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PW6 Cross-examined In GP Corruption Scandal Trial


The Gam Petroleum Storage Facility Depot in Mandinary

By Landing Ceesay

The Defence Lawyer Christopher E. Mene cross-examined Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) Director for Energy, Lamin S. Ceesay in the Gam Petroleum Corruption Scandal Trial at the High Court of the Gambia.

PW6 told the court that exhibit P72 is a claim from Atlas based on their book balance; while exhibit P69 (1) to P69 (5) were the weekly reports submitted to the Gam Petroleum and are actually weekly physical stock reports.

When asked whether in the physical stock report, the confirmed nominations of the shipment expected for that week are expected to be included in the report; the witness responded in the positive; adding that the weekly stock report is separate and distinct from the book balances in favour of any trader.

 “That is why you said there is no direct link between them” the Defence Lawyer asked.  “Yes” the witness responded.

The witness said he does not know who put in place the practice of Oil Marketing Companies to uplift products from Gam Petroleum on negative balances; and doesn’t know when the practice started at the depot.

“Is it correct that October 2021 was not the first time that fuel shortage ever occurred in The Gambia?” the Defence Lawyer asked.  “Yes, that’s correct,” PW6 responded.

He said it is possible that the fuel shortage used to be more frequent in the past than it is, from 2017 to date. 

Lawyer Mene: “You said the OMCs have the permission to import fuel. When an OMC is entitled to uplift on a negative balance, are they entitled to replenish, replace and repay the product they uplift?” PW6: “I would agree.”

PW6 said it is correct that all the OMCs are to have a throughput agreement with the Gam Petroleum; and that the throughput fees are paid to Gam Petroleum for every upliftment.

Lawyer Mene said since the OMCs have import licences for petroleum products, now OMCs on negative balances pay back from the imports they are supposed to make; and the witness responded in the positive.

“As a regulator, are you aware that some of the OMCs that took products on negative balance have either returned products to Gam Petroleum or pay what they took on negative balance?” The Defence Lawyer asked. 

“I am not aware and I would not deny it. There are some reconciliations, and some OMCs have paid and Gam Petroleum has also paid some traders,” PW6 responded.

PW6 said a similar situation that happened in October 2021which led to the fuel shortage is happening right now i.e. having more products in the book than the physical stock in the tanks. 

The witness said About 2 months ago; there was a disparity of 2,700 of HFO metric tons and the physical stock in the tanks and added that as of now, there is a disparity between the book stock of a particular OMC and the physical stock in the tank, almost 2,500 metric tons of HFO. 

 The witness continued that it sometimes happens that the book balance is more than the physical stock, and the situation will be worse if the shipment is not delivered. 

PW6 agreed that if the situation is worse because of a cancellation of a confirmed nomination that would put the 1st and 2nd accused under a very bad light. 

He said it would be bad to cancel the shipment if somebody had an interest in costing the 1st and 2nd in bad light to lose their positions at Gam Petroleum, all that person has to do is to scarce the confirmed shipment expected at the time of very low physical stock.

The witness told the court that there was a vessel confirmed to be on the way coming to deliver products to Gam Petroleum and that vessel failed to come; and that he has been monitoring the vessel for some time, but the tracker indicated that the vessel was in Dakar.

 “I am putting it to you that the vessel did not arrive because there are certain persons who had an interest in the position of 1st and 2nd accused persons, that’s why,” Lawyer Mene put it to the witness.

When the Defence Lawyer asked the witness whether in their regulation’s responsibility, SIS (NIA) has a role in PURA. The witness said it depends because they interact with them when it comes to national issues.

“You attended the same meetings during those crisis which was attended by Mr. Tambadou (PW5) and the 1st accused gave the reason for the fuel shortage. Did the 1st accused in any of the meetings you have attended say that the international traders refused to bring fuel because of the restructuring of the fuel price?” the Defence Lawyer asked.

“I cannot recall that from him, because in other meetings I heard that the price structure had been changed and because of the price change people were complaining,” the witness responded.

Lawyer Mene: “Is it not the 1st accused who said it is because of the price structure introduced by the 30 October 2021, that the OMCs that were on negative balances were refusing to import fuel to replace the product they have taken on negative balances because of they do so, they would be at huge losses.” PW6: “I think we all accept the manner and the sudden change all contributed to what happened.”

Lawyer Mene: “Because of the reduced price in the market while it is high in the international market. The traders refused to bring their products, is it not that’s what the1st accused was trying to put across.” PW6: “I can agree with this, but everybody was affected by the price.”

The witness said the price structure and the margins were reduced and there was general complaint and some of them felt it would lead to crisis at times; and that could lead to some OMCs not to replenish their stock on negative balances.

Lawyer Mene: “Are you aware, that Gam Petroleum had made payments to 3 International traders for stock that was supposed to be part of the book balances, especially ADDAX, TRAFIGURA and PSTV.” PW6: “Yes, I was aware but I do not know whether it was concluded.”

“I am aware that the board was in consultation with each of the chairman but not the payment,” the witness added.

The witness said PURA was not part of any particular figure given to the traders, and that PURA only received the claims and were compiling them; and added that at some point they heard that reconciliation was happening at different parts because they also asked Gam Petroleum to send them the balances of what they have so that they can also reconcile. 

The witness said PURA was not directly involved in the payment of the international traders and never provided Gam Petroleum with any figures for the payment.

The witness said during the crisis everybody was blamed, and he does not know whether the payment was made to the international traders.

Lawyer Mene: “Do you agree that they ought not to pay the 200 metric tons difference between exhibit P47 and based on exhibit D16?” PW6: “I agreed that Gam Petroleum issued certificates, I would not have seen why they ought to have paid more unless they have different prices.”

The witness said there should have been a forensic audit of all the payment receipts and should be done independently by a forensic accountant and then those who have to pay would pay. 

Lawyer Mene: “Does it bother you that they did these payments while you were collecting data?” PW6: “Of course, if a payment was made while we were collecting data.”

Mr. Ceesay appeared in Court as the Sixth Prosecution Witness (PW6) 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.

Lawyer M.D. Mballow is representing the State, while lawyers Christopher E. Mene, B. S. Conteh, S. Akimbo, Bakurin Pauline, and Sasum Sillah are representing the 1st accused and 2nd accused persons in the case.

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