By Mamadou Dem
Mr. Pa Babucarr Mboob, former Director General of the Gambia Immigration Department, yesterday told Commissioners that no Chinese was a Gambian national under the Foreign Investment Programme.
Mr. Mboob was summoned to testify on the Citizenship Programme and other issues. The former Director disclosed to Commissioners that he was unlawfully terminated on the 22ndof June 2017, as a result of a bilateral cooperation with Italy; that he travelled with a permanent secretary to Italy and they met the consul and his counterparts to explain to him the challenges faced by his department in terms of immigration; that forty vehicles were approved for his department.
He however said when the vehicles were allocated, he pleaded to them to change the brand to Toyota which they did and four vehicles were sent to The Gambia; that one Ebrima Jaiteh explained the matter to the former Interior Minister Mai Ahemed Fatty, who told them that they wanted the vehicles to be changed. Mr. Mboob said he told Mr. Fatty that the vehicles were initially changed to a Toyota brand and the matter was forwarded to the Head of State who was able to address the matter amicably and the said vehicles were delivered.
At this juncture, Counsel Bensouda told him that his complaint about unlawful dismissal was not within their mandate but advised him to seek for advice on the matter.
Mr. Mboob revealed that he was told that he would be redeployed but described their action as malicious; that they teamed up against him; that he went to the PMO and was given a letter that he was discharged on medical grounds. He however told the Commission that the said PS did not have the powers to discharge him on medical grounds. Reacting further, he said this matter was supposed to be referred to the Medical Board for them to come up with their recommendations on his case.
On the subject matter that warranted him to appear before the Commission, he said under the Foreign Investment Programme, Miracle Company was to supply manual and Alien ID Cards; that as the watchman of Miracle’s contract, it was his duty and responsibility to update the Minister of the Interior on the contract; that without updating the Minister on the contract, it might lead to legal implications; that the Gambia Government is owing Miracle Company the sum of D9,000,000 and according to him, he brought this to the attention of the Minister and asked him to check whether the contract was valid.
According to Mboob, the foreign residency was processed by the same Company and they would process foreign ID Cards, collect the money and pay back in dollars which was deposited into a CBG account. He said he worked in the Immigration Department for 30 years and first came into contact with this programme in 2010; that he did not know when the programme started.
He said all communications with Miracle were channeled through their representative in the Gambia; that he did not know who collected monies from the Citizenship account at CBG but Miracle did not pay the outstanding balance owed to government.
Mr. Mboob further told Commissioners that he could not remember how long they worked with the Company to produce the Alien ID Cards, neither did he find out how much Miracle was earning from the Chinese nationals. “If the Ministry signed a contract, we make sure that we go by what is in the contract. The programme was beneficial because government benefited from it,” he told the Commission.
He said he might not know the involvement of the former president in the programme but their responsibility as immigration officers, was to ensure that monies were collected and deposited into the CBG account. He said Miracle had a share of 30% in the production of manual ID Cards which was dropped after the introduction of the biometric system in 2009.
He said no Chinese was a Gambian national under the Foreign Investment Programme.
Earlier, Mr. Omar Jatta, Managing Director of Mega Bank, appeared in connection to Kanilai Group International (KGI) and MALIGAM accounts, submitted to the Commission Secretariat.
According to Mr. Jatta, he was appointed by the Central Bank of The Gambia but prior to that he was a staff of CBG from 1980; that he retired in 2017 and became MD of the said bank in July, 2017.
He told the Commission that he could not produce some of the documents requested by them because they could not trace the records from the PHB archive; that the ownership and management of the bank changed over the period and the software system also changed.
On the KGI account, he informed the Commission that he had the certificate of business registration; that the account was opened in 2009 and the first transaction was done on the 11thSeptember 2009; that the sole signatory was Pa Ousman Bojang which did not change. He said the account is dormant.
Dwelling on MALIGAM, he testified that it was a current account opened on the 15th September 2009 and the signatories were Sanna Bah and Ansoumana Jammeh; that the outstanding amount in the account was D5, 390,000 and the account was frozen.
According to him, the total withdrawal from the account was D35,097,207.50 while the total credit was D29, 704,426.91; that the balance was D5,392,000. On the KGI account, he said the total debit was D3,382,184.25 while the credit was D3,389,732.68 and the balance was D7,548.48.
At this juncture, Counsel Bensouda asked the witness to make further search on the Kanilai Family Farms’ account and present them to the Commission. Mr. Jatta revealed that PHB Bank was owned by Nigerians but due to imprudent lending by the bank, CBG decided to take over the bank and they injected capital.
