5 former GRA officials freed

Friday, July 06, 2018

Five former officials of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) were recently acquitted and discharged by Justice Ebrima Jaiteh at the High Court in Banjul after the prosecution failed to prove the charges against them.

The officials: Lamin Fofana, Fatou Fatty, Ebrima Cham, Saikou Ceesay and Mawya Jammeh were charged with four counts including conspiracy to commit felony, economic crimes and stealing by public servants contrary to the laws of the Gambia.

The presiding judge stated that the bill of indictment was amended because the first accused person then on the initial bill of Indictment filed on the 4th day of December 2013 is Alieu B. Colley, a senior cashier of the Gambia Revenue Authority pleaded guilty to all five counts and was convicted on his own plea and then sentenced to all five counts in the form of a fine and in default to serve various prison terms and was ordered to pay compensation of D1, 300, 000.00 to the Gambia Revenue Authority and in default to serve a separate term of five years in prison.

Justice Jaiteh indicated that the conviction of Alieu B. Colley precipitated the amendment of the bill of indictment thus resulting in the deletion of count five, which is fraudulent false accounting contrary to Section 303(a) directed to Alieu B. Colley who was then used as an additional witness by the prosecution in the trial.

The trial judge said the accused persons were arraigned before the court on the 26th day of February 2014 and they all pleaded not guilty to the charges leveled against them by the prosecution.

He disclosed that the prosecution called four (4) witnesses and tendered cautionary and voluntary statements of the accused persons, flash drive cautionary voice conversation.

He further disclosed that the accused persons testified alone in their defence and tendered The Gambia Revenue Authority Code of Conduct Book, list of payments obtained from the GAMTAXNET system and The Gambia Revenue Authority receipts as defense exhibits.

Justice Jaiteh asserted that the cautionary statement of Alieu B. Colley dated the 6th of August 2013 was admitted into evidence and marked as Exhibit B.

Justice Jaiteh disclosed that Alieu B. Colley testified that he worked with the accused persons in the same Department but different units and he works at the cash office while some of the accused persons worked at the Enforcement Unit of Income tax Department, Records Office and the IT Unit.

Justice Jaiteh revealed that the five accused persons denied the allegations leveled against them by the prosecution and after a careful perusal of the testimonies and exhibits, including the flash drive (Exhibit 6), adduced in the trial the prosecution woefully failed to prove its case against the accused persons.

Justice Jaiteh disclosed that Exhibit 6, which is the flash drive allegedly containing the voice conversation could not be listened to in the computer and there was no transcript provided by the prosecution of the content.

He said Exhibit 6 was of no assistance to the court and could not be relied on as the flash drive carries nothing, adding that the prosecution woefully failed to produce a transcript of the alleged voice conversation from the flash drive.

He disclosed that he found it very difficult to pin down the accused persons on these allegations because there was no evidence on how the alleged stolen money was received by the accused persons and shared amongst them.

He stated that there was no complementary and cogent evidence in exhibit 6 showing that the accused persons conspired with Alieu B. Colley in the criminal design to defraud the Gambia Revenue Authority.

He averred that the accused persons in their testimony under oath before the court denied conspiring with Alieu B. Colley which he said he held as a fact and since the court held that the accused did not conspired amongst themselves to defraud the Gambia Revenue Authority of the said sum of money it would be a futile exercise if the court attempt to venture whether the accused persons action were detrimental to the economy of The Gambia.

Justice Jaiteh disclosed that from the totality of evidence before the court the prosecution did not make out the offence of conspiracy under Section 368 of the Criminal Code against the accused persons beyond reasonable doubts.

He pointed out that there is no bit of evidence, suggesting that the accused persons jointly or severally caused economy loss to the state in any way as a result  the charges brought under sections 5(f) and 5(g) of the Economic Crimes (Specified Offences) Act and sections 368 and 257 of the Criminal Code cannot stand.

Justice Jaiteh held that the prosecution failed to prove its case as required by law in all the counts against all the accused persons and they were acquitted and discharged accordingly on all the four counts.

Meanwhile, this reporter has been reliably informed that Alieu B. Colley was given a presidential pardon when Adama Barrow took office last year.

Author: Bruce Asemota