By Mamadou Dem
Mr. Amadou Samba yesterday informed the Janneh Commission that his relationship with ex-president Jammeh was more of a social one and not a business partnership.
Mr. Samba testified that he had never participated in the negotiation for the sale of the Oil Company neither was he involved in the financial transaction or management of the Company. According to him, he was not involved in the said negotiation until when a contract was brought to him, which was the time he was involved in the transaction. He added that he was kept in the dark while describing his signature as a rubber stamp.
He however revealed that considering the nature of the environment at the time , he had no choice but to sign because when the former president decides, one dares not challenge it; that otherwise he will trample on the person. He pointed out that he also feared for his business and life.
Mr. Samba said he did not append his signature on a resolution dealing with a loan agreement amounting to $2.7 million involving SSHFC; that he was against the agreement but he had no veto power despite being the chairman of the Corporation. He claimed that he advised the Managing Director of the Corporation to return the money otherwise they will find themselves in prison.
On the sales of Kairaba Beach Hotel by the ex-President, Mr. Samba said he was the chairman of the board when the hotel was bought by MA Kharafi and Sons and the evidence given by MA Kharafi’s Country Coordinator was all concocted because he did not sign any agreement; that rather it was signed by Edward Gomez. He added that when the hotel went into liquidation, he was given an offer including Sun Beach Hotel but he needed a joint venture in Sun Beach Hotel and they decided to buy it at a tune of $11 million.
The business tycoon further informed Commissioners that his role as Chairman in many companies and institutions were symbolic because there were no board meetings; that Millennium Investment Company belongs to former president Yahya Jammeh including Kairaba Beach Hotel after he conducted his search.
Mr. Samba however refuted speculations or claims that he was a close associate of Jammeh because he never had any business relation with the former president; that if one involves him or herself in business with Jammeh, he will use all the money and send the person to jail; that their relationship was only based on friendship. He said Jammeh found him doing business in which he was successful since 1987, noting that Jammeh used to borrow money from him and if he asked him, he creates problems for him. According to Mr. Samba, the former president was using him at his own advantage and he had once opted to leave the country for fear of his life.
On the acquisition of Kairaba Beach Hotel by the former president, he said he had never sat with the former president after the acquisition of the said hotel; that he was appointed by the late Baba Jobe but he did not play any role in the negotiation of the said hotel neither had he any discussions with Momodou Lamin Sonko, Coordinator of MA Kharafi; that all the allegations and evidence given by Mr. Sonko against him were fabricated.
He said he had never had any business relationship with Jammeh but that Jammeh proposed to do business with him when he fell out with the late Baba Jobe; that this never materialized noting that he is neither a shareholder of Jammeh’s Companies nor a signatory to any of his accounts.
Responding to Commissioner Bai Mass Saine’s question, the witness said former president Jammeh had never given him any money in the form of Bank transfer; that all the allegations against him were meted by his enemies just to assassinate his character. He however acknowledged the fact that as a businessman, he was supporting Jammeh’s APRC party financially but he was never involved in business or politics with him. “My relationship with Yahya Jammeh was more on the phone and in fact it was more of a Social relationship,” said Samba.
Mr. Samba said the D3, 000,000.00 paid to him from Kanilai International Festival’s Tribute to Michael Jackson Account out of which, D11, 000,000.00 was deposited; that he tried to find out the purpose the payment was meant for; but that he believed it was for the sale of foreign currency which he used to do for the former president particularly in CFA. He however testified that the said transaction occurred a long time ago and he could not say what exactly it was meant for because he never knew a day like this will come.
When put to him by Counsel that his statement to the investigators shows otherwise, he said he did not do his homework then and that’s the reason for the contradiction in the statement and the evidence before the Commission.
At that juncture, Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda, told him that given that the said sum paid to him was from public coffers, he is required to account for it. Mr. Samba then said “I will make every effort to account for the D3, 000,000. A copy of the cheque issued in 2010 bearing the said amount was admitted in evidence as an exhibit.
Next to testify was the former Solicitor General and Legal Secretary, Mr. Pa Harry Jammeh, who was part of a delegation to Greece for a Joint Venture Agreement to acquire the Aljamdou and Kansala ferries.
According to Mr. Jammeh he was called and informed that he was nominated to be part of the delegation but he couldn’t remember who actually called him; that he signed the agreement because they were instructed by the office of the former president to do so prior to returning to The Gambia; that as legal adviser of Government, he gave his opinion on the agreement.
Further responding to Mrs. Bensouda, he said the Gambian delegation couldn’t say much on the agreement because the Greeks travelled to the Gambia before and held meetings with the former president; that he can’t remember who represented the office of the former president in Greece. According to him, at the time of the negotiation, he did not know how much was involved in the joint venture agreement. On the issue of sustainability of the ferries in Gambian waters, the witness said that never arose while they were in Greece. “I was not happy with the way and manner we were asked to sign because I thought we were negotiating,” said the witness. On how many properties were purchased by the former president while he was serving as Sheriff of the High Court, Mr. Jammeh testified that he remembered the former president buying the Mahoney Estate belonging to the Mahoney Family. At that juncture, Mrs. Bensouda urged the witness to furnish the Commission with his tenure as Solicitor and Sheriff of the High Court respectively.
Answering questions put to him by Commissioner Saine, Jammeh said he did not ignore the law for appending his signature on the Joint Venture Agreement based on Presidential directives; but that he acknowledged that it was unconstitutional and improper.
He adduced that with or without their signatures, the agreement would have been effected and without him signing, his life would have been at risk. Responding to Chairman Janneh, the witness said it was the Sheriff Division that represented Yahya Jammeh at the sales of the Mahoney Estate; that Mr. Amadou Samba represented him in some of the properties he purchased and some of the properties were made at fair market values while others were not.
Mr. Momodou Badjie, former Managing Director of the Gambia National Petroleum Company (GNPC) dwelled on the shares GNPC ventured into at the time he was MD; that in Gam Petroleum, they invested 10% while 15% was invested in Gambia Food and Feed Industry, GFFI; that prior to investing into GFFI, they were told that the investors were Qatari nationals and would handle everything including the construction of the facility and its management.
He said a meeting at state house chaired by then secretary general Njogu Bah, intimated to them that it was a presidential directive for GPA, GNPC and SSHFC to invest in this project and they complied; but that he told them GNPC was in a position to put only 15%; that he left them alone because as Managing Directors, they would not invest into GFFI but the situation at the time compelled them to do so.
Sitting continues today at the Djembe Hotel in Kololi.