By Mamadou Dem
Mr. Yankuba Badjie, former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), yesterday was escorted by Prison Warders to the Janneh Commission of Enquiry, because he was regarded by the Commission as a close associate of the former president.
In his testimony, he told the Commission that the last position he held was Director General of the National Intelligence Agency but prior to that, he served as Deputy Director of the NIA for one year five months. However, he confirmed to the Commission that he is currently detained at the remand wing of Mile II undergoing trial at the High Court.
Mr. Badjie explained that he is aware of the Janneh Commission probing into the financial dealings of the former president, his family and close associates. However he revealed to the commission that he did not receive the documents, including the interim order from the commission describing him as a close associate of the former president. He was then given the opportunity to look at the documents which he said he did not receive while in detention.
He recalled that he was remanded at the said prison on the 24th February, 2017. At this juncture, he was given a copy of his statement which he went through and confirmed. The said statement was tendered and admitted in evidence. He also perused an asset declaration form, and was required to fill it and hand it over to the prison authorities for onward transmission to the commission.
The former Director General of the NIA told the Commission that he is not related to the former president, and that they only had a working relation; adding that he became the Director General of the NIA in 2014. He further stated that he was Director of Analysis before he went to the State House, noting that he was also head of the Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU).
Mr. Badjie adduced that he also worked with Gamtel as an operator and a technician for almost 4 years, starting from 1996 and later left Gamtel in 2000 and travelled to the USA to study telecommunication.
At this juncture, he was asked whether he knew a company called Alhamdullahi Petroleum and Mining Company (APAM) managed by Tony Ghattas, he responded in the affirmative and added that he had nothing to do with it. He testified that he also knows GAMICO but does not know its connection to the former president, stating that he was not asked to take their properties by General Saul Badjie.
According to him, he knows Tony Ghattas whom he found at the Gunjur mosque, noting that he did not have any connection with Mr. Ghattas. He said that he knows Gam Petroleum; adding that the General and Finance Managers came to his office and told him that they wanted to make a donation to the former president for the upcoming 2016 elections.
He further testified that he told them that it was fine, and that he had to relate the information to the former president, who asked him to tell them to deliver the donation to Saul Badjie at his office at State House. Mr. Badjie narrated that he accompanied them to Saul Badjie and they handed the sum of D3,700,000 to Saul Badjie.
On how he came to know the said sum, he responded that it was counted in his presence, while on the D500,000 donation, he said the same people donated it to the NIA whom he said told him that they wanted to make a donation but he referred them to the financial director, Saihou Sanneh. He said he never went to Gam Petroleum and asked for a donation.
The former NIA DG testified that he does not know why Gam Petroleum went to the NIA to make the donation but was quick to say that maybe it was because the NIA were doing some construction, and this was why they made the donation. He added that he knows Mr. Bazzi because he used to meet him on occasions like state banquet or 22nd July celebrations, further stating that he did not know Messrs. Mazegi and Tarik Mousa.
He told the Commission that he knows Mr. Muhammed Lamin Gibba and that they are related, stating that NIA had no business with Kanilai Group International (KGI) but acknowledged that he knows the Managing Director of KGI, Wureh Njie.
Earlier testifying, Mrs. Isatou Auba-Faal reappeared in connection to the leasing of Ocean Bay and Sun Beach Hotels respectively. She said she does not know anything about the leasing of the said hotels.
At this juncture, Counsel Musa Batchilly gave her a letter to go through, which she did and confirmed that she endorsed the said letter. The letter, which was addressed to the Managing Director of SSHFC from the office of the former president, was subsequently tendered and admitted in evidence. She also confirmed that she signed on behalf of the Secretary General, and that the directives came from the office of the former president.
According to her, she received minutes of a meeting from the then Secretary General for the leasing of the hotels, conveying executive directives. The said minutes were tendered and admitted as an exhibit.
“Were you ever present in any discussion at State House for the leasing of the hotels?” asked Counsel Batchilly. She answered in the negative.
Next to testify was Mr. Edward Graham, former Managing Director of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC), in relation to the same subject matter of the said hotels. He had appeared before the Commission before. He confirmed to the Commission that it is correct that he was the MD at the time of leasing of the hotels.
According to him, Ocean Bay Hotel was purchased around 2001 by SSHFC but the hotel did not realize any profit, further noting that it was purchased for D300,000,000, and for 10 years, SSHFC was not recovering any profit and more money was injected into the hotel amounting to D500,000,000. He said they were supposed to inject another D30,000,000 on the same hotel but he charged the management to review the investment by either selling or leasing the hotel. He said that he told the board that they were injecting money in the investment on the hotel and they were not getting returns, noting that the board agreed that the hotel should be leased.
At this juncture, he was given a letter to peruse but said he never saw the said letter. A letter of intent dated 28th May, 2013, written by Lawyer Ida Drammeh was tendered and admitted in evidence.
He was asked by Counsel Batchilly whether Cordial Company also wrote to him on the 1st of August, 2013, which he confirmed. He said he did not know how Cordial Company knew about the leasing of the hotels; adding that after board meetings, information flows.
According to him, when the issue of leasing arose, the board gave the management the green light and asked them to negotiate with Cordial Company. He said they wrote to Cordial, which also wrote back.
Further responding to Counsel Batchilly as to whether there were correspondences before the 4th of August, 2013, for getting prospective investors for the leasing of the hotel, he responded in the negative.
Mr. Graham testified that in June 2013, members of Cordial Company came to visit the hotel and when they returned, they wrote to the management of SSHFC on the 18th of August, 2013. At this juncture, the second letter of intent written by Lawyer Ida Drammeh was also tendered and admitted in evidence.
The witness was again given another document which he read out and confirmed that it was the final offer where Cordial Company showed interest to lease Sun Beach Hotel. A letter from SSHFC file was shown to the witness. He confirmed the said letter addressed to Lawyer Ida Drammeh written by SSHFC. The said letter was tendered and admitted in evidence.
Counsel Batchilly put it to him that the sum of €450,000 was the offer by Cordial Company to spend on the repair and refurbishment of the hotel, and that, €100,000 was also to be spent on the hotel all free of charge. In response, Mr. Graham denied it, and said that Cordial Company would deduct the €450,000 from the rent. He said there was uncertainty in the offer made by Cordial Company, and as a finance person, they would not be part of something that was uncertain.
Mr. Graham told the commission that as far as he was concerned, the office of the former president was not aware of the contract between Cordial Company and SSHFC. Responding to Commissioner Saine as to whether they involved their solicitor in the Cordial Company contract, he responded in the negative.
Meanwhile, the application sought by Barrister Abdulai Sisohor on behalf of SSHFC against the receivership was refused by the Commission, on grounds they said they they do not have the jurisdiction to entertain the application against Augustus Prom, the receiver of Ocean Bay and Sun Beach Hotels.
Sitting continues today.