Jammeh influenced the leasing of Sun Beach Hotel Lawyer Batchilly Reveals

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lawyer Musa Batchilly, yesterday challenged Mr. Edward Graham, former managing director of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, before the Janneh Commission that the former president, Yahya Jammeh, influenced the leasing of Sun Beach Hotel. And in response, Mr. Graham confirmed it.  

Mr. Graham reappeared in connection to the leasing of Ocean Bay and Sun Beach Hotels to BP Investment Group. 

He told the commission that it was correct that there was a letter from Cordial dated the 13th of August, 2013; adding that SSHFC’s desire was to get someone who would refurbish the hotel, especially the leaking roof.

After confirming the said letter, he testified that a new client had nothing to do with what happened 10 years ago, noting that initially, the sum for the investment was D300,000,000 and eventually it was D400,000,000.

At this juncture, he was given a document to go through, which he did, and said that he had seen it before. He added that apart from BPI, there was another company that offered to lease Ocean Bay Hotel to the tune of D2, 000,000 per annum but that offer was rejected.

According to him, they negotiated with BPI when they made some proposals to pay for the leasing of Ocean Bay Hotel. Again, another document was given to him to identify, which he did and stated that it was a directive from the office of the former president to deal with BPI.

He said the first 5 years; BPI offered €1000 as well as for the 2nd 5 years. He confirmed that BPI was to deduct €6000, noting that according to the executive directives, the hotel would be leased to BPI.

At this juncture, Counsel Musa Batchilly put it to him that Ocean Bay Hotel was purchased to the tune of D45, 000,000, which was confirmed by the witness. However, Lawyer Batchilly said it was not a good deal but Mr. Graham challenged that it was indeed a good return.

Counsel Batchilly further put it to him that the sum of $6,500,000 was spent on Ocean Bay Hotel for renovation, and that the leasing of Ocean Bay and Sun Beach Hotels was inspired by the former president through a directive. In response, Mr. Graham said it was not to his knowledge.

Counsel Batchilly then put it to him that they could have got a better offer to lease Ocean Bay Hotel, and the witness agreed.

At this juncture, SSHFC board resolution was tendered and admitted as exhibit. The witness further confirmed that the board resolution came after the directive.

Lawyer Batchilly also told the witness that after the board meeting, SSHFC wrote to the office of the former president to lease Ocean Bay Hotel and later got an approval from the said office.

According to Batchilly, after the approval, there was an agreement between SSHFC and BPI to lease Ocean Bay Hotel. Further putting it to the witness, he said BPI did not seek approval of SSHFC to renovate Ocean Bay Hotel, which was confirmed by the witness.

Putting it to the witness, Counsel Batchilly said BPI failed to present receipts, invoices and bill of quantities to show their expenses on the renovation of Ocean Bay Hotel.

At this juncture, a correspondence written by BPI was tendered and admitted in evidence. Mr. Batchilly told the witness that in 2011, and 2012, there was an executive directive to purchase Sun Beach Hotel to the tune of $5,900,000.

Again, a letter from the office of the former president authorising the sale of Sun Beach Hotel was tendered and admitted as exhibit.

At this point, Counsel Batchilly put it to the witness that the former president influenced the leasing of Sun Beach Hotel to BPI, which was confirmed by Mr. Graham.

The witness disclosed to the commission that the investment on Ocean Bay Hotel was not bad, but it was the operation where tax payers’ money was not put in good use.

Hearing continues today.        

Author: Dawda Faye