By Landing Ceesay
CEO, GACH Global, Abubacarr Jawara testified in the Gam Petroleum corruption scandal trial at the High Court of the Gambia.
Mr. Jawara appeared in Court as the Seventh Prosecution Witness (PW7) in the trial at the High Court of the Gambia involving two staff of Gam Petroleum.
The 2 staff namely Saihou Drammeh (1st accused), former Managing Director and Lamin Gassama (2nd accused), former Operations Manager of the institution are charged with 8 counts (3 counts of economic crimes and 5 other counts) in the alleged corruption scandal.
The eight counts are levelled against the two in their maiden court appearance at the High Court in Banjul on 4th April 2022 presided over by Justice Haddy Roche.
Their appearance in court followed their arrest regarding their alleged involvement in the alleged corruption, malpractices and the missing of fuel products worth USD 20 million at the depot.
In his testimony, Jawara said he knows both the 1st and 2nd accused through a business transaction.
He said when GNPC opened an invitation for people to bid for the supply of petroleum products to them and that he (Jawara) bought the GNPC form to bid for the business, but then needed a throughput agreement from Gam Petroleum as part of the requirements, and that’s the time Someone introduced him to the 2nd accused, who then introduced him to the 1st accused.
Jawara said he called the 2nd accused to inform him that he needs a throughput agreement with Gam Petroleum and the 2nd accused told him that he will help.
Jawara continued that the 2nd accused told him that he will speak with the General Manager of Gam Petroleum (1st accused, and added that a few days later, the 2nd accused told him that everything was ready and that it was left with the signature of the General Manager (1st accused).
Jawara said for some time, he didn’t hear from the 2nd accused, so he then called him, but the 2nd accused told him that the 1st accused was yet to sign the document.
“By then it was left with only one day for the submission of the bid to GNPC. I then requested the number of the 1st accused from the 2nd accused, so that I can call him. Then the 2nd accused gave me his (1st accused) number. I called him and introduced myself and my company to him. He told me that he has been hearing my name because he (1st accused) did some of his schooling in my village. I asked him whether he had seen my documents in his office. He said he has seen and I asked him whether he will sign them and he told me that he will sign them,” he said.
Jawara said the 1st accused did exactly what he told him by signing his documents, and that’s the time he (Jawara) submitted his bid to GNPC.
“My company GACH Global and one company called PSTV applied for the contact. But because my discount was good, a few days later I was awarded the contract to supply petroleum products to GNPC. I called the 1st accused and informed him that I won the contract. So I wanted him to advise me because he has been in the field for so many years. After winning the contract, the fuel price increased in the international market more than my discount when I was bidding for the contract.
“So, I called the 1st accused so that we can discuss the issue. He told me that we can meet and discuss it. Then I asked him to come to my office and he came. We discussed so many issues and he told me that the discount I got was not good. But I told him that I called a company outside to give me a price and the price they gave me is what I used. The 1st accused then told me that he has friends in Senegal who had fuel offshore, (and) he will talk to them and other friends to help me. I left my home with my agent (Kaddijatou Kebbeh), Carpi, and Bajara Jabbi, my nephews. We met at the home of the 1st accused and a Senegalese called Abubacarr, I think he was representing ADDAX. Then, the 1st accused introduced me to him and told him that I am just entering into the petroleum business,” Jawara told the court.
GACH CEO said the Senegalese man also told him that the way he did his discount was not good but he would help him, adding that the Senegalese man told him that he would help him from August 2021 to December 2021, but after that, he doesn’t think that he would continue to help him because his price is not good.
The witness said that was the time he informed the 1st accused that his agent (Kaddijatou Kebbeh) will be between Gam Petroleum and his company GACH Global, and said there was no agreement signed between him and the Senegalese but everything was made verbal.
PW7 said after a week or so, he heard nothing from the 1st accused and the Senegalese man, then he called the 1st accused to know the situation, but found it difficult to get the 1st accused on the phone, sometimes.
Jawara said he then went to the home of the father of the 1st accused in Fajara where he met him (1st accused) and the he (1st accused) told him that the Senegalese man will supply him fuel, which did not materialize.
The witness said that agreement also was verbal and no document was signed, and said even though he won the contract, he did not sign any document with GNPC at that time, but he was preparing to supply them (GNPC) anytime they needed petroleum products.
