.

At this juncture, documents provided by the department of forestry were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

Mr. Jassey further told the commission that the company owed the department of forestry the sum of D2,580,000 from the years 2014 to 2016 and they exported over eleven thousand containers.

He stated that he did not see any file indicating that the company was registered with the Attorney General Chambers.

However, he was told by Counsel Bensouda that the director of forestry was expected to appear before the commission.

Hearing continues today.

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