By Mamadou Dem
Gambia’s former ambassador to Qatar, Ansumana Jammeh and two others namely, Sanna Bah and Assan Badjie, yesterday Wednesday, 20 April, appeared before Principal Magistrate Omar Cham of the lower court in Banjul and consequently remanded them in prison custody.
The trio is charged with conspiracy to commit felony and official corruption.
When the case was called in a hushed court room, Chief Inspector Camara announced his appearance for the Inspector General of Police (IGP) while barristers Lamin S. Camara and Uzuma Achigbue appeared for the accused persons.
According to the particulars of offence on count one, it is alleged that the trio between the months of June 2010 to February 2011 in Banjul and diverse places in the Republic of The Gambia conspired among themselves and corruptly solicited and received the sum of one million five hundred and fifty thousand sixty five dollars (USD 1,550,065.00), equivalent to forty-five million five hundred and fifteen thousand dalasis, nine hundred and seven dalasis (GMD 45,515,907.00), through CONAPRO company in the discharge of their duties and thereby committed an offence.
Count two alleges that Mr. Jammeh between the months of June 2010 to February 2011, by virtue of his employment as the Gambia’s ambassador to Qatar and the Chief executive officer of MALIGAM, solicited and received the sum of one million five hundred and fifty thousand and sixty five dollars (USD 1,550,065.00) equivalent to forty-five million five hundred and fifteen thousand, nine hundred and seven dalasis (GMD 45, 515,907.00) through CONAPRO company in the discharge of his duties and thereby committed an offence.
However, all the three accused persons denied any wrong doing and upon entering a plea of not guilty by the court, prosecutor Camara applied for an adjournment to enable them present their witnesses on the next adjourned date.
Lawyer Uzuma applied for their clients to be released on bail, arguing that it is duty bound on the prosecution to prove their case. He said up to the time of their arraignment, the accused persons were on police bail.
“We enjoined or urge the court to allow the accused persons continue on their bail. The accused persons are responsible citizens, family men with very serious ties to their country, The Gambia. So there is no incentive that they would jump bail,” he submitted.
Counsel further appealed to the court to take into consideration that the offences for which the accused persons are charged with are ordinarily bailable as per Section 99 of the Criminal Code (CC) and 24 of the 1997 Constitution.
“We urge you to use your special discretion to allow them attend the trial coming from their homes. The police have said that they would present their witnesses by the next adjourned date. The accused persons would therefore not have any opportunity to tamper with investigations. For these reasons and for the fact that they have reasonable and reliable sureties for their release on bail, we urge the court to allow them continue on bail.”
Defence counsel Uzuma added “If the court is minded to agree with our application we urge that they continue on the same conditions earlier granted by the police.”
Reacting to the defence’s bail application, Chief Inspector Camara said “Prosecution at this moment is vehemently opposing the application for bail due to the ongoing investigations.” He added that releasing the accused persons on bail would tantamount to creating uncomfortable investigation for investigators.
Prosecution further submitted that the amount involved is huge and that the accused persons would flee the jurisdiction when granted bail. He said in this circumstance, they are objecting to the defence’s application for bail to the accused.
Replying to the prosecution’s objection, the defence argued that it did intimate to the court that they were ready to present their witnesses by the next adjourned date and the charge before the court is a substantive charge. He said there is nothing more to amend or change on the charge sheet and that the prosecution is therefore ready to proceed.
On the issue of the huge sum and flight risk, he argued that the innocence of their clients is presumed by the Constitution. He then referred the court to Section 24 (3) (A) of the 1997 Constitution. “In any case, I have told this court without been controverted that the police who investigated this matter found it necessary to allow the accused persons to enjoy their right to bail. I urge the court to disregard the opposition for bail as it lacks merit and urge you to exercise your discretion in favour of the accused persons,” submitted the prosecution.
At this juncture, the trial magistrate said he had listened to the submissions and arguments of both parties and would deliver a ruling on it today at noon.