The businessman said in between, he travelled abroad and then received a call from one Sadibou Jammeh from GNPC who informed him that before the contract is signed, they would need 300 metric tons of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
He said then called the 1st accused and told him that GNPC requested 300 metric tons before they would sign the contract, and said GNPC requested an invoice for the supply of the 300 metric tons, but because he didn’t know how to prepare an invoice, and he (Jawara) contacted the 1st accused and the 1st accused advised him to get a new price different from the price he used to win the bid from GNPC.
Mr. Jawara said he then sent the invoice to GNPC that includes the quantity and the amount of money, and said the quantity was 300 metric tons and the amount was USD 221, 000.
He told the court that he then received calls from Sadibou Jammeh that they have agreed on the price and that he can supply the product.
“Then I called the 1st accused and informed him that GNPC agreed on the price and that I can do the supply. He said the Senegalese will supply me, when my products come, then I can refund them. I told him to supply me when my products come, I will pay for them. The 1st accused told me that the fuel belongs to the Senegalese and that when my products come, I should pay them liter by liter. Then I agreed and contacted my agent to be in contact with the 1st accused so that they can deliver the fuel to GNPC and they did exactly that by supplying 300 metric tons to GNPC. I don’t know where the product came from, but the 1st accused told me that the Senegalese have a product at Gam Petroleum,” he told the court.
Jawara said after supplying the 300 metric tons of fuel to GNPC, and added that the GNPC said the contract agreement should be signed between them so that he can start the supply.
He said he was not in the country by then, and that he asked his agent (Kaddijatou Kebbeh) and his finance and admin (Adolf Manu) to sign on his behalf, but GNPC said he must be present to sign the documents, and said he then called the 1st accused and informed him about the GNPC decision.
“I wanted to know from the 1st accused whether the Senegalese will continue to supply me with fuel before signing the contract with GNPC. I got the assurance from the 1st accused. In between GNPC said, I must supply the fuel. On 5th September 2021, I told my agent to write a letter to Gam Petroleum so that they can supply 1, 400 metric tons of fuel to GNPC. My agent wrote the letter and Gam Petroleum supplied the product to them,” the witness said.
Witness Jawara said after the supply was made to GNPC, he then travelled to Senegal, and when he was in Senegal, his agent (Kaddijatou Kebbeh) called to inform him that GNPC wanted to pay the money for the 300 metric tons he supplied to them; and said GNPC transferred the money to GACH Global account and then he instructed his agent to go to the Bank with his finance admin.
Mr. Jawara said his agent asked him whether they should pay the money in cash or transfer it to the account of the Senegalese that the 1st accused said are the owners of the fuel. He said he told his agent and finance admin that he cannot do such business and give the money in cash.
Mr. Jawara said the 1st accused called him and said the money should be paid in cash because it is a small amount, and said that’s the time he told the 1st accused that the money might be little to him (1st accused) but not to him (Jawara) as a businessman, and said the amount is USD221, 000.
“The 1st accused insisted that I should give him money in cash because the Senegalese got their products from offshore, I agreed and I asked my agent and finance & admin to pay the money to the 1st accused. The money was given to Kaddijatou Kebbeh (my agent) and my finance & admin told her to sign and saw the receipt to the 1st accused. When she gave the money to the 1st accused, I called him (1st accused) and he confirmed to me that he received the money from the agent.
“Later, I came back to the country to sign the contract with GNPC and then I took a picture of the agreement and sent it to the 1st accused to let him know that I have signed the agreement with GNPC. I told the 1st accused that I have signed the agreement with GNPC and that my products are coming from outside. The 1st accused then told me that I should hurry up and bring my products so that I can replace the ones I took from Gam Petroleum. I assured him that I am doing my level best to bring them into the country,” he said.
Mr. Jawara said his agreement with GNPC is that he should supply them with fuel every 45 days, but it should be every month. He said in October, GNPC said he should supply them with products, and then he asked his agent to write a letter to Gam Petroleum, and the 1st accused told him that he must pay for the products they supplied before he will be allowed to uplift again.
“I told the 1st accused to supply me again when my products arrive in the country, I will pay them. The 1st accused agreed and supplied me in October. The payment for September came in October from GNPC. Then I called the 1st accused and informed him that the payment for September is around. At first, the 1st accused asked me to keep the money until the suppliers asked for it,” he said.
Mr. Jawara said after two days, his agent came and told him that the 1st accused said he should pay the suppliers. He said he called the 1st accused but it was difficult for him to get the 1st accused on the phone. He said when he got the 1st accused on the phone, he asked him (1st accused) who owns the money because the Carpi said the money belongs to him.
