GP Corruption Scandal Trial: Defence Says ‘Conspiracy To Commit Economic Crime’ Offence Is Not Created By Law
By Landing Ceesay
Christopher E. Mene, lawyer representing the 1st and 2nd accused persons in the Gam Petroleum corruption scandal trial in his submission of ‘No Case to Answer’ said the ‘Conspiracy to Commit Economic Crime’ offence is not created by law.
Lawyer Mene is the lead counsel of Saihou Drammeh (1st accused), former Managing Director and Lamin Gassama (2nd accused), former Operations Manager of Gam Petroleum.
The two staff are charged with 8 counts (3 counts of economic crimes and 5 other counts) in the ongoing Gam Petroleum corruption scandal trial.
The eight counts are levelled against the accused in their maiden court appearance at the High Court in Banjul on 4th April 2022 presided over by Justice Haddy Roche.
The appearance in court of Drammeh and Gassama followed their arrest on their alleged involvement in the alleged corruption, malpractices and the missing of fuel products worth USD 20 million at the depot.
In his submission on count 1 of the charges against the accused persons, Lawyer Mene said it is his submission that there is no such offence known to the law; and said the law is right that an accused cannot be convicted on offences that are not created by law.
Count 1 of the charges against the accused persons alleged that the 1st and 2nd accused conspired to commit economic crimes, contrary to section 368 of the Criminal Code. Cap 10:01 vol. iii Laws of The Gambia, 2009.
However, Defence Lawyer Mene argued that the 1997 Constitution does not create an offence called ‘conspiracy to commit economic crime’, and told the court that the economic crime offence was created by Decree 16 and amended by Decree 18 in 1994.
“I have looked at section 368 of the Criminal Code and the offence ‘conspiracy to commit economic crime’ does not exist anywhere. I have not seen it anywhere. The offence of economic crime was created by a military decree and was amended by another decree. It was before the coming of the 1997 Constitution,” he argued.
Lawyer Mene said the decree is only saved by 232 (transitional provision) of the Constitution as an existing law, but only to the extent of consistency with the Constitution; and added that any provision of the decree which is inconsistent with the Constitution will be null and void to the level of its inconsistency.
He argued that Section 368 of the Criminal Code says ‘conspiracy to commit a felony’ and that it does not talk about a ‘conspiracy to commit economic crime’.
“There is absolutely no evidence before this honourable court to support the particulars of the alleged crimes. In fact, the evidence of the Prosecution Witnesses is that the 2nd accused was mostly out of the jurisdiction,” Lawyer Mene told the court.
The Lawyer further told the court that there is also no evidence that the accused persons caused economic loss to the government of the Gambia and therefore the accused persons could not do what never happened.
He argued that uplifting products on negative balance was a standard operational procedure at Gam Petroleum from its inception in 2009 to 31st October 2021.
Lawyer Mene said the evidence of Momodou Hydara (PW9) and Lamin Touray (PW2) show that there is no OMC that has never taken products on a negative balance.
“My lady, even the Gambia Government’s own OMC which is GNPC were on negative balance as of 31st October 2021. My Lady, that cannot be an economic crime, and there is evidence before this honourable court that most of the OMCs have replenished the products, they have uplifted from Gam Petroleum either in cash or kind,” he said.
Lawyer Mene informed the court that there is an investigation going on by the Gam Petroleum Board to recover the balance owed by the OMCs on the negative balance.
“I want my lady to uphold the ‘no case to answer’ submission,” Lawyer Mene concluded his submission on count 1 of the charges against the accused persons.
Lawyer M.D. Mballow and Abdul Aziz Saho represented the State, while the lawyers Christopher E. Mene, B. S. Conteh, S. Akimbo, Pauline Bakurin, and Sasum Sillah represented the 1st accused (Saihou Drammeh), and 2nd accused (Lamin Gassama) in the hearing.
Hearing continues on 12th July 2022.