Responding to Commissioner Bai Mass Saine, he said the practice was not an arrangement for the long-term and CBG was not obliged to use this method as there were so many other options; but that this one was the best among them and the strategy was to attract investors.
On whether there could be someone else other than a former CBG staff to run the bank, he responded that the management of the bank was not restricted to CBG staff only but rather other interested parties; that he did not come across any record to show that the former president had interest in the bank.
Mr. Jatta stated that the bank was acquired by both the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance; that part of the proceeds generated would go back to government but that if there was any loss, Government and CBG would bear it.
However, the MD told the Commission that he was confident that the bank was making profit as it was working smoothly and is among the main capital banks in the country. He said he did not know whether the former president owned MALIGAM International Limited.
Mr. Abdou Cole, former Deputy Chief of Mission and Head of Chancery at the Gambian Embassy in the US, reappeared in connection to monies transferred into the said embassy’s account.
In his testimony, he said he was transferred to the embassy from 2005-2009 and was overseeing the administrative and financial matters of the embassy; that he also co-signed accounts as a signatory.
The former Deputy Chief of Mission testified that Mr. Lamin Sanyang was the financial attaché’ who keeps the books of the embassy and reports to him (Cole) and the ambassador.
According to him, negotiations were done in Banjul and Mr. Sanyang would travel to Banjul and send the invoices from the office of the former president and they would get back to him (the former president) via email for approval; that upon approval, the money would be disbursed to them to carry out transactions for the former president. He said Mr. Sanyang was exchanging emails on the procurement for the disbursement of funds.
He said when he queried about the reasons for the money, Mr. Sanyang told him that it was for the president and was strictly confidential; that he (Sanyang) would ask him whether he wanted to challenge the former president but he always responded in the negative; that he already had a problem with the former president.
The witness confirmed that the embassy banked with City Bank in USA and he handed over to Mr. Musa Mboob, noting that Mr. Sanyang was recalled in December 2017, while he (Cole) left in 2009. He however said he could not remember who replaced Sanyang as financial attaché’
Documents relating to the Embassy Account including bank statements were tendered and admitted as exhibits. Mr. Abdoulie Jallow, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, also reappeared in connection to The Republic of China/Taiwan Grants and Loans respectively.
According to him, between 1995 and 2015, the Gambia Government had five loans from the said Republic; that the first loan agreement was a Project on Agriculture and Light Industries to the tune of $35,000,000 which was acquired in August, 1995. He said the loan was recorded in their Debt Management System but they could not trace the loan agreement.
“We recorded $30,000,000 in our records but the withdrawal of $5,000,000 was not brought to the attention of the Ministry,” he revealed.
When told by Counsel that the sum of $2,220,000 found its way back to the CBG account, PS Jallow responded that this was not brought to the attention of the ministry; that they signed for $35,000,000 as loan but in terms of disbursement, they recorded $30,000,000.
He stated that the interest rate on the loan was 4% with a five year grace period, maturing in 2015; that they paid the sum of $41,691,140, noting that a sum of $11,691,940 was the interest on the $30,000,000.
When asked by Counsel whether the loan was ratified by the National Assembly, he said loans ratified by NAMs are usually captured in their data base but notwithstanding, he promised to find out. On NAWEC Power Supply Contract Project, he said it was meant for the purchase of generators and they secured a loan to the tune of $5,000,000 on the 18th December 2002, which was signed; that the attracted interest on the loan was 4% with a grace period of 5 years and maturity period of 25 years.
Mr. Jallow revealed that the interest on this loan was $3,800,000 and the sum of $1,156, 665 was outstanding but after he visited the Kotu Power Station, he was told that there was no 6 Mega Watts generator at the station.
The third loan he dwelled on was on the Supply of three 6 Mega Watts generators at the Kotu Power Station, which was dated 1st of April 2002, amounting to $25,542,000; that this attracted an interest of 4% with a grace period of 8 years and 25 years maturity. He stated that the sum of $12,770,954 was outstanding on this loan.
The generators, he said, were supplied by Global Trading Group before the contract was signed. On the fourth loan that the former Government entered into with China on Taiwan, was the Micro Finance and Capacity Building loan; that the loan amounted to $1,000,000, and was dated 8th November 2004, with an interest of 3% and 5 years grace period, maturing in 20 years.
He said out of this loan, the sum of $500,000 was disbursed to the Social Development Fund as a grant and the remaining $500,000 was cancelled.
He finally testified that the fifth loan was for the construction of a Technical and Vocational Skill Centre at Siffoe; but that there were directives for the centre to be relocated to Ndemban Village. He said the loan was $3,600,000 and $1,700,000 was cancelled in 2013 when the former government terminated diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Sitting continues today.