He said the 1st told him that the money does not belong to Carpi and let him not give it to him. He said the 1st accused told him that the money belongs to the Senegalese.
Mr. Jawara said he wanted to do a Bank transfer but his agent (Kaddijatou Kebbeh) told him that the 1st accused said the money should be paid in cash.
“I told my agent to bring the invoice and the amount was 58 million Dalasi. I called the 1st accused and told him that I cannot pay this amount of money in cash because an international businessman should not pay this amount of money in cash. My agent came with another account number and told me that the 1st accused said I should pay the money in that account. I called the 1st accused but I could not reach him on the phone. But after, I received a message from the 1st accused telling me that when I was doing the arrangement no document was signed but now it is time for payment, I am making everything difficult for him (1st accused). The 1st accused asked me to pay the money and we closed the business.
“When I received that message I felt so bad because the 1st accused gave the fuel, I never signed a document and now I am making him sign a document for the payment. I called him but I couldn’t reach him. Then I sent him a voice message telling him that, however, if he wanted me to do the payment that’s what I will do. I saw the message to my agent but my agent told me that the message is not from the 1st accused directly and that he forwarded it to me. The account name my agent brought is Korinbo, I asked my agent about this Korinbo but she told me that she didn’t know ‘Korinbo’ and that they called her with a private number,” he told the court.
Mr. Jawara further told the court that he went to the 1st accused office to hand over all the payment receipts to him and the amount was 58 million Dalasi.
“When I left the 1st accused office, I continued to process how to bring my fuel into the country. Because The 1st accused said if I don’t make efforts to bring my fuel before November, he will not supply me. The 1st accused said he has a big loss in my other transaction between September and October 2021. So that’s why I said let me try and bring my own products. The 1st accused then introduced me to another person called Pap. He said Pap would supply me if I don’t have products. The 1st accused said he would not interfere in my discussion with Pap, so he left us in his office and went out. When I agreed with Pap, I called my agent (Kaddijatou Kebbeh) and we went to the Bank,” Mr. Jawara said.
He said when the shortage came; talks were too much on social media that people were accusing him of selling all the fuel to the Malians, that’s why there is a fuel shortage. He said he then called the 1st accused to know what exactly is happening, but the 1st accused told him that he should not be worried because there is so much fight against him (1st accused) because of him (Jawara).
Mr. Jawara said the 1st accused told him that he (Jawara) doesn’t have experience in the fuel business and that he is surviving in it that’s why people are fighting him (1st accused). He said he asked the 1st accused who are the people that are fighting him, that’s the time the 1st accused told him that Muhammad Jah, Seedy Keita, Mambury Njie, Edrisa Mass Jobe and Sheikh Omar Giggo are the ones fighting him.
“Sulayman Ben Suwareh wrote something against me and my company on social media. When I saw that, I called the 1st accused and told him that I have a very bad reputation in the country and that Sulayman Ben Suwareh wrote something against me. The 1st accused said let me not respond to him because he doesn’t know what is going on. Then I heard that the SIS went to the depot to investigate how the shortage occurred. But the 1st accused said some people want him to lose his job. The 1st accused said Seedy Keita the then Minister of Trade and Edrissa Mass Jobe, are the ones who took the police to the Gam Petroleum. I told the 1st accused how my name can be in the media when I am just 3 months in the business, and that people are saying that I am the reason the Gambia doesn’t have fuel. I receive insults all over from the people,” he said.
Mr. Jawara said the 1st accused told him that all what people are doing is wickedness because people did not want him (Jawara) in the business. He said that’s the time he called the SIS Director and the SIS Director told him that what he did is not correct because they went to the depot and found out that he took fuel from Gam Petroleum.
He said Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade Lamin Camara called him and informed him that a committee was set up to investigate how products are uplifted at Gam Petroleum and they found his company’s name on the list and they want to know how much fuel he uplifted at Gam Petroleum.
Mr. Jawara said he told the PS the amount He took from Gam Petroleum and also told him that for October, GNPC did not take all the 1, 400 metric tons of fuels they ordered; and said he then called the 1st accused and told him what the PS said and the 1st accused said he was there when PS was calling and that his response was good.
