By Landing Ceesay
The Police Investigator Superintendent Abdou J. Bah gave testimony in the Gam Petroleum Corruption Trial at the High Court of the Gambia.
Mr. Bah appeared in Court on Monday as the Twelfth Prosecution Witness (PW12) 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.
Mr. Bah told the court that he has been in the service for eight years and that he was posted at Special Investigation at Gambia Police Force; and that he knows both the 1st and 2nd accused persons as General Manager and Operations Manager during the police investigation at the depot.
The witness who is on secondment at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said on the eve of President Adama Barrow’s nomination, he received a call from his officer commanding to report to the PURA building at Kairaba Avenue.
Upon arrival at the place, he added that he was briefed that there was a particular person that the Gam Petroleum Board were interested in and they needed police assistance; before explaining the person in question was the 1st accused (Saihou Drammeh) , the former General Manager of Gam Petroleum.
Mr. Bah told the court that he was part of the investigators tasked to conduct a search on the 1st Accused Person’s (Saihou Drammeh), and said they went to the 1st accused’s residence somewhere around Kairaba Avenue but they did not find him there.
PW12 stated that they (the investigators) continued their surveillance on the 1st accused for about 40 minutes, then the 1st Accused Person came on his own and interacted with them briefly.
He said they went upstairs of the PURA building at the conference hall with the 1st accused where they found some people sitting there, and the people at the conference hall were the Chairman of the Gam Petroleum Board of Directors Abdoulie Tambadou, and other people he did not know.
The witness told the court that the Board of Directors of Gam Petroleum wanted to interact with the 1st accused and that his senior in the police Lamin Cham was allowed to witness the conversation that happened between the people in the hall and the 1st accused, when he was downstairs together with some police officers waiting for them.
Mr. Bah said when his superior Lamin Cham came down from the conference hall; they were instructed to go with the 1st accused to the Gam Petroleum storage facility at Mandinary; and said they were escorted by some PIU officers in two vehicles to the Gam Petroleum Mandinary Depot.
He said while they were at the depot, the 2nd Accused Person (Lamin Gassama) came there on his own and they spent the whole night there; and said the 2nd accused was doing reconciliation of petroleum products because there was fuel shortage and that petroleum products were missing or unaccounted for.
PW12 further told the court that the 2nd accused was doing reconciliation with the aid of his computer, and said no information was shared with them because they (the investigators) were warned to only guard the suspects and not to interfere, while they (the suspects) do the reconciliation.
“This exercise took the whole night up to the following day around 8pm in the next day,” he told the court.
Bah told the court that the accused persons could not complete the reconciliation at the time and they were asked to go with them to the Petroleum House at Turntable in Brusubi to present what they have.
He said at the Petroleum House, they went to the 3rd floor where some members of the Gam Petroleum Board of Directors were sitting, including the Chairman Abdoulie Tambadou waiting.
The witness told the court that he was waiting at the waiting room while the accused persons were doing the presentation to the Gam Petroleum Board of Directors, and added that after the conclusion of the meeting that day, they, including the accused persons, all returned to their various homes.
The witness said 2 or 3 days later, while at home at the Police Line, he received a call from his Commanding officer (Lamin Cham) instructing him to go to the Police headquarters to make certain entries in the diary; and said prior to Cham’s call, he already received a phone-call instructing him to report to the Police headquarters.
Mr. Bah said on arrival at the police headquarters, he found the accused persons at the Serious Crime Unit together with their Lawyer Badou Conteh, the deputy Crime Management Coordinator (CMC), Buba Sarr, ASP Lamin Cham and some other junior officers.
The police investigator said on his arrival, there was already an ongoing argument between Badou Conteh and the Deputy CMC on why the accused persons were moved from the Gam Petroleum to the Police Headquarters.
He said according to the argument, the accused persons refused to continue with the reconciliation they were doing at Gam Petroleum that their lawyer denied.
The witness continued that while they were arguing, the Deputy CMC received a call and later called on him and other policemen to board a pickup vehicle to the Kairaba Police Station where the Inspector General of Police was waiting for them. He added that they met the Inspector General of Police and one Mr Aboubacar Jawara at the CID Office, upon arrival at the said police station.
“The IG explained to us that there was another issue- Abubacar Jawara was there to complain about the issue. We listened to his narration,” he told the court.
Mr. Bah said after the narration, they were instructed to effect an arrest on a lady by the name Kaddijatou Kebbeh concerning the complaint of Abubacar Jawara; and said when they returned from Kaddijatou Kebbeh’s house to the Kairaba station; she was confronted with the information in the presence of IGP, deputy CMC and Abubacar Jawara, but denied the allegation.
He said Abubacar Jawara alleged that he gave some money to the young lady for the purchase of fuel which was not supplied and he (Abubacar Jawara) wanted to know where the money was.
The Prosecution Witness told the court that they continued with their investigation into the Gam Petroleum issue with the help of the accused persons, and said they did a reconciliation with the oil marketing companies (OMCs) in trying to find out the missing petroleum products.
“The OMCs were invited to the Police Headquarters to do a reconciliation with the accused persons and they took turns in doing that. We called each OMC into the hall, those who came with their presentations were allowed to present in the presence of their lawyers. It was a very tedious exercise. Some of the OMCs requested time,” Mr. Bah said.
PW12 said the statements of the OMCs that were in the negative balance accepted it and that the statements of those OMCs were obtained.
He said during their investigation, they found out that the negative balances were stock issued to the OMCs who were not having physical stock at the Depot at that material time.
Mr. Bah said during the course of their investigation, they found out that the stock balance at Gam Petroleum Depot was either for the international traders or the local OMCs; saying “most of the things they came to know about Gam Petroleum, was through the accused persons”.
Witness Bah told the court that the reconciliation continued as they were struggling with getting information from the international traders, and sometimes they found it difficult to have some files from Gam Petroleum.
“That was how the process was going. It was a very difficult one,” he said.
He said the OMCs that were doing the reconciliation were GNPC, Afri Oil, GACH Global, Pure Energy and others he could not remember; and added that GNPC, GACH Global, Pure Energy and Afri Oil were all in the negative and they took stock from Gam Petroleum, which they failed to replenish.
Mr. Bah said the investigators went to the Jah Oil facility at Brikama to inquire about the fuel the company replenished to Gam Petroleum in the name of GACH Global to clear their negative balances.
He said the OMCs were making efforts to settle their negative balances that they had with Gam Petroleum; and said after the reconciliation, they continued with their investigation and submitted it to their superiors for review and further advice.
The report of their investigation dated 28th December 2021 was tendered in court and admitted into the records, following no objection from the defence Lawyer.
The defence Lawyer Christopher E. Mene requested to be given time to study the report and said he was “seeing it for the 1st time”.
Page 16 of paragraph D of the Report of the investigations revealed the stock balances of the international traders as of 31st October 2021.
On page 31, the investigators recommended that the OMCs in the negative balance and the accused persons be charged with conspiracy; and the General Manager (1st accused) and Operations Manager (2nd accused) as well as the OMCs in the negative be charged with economic crimes.
Lawyers M.D Mballow and Abdul Aziz Saho 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.
The cross-examination of the witness continued today at the High Court in Banjul.
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