By Mamadou Dem
Attorney for Mr. Muhammed Bazzi, Victoria Andrews, yesterday, while addressing the Janneh Commission, said that his client was not a close associate of the former president, as alleged by the Commission.
According to her, the Commission is empowered in sections 200 and 201 of the 1997 Constitution to probe into the financial dealings of the former President on public enterprises, such as NAWEC, SSHFC, Gam Petroleum and AMRC among others.
She told the Commission that Mr. Bazzi provided documents and also made statements to the investigators prior to his appearance before the Commission as a witness. However, she said Muhammed Bazzi was made a subject matter as far as the Commission was concerned.
At this juncture, she made reference to a letter dated 9th May, 2015; adding that it was not for her client to determine what was relevant or not but it is duty bound on the Commission to investigate. She revealed that both her and Mr. Bazzi had some constraints because they attempted to tender a publication from the internet which was rejected by the commission, and the Commission Chairperson further went on to say he did not trust all publications from the internet.
However, Mrs. Bensouda quickly objected and said the defence submission with regard to the internet publication was misleading; adding that the Chairperson dwelled on the report published on the internet but not how counsel Andrews put it. She then urged the Commission for the defence to be accurate in their line of submission.
According to Ms. Andrews, despite several difficulties, they encountered, she would still address the Commission on matters affecting her client (Muhammed Bazzi}, noting that some witnesses made unsubstantiated statements.
Ms. Andrews further submitted that an order from the Commission referred to Mr. Bazzi as a close associate of the former president but what remains unclear is the status of Mr. Bazz. However, she said despite the order referring to him as a close associate he was still summoned to appear before the Commission as a witness. She then made reference to a pending appeal before the Supreme Court.
At this juncture, Mrs. Bensouda objected and said counsel should be accurate regarding the action before the Supreme Court.
Counsel Andrews further submitted that her client was restricted from travelling from out of the jurisdiction by immigration officials based on an instruction from the secretary to the Commission, despite the fact that there was no order from the Commission.
On the financial dealings of the former President, she said it was not denied that her client was a shareholder of GAMVEG, Eagle and Gam Petroleum respectively.
She denied that Mr. Bazzi was a close associate of the former president as alleged by the Commission.
At this juncture, Mrs. Bensouda intervened and argued that as counsel assisting the Commission, she had received illicit answers from witnesses including Mr. Bazzi. However, she said it was not for her to determine as counsel who was a close associate of the former president or not, and it was incorrect that she referred to Mr. Bazzi as a close associate of the former president.
Her objection was upheld by the Commission Chairman, Sourahata Janneh.
Continuing further, Counsel Andrews stated that Mr. Bazzi was a shareholder of GAMICO Mining Company and the company did not sell or mine any sand between 2013- 2015. She added that Mr. Bazzi told the Commission that all documents of the company were taken by officers from the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). She said this was further confirmed by testimonies from government officials.
She went on to say that Euro Africa Group is a private company operating in The Gambia, noting that when its exclusivity licence for the importation of fuel expired, they applied for an extension which was granted by the former government.
She adduced that the company was supporting the former government at no cost, indicating that Mr. Bazzi is a shareholder on Gam Petroleum.
Ms. Andrews told the Commission that her client took the risk to build the storage facility, revealing that Mr Amadou Samba sold his share of Gam Petroleum to the former President.
Hearings continues today.