“I thought to myself that let me make a stand down in this business. I called the 1st accused again and asked him what was wrong with the money I paid, he said he will come to my home. The 1st accused came to my home but he did not meet me there. Then he called me and we met at the Arch in Banjul, that is where he told me that the money was with my agent and that the money did not reach him. The 1st accused said the money is with my agent and that he asked her to send it to the suppliers. I told him (1st accused) why didn’t he inform me about that. But he said I should not be worried because he ordered fuel and when that arrives, he will pay the amount from the depot.
“The 1st accused said I should not let my agent know about it and that he will do everything possible to settle the problem. The 1st accused said the products he ordered did not arrive yet, but when they do, he will pay me. A few days later, he told me that the vessel had arrived and that they are offloading his products. The 1st accused said the products are very expensive and that he will wait for the next vessel. I then found out that Korinbo is a Gambian company owned by one Momodou Jagana, I called him on WhatsApp and he told me that he is in Senegal. I asked him whether he received the money in his account. Jagana said he received the money and that Kaddijatou Kebbeh (My agent) told him that the money is paid to his account for it to be changed to Euros and Dollar,” he told the court.
The witness said that he knew that his agent (Kaddijatou Kebbeh) betrayed him because the money should go back to the people who supply me, and said Jagana told him he had changed the money to Euros and handed it to his agent.
Mr. Jawara further told the court that the 1st accused called him and asked why he was following the money he already received, and continued that he told the 1st accused that he was following the money protecting him (1st accused), because his agent Kaddijatou Kebbeh might betrayed him (1st accused).
He said the 1st accused informed him that he would come to his house, and one night at around 1am, the 1st accused went to his house with Haji Baniko Sissoho and the 1st accused said he (Jawara) spoke to many people about the D58 million.
“There was a confrontation between me and the 1st accused. He said my money is not with me and that it is with my agent (Kaddijatou Kebbeh). Then I went to the Kairaba Police Station to report the matter there. I gave my statement to the police then my agent (Kaddijatou Kebbeh) was arrested. She also gave her statement to the police. So later the 1st accused was also arrested and questioned. The 1st accused told the police that the money was not with him but it was with my agent. The following day, I reported the matter to the police headquarters in Banjul.
“Kaddijatou said she handed over the money to the supplier. The police then asked her ‘which supplier?’. She said she did not know the supplier. She later said that she gave the money to her father so that he could hand it over to the supplier. The police asked her again which supplier, but she insisted on not knowing the supplier. Her family came to the police station and said why should I bring her to the police. I discussed it with her family and her family wanted me to discuss the matter outside court,” Jawara told the court.
Mr. Jawara said Badou Conteh, one of the lawyers for the accused persons met them at the police station in Banjul and told him that the vessel has arrived and is about to offload the products. He said the 1st accused told him that the supplier said he can only supply him Gas Oil, if he agreed then the supplier will supply him.
“Then I calculated and realised that the difference is too much and I disagreed with that idea. The 2nd day, Badou Conteh said if I may agree Jah Oil said they will return all the fuel the 1st accused owed. I discussed with the 1st accused and Badou, I asked them what petrol they said either 2 weeks or 2 months they will refund that to me. Then I agreed and told them that I must contact my lawyer to draft the agreement,” he said.
Mr. Jawara said then he explained everything to his lawyer Mr. Mene and his lawyer said the 1st accused had to pay him first then after the payment they can make another agreement. He said after a few days, the 1st accused and Badou Conteh asked him to go to Jah Oil who will refund the fuel.
PW7 said he then met Jah Oil (Hamidou Jah) at the GNPC building and Mr. Jah told him the amount that was brought by the 1st accused and Badou Conteh, but the amount of fuel does not tally or match with the amount of money involved; and he said Jah Oil said they can only supply him based on the money given to them.
Mr. Jawara said he then agreed for Jah Oil to supply him the amount of fuel equivalent to be given to them by the 1st accused and his lawyer Badou Conteh.
“Jah Oil issued me two receipts and I looked at the release copies and gave them to the police. But the police did not do anything and Gam Petroleum also called me and said all the OMCs who took fuel should pay for their products. I told them that I am different from the OMCs because I spent barely 3 months in the field and I told them that I owe no debt to Gam Petroleum because I paid my money to the 1st accused. But they said the payment I made is not correct,” he said.
Lawyer M.D. Mballow represented the State, while lawyers Christopher E. Mene, B. S. Conteh, S. Akimbo, Bakurin Pauline, and Sasum Sillah represented the 1st accused and 2nd accused persons in the hearing.
Comments are closed.