Edward Singhatey’s testimony was contradictory, Balla Garba Jahumpa Tells Janneh Commission

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Balla Garba Jahumpa, former minister of Finance and Economic Affairs under the AFPRC regime, yesterday told the Janneh Commission that Edward Singhatey’s testimony was contradictory.

He appeared before the Janneh Commission in connection to a loan facility amounting to $35,000,000 awarded to the AFPRC government by the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Prior to dwelling on the subject matter, he made a synopsis of portfolios he held under the former government and told the commission that the last position he held was minister of Works. He added that he was in the service for 52 years.

The former Finance minister informed the commission that he was involved in the acquisition of the said loan facility from China; adding that in March 1995, he took over from Bakary Bunja Darboe as Finance minister while the late Ousman Koro Ceesay took over from him (Jahumpa) on the said portfolio.

According to him, he followed the testimonies of the former members of the AFPRC, such as Edward Singhatey, Yankuba Touray and Lamin Karba Bajo. However, he said what he did not hear from them was the architect and facilitator for the restoration of diplomatic ties with Taiwan and acquisition of the loan, Alieu Conteh, whom he said is Gambian- American based in DRC. 

Mr. Jahumpa informed the commission that he received a call from Captain Ebou Jallow that he should answer to the former president, further stating that when he entered the former president’s office his presence was announced in the presence of Mr. Conteh and Captain Ebou Jallow. He said the former president told him that the World Bank and IMF had suspended their assistance to The Gambia government but that the council had agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

He disclosed that Captain Ebou Jallow and Alieu Conteh had been travelling between Banjul and Taiwan, further stating that they were arranging for two things, namely, the diplomatic relationship with Taiwan and a loan of $35,000,000 from Taiwan.

“I was never involved in the negotiation of this loan but the former president told me that Captain Ebou Jallow would lead a delegation to Taiwan and that I would sign the loan agreement as the minister of Finance on behalf of the AFPRC,” he revealed.

According to him, the former president told him that he would be given a Power of Attorney to sign the loan agreement. However, he said he told the former president that he wanted to take the loan agreement to his Permanent Secretary Alieu Ngum, as well as his technicians for a review of the terms and conditions of the loan.

He said the former president told him that it was already dealt with by Captain Ebou Jallow, further stating that upon their arrival in Taiwan, the former Taiwanese president told them that the former AFPRC chairman should sign the loan agreement.

Mr. Jahumpa told commissioners that he told the former Taiwanese president that the former AFPRC chairman was happy that they were able to restore diplomatic relations with them and he then signed the loan.

Upon their return to The Gambia, he said Captain Jallow came to him on two occasions asking about the loan agreement but he told him that it was with him (Jahumpa); adding that according to his notes, the loan was signed on the 9 August, 1995, and the purpose as indicated in the Power of Attorney was for Agricultural Development and Life-Scale Industries.

He told the commission that he took note that the maturity of the said loan was 20 years with a grace period of 5 years and an interest of 4%, further noting that Captain Ebou Jallow asked him to give him the loan agreement but he told Captain Ebou Jallow that they had to go to the former chairman of AFPRC.

He testified that they made an agreement to go to the former president and the council, adding that he told Capt. Ebou Jallow that the Ministry of Finance needed the loan agreement.

According to him, he made a follow-up and the former president told him that he gave the loan agreement to the then governor of Central Bank, Clerk Bayo, further testifying that he told the governor that he needed the loan agreement and promised to give it to him but to no avail.

Mr. Jahumpa informed the commission that he told Alieu Conteh the difficulties he had with the governor, and that he did not brief the Cabinet about the loan agreement; adding that the governor did not inform him when the loan arrived from the Exit Bank in China.

According to him, administratively, the council was superior to Cabinet; adding that when he requested to go with Ebou Jallow to brief council on the loan, Jallow told him that he was not a member of council and he could not join him on the briefing.

He said the airport terminal and Arch 22 contracts were awarded to contractors without the involvement of the ministry; adding that the airport terminal contract was awarded to Pierre Kudiabi-Attepa while the construction of the arch was awarded to Amadou Samba.

He further testified that he had no knowledge as to how the said loan was disbursed, noting that Edward Singhatey’s statement was contradictory when he said that the Finance Ministry should have taken ownership of the loan agreement when AFPRC opened a Special Development Account to which Singhatey was a signatory.

At this juncture, Counsel Amie Bensouda told him that as the minister of Finance then, his responsibility was more substantial on the loan, and he responded in the affirmative; adding that the governor was not helpful at the time.

On the $3,000,000 allegedly stolen by Ebou Jallow, he said he was in Washington DC attending a meeting with his permanent secretary when someone told him that it was announced that the said person allegedly absconded with the said sum of money.

However, he said while briefing the chairman on the meeting they attended in the U.S., he told him that he heard about the alleged theft by Ebou Jallow but Jammeh told him that the matter was investigated by council, and once the investigation was completed, they would get back to council which was not done.

Mr. Jahumpa disclosed that he wanted to sit with the governor to tell him the truth concerning the $3,000,000 and the governor told him that he could not tell how it happened and referred him to the chairman. He said former army officer, Musa Jammeh, informed him that Captain Jallow absconded with the said sum.

Responding to Commissioner Saine, he explained that the reason for having a single copy for the loan agreement was because he thought the ministry of Finance would take ownership of the loan agreement. He said they came back to The Gambia with documents only but not with money.

He said he came to know that a cash amount of $5,000,000 was brought in by Ebou Jallow through the testimony of Lamin Kaba Bajo and was quick to add that the said sum was never brought on the same flight he boarded as Captain Jallow.

According to him, he did not know the signatories of the account at CBG but came to know them through the testimony of Mr. Abdoulie Cham, former financial controller at the bank.

On withdrawals made by the late Baba Jobe from the CBG, he said he had no knowledge of that as he was not in the country at the time. “The loan agreement was nowhere to be seen when I was a minister,” he said.

Next to testify was Dominic Mendy, finance manager, Zenith Bank Gambia Ltd.; he reappeared in connection to JFP, MALIGAM International and West Wood Gambia Ltd. accounts as submitted to the commission.

According to him, the last transaction on Jammeh Foundation for Peace account was on the 23rd March, 2016, to the tune of D607, 000 while on MALIGAM, he said all the accounts were submitted to the commission.

On West Wood Gambia Ltd., he disclosed that they had four accounts, namely Dalasi, Dollar, Euro and Pound Sterling respectively and the signatories were Dragan Simona Geatina, Gibril Armmou Makaeh, Dragos Andrei Buzaiann and Tony Tanneta. He said the Dalasi account was opened on the 26 June, 2014, and the first transaction was D10, 000 while the total deposit into the account was D6, 321,960 and the last transaction was on the 23rd of January, 2017, to the tune of D103, 000 leaving a balance of D26, 513.18 and the account was frozen.

On the Dollar account, he said it was opened on the 8 July, 2014,with the same signatories and the first transaction was on the 13 July, 2017, with a deposit of $1,759,853 while the last transaction was on the 13 June, 2017, to the tune of $2,200leaving a balance of $309.59.

Dwelling on the Euro account, he revealed that it was opened on the 8 July, 2014, with the same signatories and there was no transaction on the account, further stating that the Pound Sterling account was opened on the same date as the Euro account but there was no transaction on it too.

At this juncture, account opening information and bank statements of the said accounts were admitted as exhibits. 

Author: Dawda Faye
Source: Picture:Balla Garba Jahumpa, Action man and Singhatey