By Mamadou Dem
Muhammed Bazzi, the Belgian-Lebanese business mogul and largest shareholder for Euro Africa Group, yesterday said that there was no agreement for his Company to compensate Gambia Ports Authority with the sum of D18,000,000.00 for allowing a flour mill corporation to use GPA land. Mr. Bazzi made these and more statements while continuing his testimony before the Janneh Commission of Enquiry on Wednesday, 11th October 2017.
He also raised claim against the former Government regarding the outstanding sum of $5,000,000.00 which he said, was in connection to rice imported by his Company on behalf of the former Government.
Mr. Bazzi told the Commission that the reason why he raised these issues before the Commission was for them to know the huddles he went through and how his Company suffered under the leadership of Yahya Jammeh; that he has no intention to sue the Government because it was useless for him to do so at the time.
However, Commission Chairman and Senior Counsel Sourahata Janneh, intimated to him that hence it was useless to him at the time, then it is still useless to him now; that the Commission cannot be used in bailing him out and at the same time there are limitations in bringing an action against a Government whose time has elapsed.
He finally told the business magnate, that their mandate is to investigate the former President’s financial dealings, families and close associates; that he cannot entertain Bazzi’s request which is subject to appeal, if he so wish. The document he sought to tender regarding the rice importation was rejected by the Commission and marked as rejected1.
Earlier, the witness testified that his Company was subsidising from outside otherwise his company would have been bankrupted; that due to the fact that his Company was heading to bankruptcy, he would not pay money into the personal account of the former president, as a form of incentive.
Mr. Bazzi produced a letter he addressed to the former president concerning the difficulties his company was facing which was applied and tendered by Counsel as exhibit. When asked by the Commission Chairman to read the content of the said letter he addressed to the former president, Bazzi said he could not read it based on emotional grounds. The Chairman asked the Secretary to the Commission, Alagie Kurang, to read out the letter to the Commission.
After the letter was read out by the Secretary, Counsel Bensouda asked Mr Bazzi whether his projects with ‘Nawec’ were cancelled as indicated in the letter addressed to him by the former president. In reply, Mr. Bazzi said some of his projects were cancelled as threatened by the former president while others were not because of the fact that those projects were awarded to his Company, based on international tender, financed by International Development Bank (IDB), OPEG among others.
Mr. Bazzi earlier produced a bundle of documents in a folder such as letters, Financial Statements and Reconciliations with Gambia Revenue Authority, relating to Euro Africa Group, which were admitted as exhibits.
He however promised to provide more documents on resolutions of financial statements of the Company as well as Eagle Board meetings, prior to 2009.
He said his Company was incorporated in March 2004 before being appointed as sole importers of fuel in the Gambia; that the reasons for incorporating the Company was due to their appointment as exclusive fuel importers. He however noted that the Ministry of Finance provides the price structure of fuel every month and promised to provide the price structure of fuel from the years 2004-2009 respectively.
On the Barajali ferry issue which the officials of GPA alleged was scrapped by Gam Petroleum, Mr Bazzi produced six photos of the said ferry and said at the time of obtaining the photos, Barajali cannot be considered as a proper ferry and handed over the photos to the Commission which Bensouda applied to admit as documents, intended to be relied on by the witness.
Before the photos were admitted, Commission Chairman, Sourahata Janneh asked Mr. Bazzi to whom the ferry was delivered to, before the photos were taken. In response, Mr. Bazzi said the ferry was delivered to Gam Petroleum by Gambia Port Authority adding that the said ferry had no engine and was taken to the ship yard for maintenance.
The witness further produced a letter of application to the Ministry of Finance to allow Gambia Milling Corporation to lease GPA land which was also admitted and marked as exhibits.
According to Mr Bazzi, Bilal Bazzi was his project manager who represented him in a meeting with top officials of GPA regarding the compensation of D18 Million for the land leased to the Gambia Milling Corporation but said there was nothing like compensation of such an amount.
Session continues today.