‘Commission of Inquiry acting in excess’ says Bazi, Mazegi

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Lawyers of businessmen Fadi Mazegi and Muhammed Bazzi have challenged the interim order of the Commission of Inquiry into the assets and financial activities of ex-President Jammeh, his family and associates.

In a suit filed at The Gambia Court of Appeal, the lawyers argued that the commission made the interim order “acting in excesses of its jurisdiction”.

The Commission of Inquiry and the Attorney General are the first and second respondents, respectively, in the case.

On 13 October, the commission issued an interim order prohibiting Bazzi and Mazegi, among others, from selling, assigning, mortgaging, charging or otherwise disposing of any of their movable and immovable assets directly or indirectly owned by them.

The assets include any of their companies or businesses in or outside The Gambia pending further order of the commission or the outcome of the inquiry.

The commission said the order was as a result of the fact that the duo have been identified by witnesses before the commission as close associates of former President Yahya Jammeh.  As a result, the commission is required to investigate their activities by its term of reference.

But in their legal suit at the Court of Appeal, the lawyers of Bazzi and Mazegi said the commission, by issuing such interim order, acted in excess of its powers, therefore the order should be considered “null and void”.

The lawyers argued that the country’s constitution, as supreme law of the land, did not give powers to the commission to issue interim orders restraining them as witnesses to the commission, from dealing any and all of their assets in and out of The Gambia.

“The Commission of Inquiry did not have cross jurisdictional powers to freeze the business assets or other assets outside of The Gambia,” Victoria and Farage Andrews, counsels for the businessmen, said.

They are seeking an order from the courts for “a stay of execution of the interim order”.

“The Commission erred in law and acted in a manner which was contrary to the provisions of the Constitution and the Commission of Inquiry Act under which it was established,” the counsels further argued. “The Act does not empower the commission to issue interim freezing orders.”

In July, the government launched the Commission of Inquiry to look into the assets and financial activities of the former President Jammeh and his close associates.

President Barrow, swearing-in the commissioners, said the commission is mandated to look into the management of some public enterprises as well as assets and financial transaction of the former President and some of his associates.

The Minister of Justice, Aboubacarr Tambadou, said the commission, established under the Constitution, is tasked to report back to his ministry.

Its chair, Sourahata Janneh, said the commission is both quasi-judicial as well as investigative.

“It must be clearly understood that the commission is not a law court and has no jurisdiction to hold a criminal trial,” he said.

“The terms of reference of the commission did not empower it to issue interim orders.  It is only a fact finding investigative commission with a mandate to make recommendations only after taking witnesses,” said in their file to the Court of Appeal. 

The case is set to be heard on the 6th November. 

Author: Sanna Camara
Source: Picture: Muhammed Bazzi