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 prosecution has no evidence on counts 3,4 & 5.
Count three alleged that the Directors and Officers of corporations or companies of fraudulently appropriating property, or keeping fraudulent accounts, contrary to section 301 (a) of the Criminal Code, Cap 10:01 vol. iii Laws of The Gambia 2009.
The particulars of the offence stated that the 1st and 2nd accused, sometimes between January 2021 and October 2021, stored at the depot, and fraudulently appropriated 5919. 60 metric tons of Gasoil, valued at USD 4,695,189.94
The particulars continued that they stored at the depot 721.90 Metric tons of Gasoil, valued at USD 692, 323.76, being the property of ADDAX ENERGY SA, an International Oil Trader, in trust of Gambia Petroleum Storage Facility Ltd.
It further stated that the accused acted with intent to defraud, omitted to make a full and true entry, there of in the books and accounts of The Gambia Petroleum Storage Facility depot; thereby committed an offence.
Count four alleged that Directors and officers of corporations or companies fraudulently appropriated property, or kept fraudulent accounts, contrary to section 301(a) of the Criminal Code, Cap 10:01 Vol. Ill Laws of the Gambia 2009.
The particulars of the offence said Drammeh, and Gassama, sometimes between January 2021 and October 2021, at the depot fraudulently appropriated 6250.813 metric tons of Gasoil, and 5180.843 metric tons of Gasoline, valued at USD 9, 930, 021, 86.
The Gasoil and Gasoline were said to be the property of TRAFIGURA, an International Traders in trust of Gambia Petroleum Storage Facility Ltd.
The accused are alleged to have acted with intent to defraud, omitted to make a full and true entry thereof in the books and account of the Gambia Petroleum Storage Facility depot; thereby committed an offence.
Meanwhile, count five alleged that the Directors and officers of corporation or corporation, fraudulently appropriated property, of keeping fraudulent accounts, contrary to section 301 (a) of the Criminal Code, Cap 1001 Vol. Ill Laws of the Gambia 2009.
The particulars of the offence stated that the former Managing Director and former Operations Manager at the Gambia Petroleum Storage depot sometime between January 2021 and October 2021, stored at the depot, and fraudulently appropriated the 2, 394.32 Metric tons of PMS Gasoline, valued at USD 1.817, 888.98;
It stated that a quantity of 3, 042.00 metric tons of AGO gas oil valued at USD 2017. 606. 50, being the property of PSTV ENERGY DMMC an International Oil Trader, in trust of the Storage Facility was stored at the depot, and fraudulently appropriated by the accused with intent to defraud, omitted to make a full and true entry thereof in the books and accounts of the Gambia Petroleum Storage Facility depot; thereby committed an offence.
In his submission on count two of the charges, Lawyer Mene said the gist of the 3 counts is that the accused persons are alleged to have fraudulently appropriated various quantities of petroleum products mentioned in the charges.
Lawyer Mene said from the evidence before ‘this honourable’ court, the aggregate on these counts is the same quantities that were uplifted by the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) or part of the missing stock uncounted for as the negative balance of the OMCs part of which is recovered.
Lawyer Mene told the court that the products have been supplied in the usual way of trade at Gam Petroleum and by the standard practice and procedures as said by the Prosecution Witnesses who said it had been existing at Gam Petroleum even before the 1st and 2nd accused assumed office as General Manager and Operations Manager respectively.
“My lady, the few OMCs that have refused to replenish the products they uplifted on a negative balance have been taken to court by the Gam Petroleum Board of Directors. There are all indications that the outstanding balance will be paid in full and the Prosecution Witnesses from the OMCs said it here. The other important component of aggregate on the 3 counts is the testimony of the Police Investigator (PW12) who gave a very crucial statement here,” Mene Argued.
Lawyer Mene said in addition, the evidence of Lamin Touray (PW2) also indicated that there was a disparity between the book stock and that of the physical stock before the 1st and 2nd accused assumed office as General Manager and Operations Manager respectively at Gam Petroleum; and said Ousman M. Jallow, (PW4) confirmed during cross-examination that there was a vessel that was used to uplift fuel from Gam Petroleum without any record.
Lawyer Mene told the court that Abdou J. Bah, (PW12) said they recommended that a forensic audit be conducted from the inception of Gam Petroleum up to the 31st of October 2021 to determine who is responsible for the missing products at the depot.
Lawyer Mene further stated that the evidence before the honourable court is that the Forensic Audit was not done before the accused persons were charged and brought before the court.
Mene said Lamin Ceesay (PW6) from PURA told the court that it is vitally important to carry out a forensic audit in order to verify the claim of these International Traders which has been introduced in counts 3, 4 and 5.
“The charges said that the products were in the custody of the accused persons, that’s a misrepresentation. The products were in the custody of Gam Petroleum, not the accused. The provision in section 301 (a) is not talking about constructive meaning, it talks about personal. My lady, only when those provisions are met can you make the accused persons liable but those provisions are not met,” Mene said.
Lawyer Mene said all the evidence before the court simply demonstrate that the accused persons were the General Manager and Operations Manager at Gam Petroleum and evidence shows that at Gam Petroleum there are different departments from the account to other offices within the depot.
Lawyer Mene said none of the witnesses testified before the court at any time that the accused persons at any time took possession by themselves of any property of Gam Petroleum other than their incentives from PW1 to PW12.
“There is no evidence to suggest that the accused persons have falsified book stock at Gam Petroleum,” Mene said.
Lawyer Mene said in count 3, the charge itself did not belong to Gam Petroleum, section 301 is talking about properties that belong to Gam Petroleum and the charge in count 3 is saying that the property belongs to Addax Energy, not Gam Petroleum.
“So, there is absolutely no evidence before this court that suggests that either the 1st accused or 2nd accused received or possesses personally the said products mentioned in each of the said counts which are counts 3, 4 and 5,” Mene argued.
Lawyer Mene argued that since counts 3, 4, and 5 themselves, say the products belong to Addax, it is his submission that there is absolutely no evidence to show that neither the 1st accused nor the 2nd accused are directors or officers of Addax.
“My lady, it is my submission that the particulars do not disclose that the properties belong to Gam Petroleum,” Defence Lawyer Mene told the court. He further told the court that no evidence has been laid to support the particulars of counts 3, 4 and 5. The 3 counts do not make sense in line with the evidence laid before this court.
“I Therefore said it is inconsistent with the evidence and I urge my lady to uphold no-case submission on these 3 counts. Because count 4, is not the property of Gam Petroleum and the same applies to count 5. The properties belong to Addax, Trafigura and PSTV, not Gam Petroleum.”
Lawyer Mene said neither the 1st accused nor the 2nd accused ever work for these companies and that they have never personally possessed their products.
“The Prosecution wants this court to impose the liability for the missing products which PW12 said they are still investigating and that they will need a forensic audit to conclude. I am urging my lady to uphold the no-case submission concerning these 3 counts. Since the entire process of uplift from Gam Petroleum includes a whole lot of people. The accused persons can’t do what they are alleged to be doing,” Mene told the court.
Saihou Drammeh, (1st accused) and Lamin Gassama (2nd Accused) 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.
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.
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 case is adjourned to 12th July 2022 for the prosecution’s submission on ‘No Case to Answer.’