MALIGAM International owes D5.4 M to Mega Bank -MD Omar Jatta testifies

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Omar Jatta, managing director, Mega Bank, yesterday told the Janneh Commission that MALIGAM International owes the bank the sum of D5, 400, 000.  

Mr. Jatta appeared in connection to Kanilai Group International (KGI) and MALIGAM accounts submitted to the commission’s Secretariat.

According to Mr. Jatta, he was appointed by the Central Bank of The Gambia but prior to that he was a staff of CBG from 1980 but retired in 2017 and became MD of the said bank in July, 2017.

He told the commission that he could not produce some of the documents requested by the commission because they could not trace the records from the PHB archive; adding that the ownership and management of the bank had changed over the period and the software system had also changed.

On KGI account, he informed the commission that he had the certificate of business registration and the account was opened in 2009 and the first transaction was on the 11 September, 2009, and the sole signatory was Pa Ousman Bojang which did not change. He said the account is dormant.

Dwelling on MALIGAM, he testified that it was a current account opened on the 15 September, 2009, and the signatories were Sanna Bah and Ansumana Jammeh, further stating that the outstanding amount was D5, 390,000 and the account was frozen.

According to him, the total withdrawal from the account was D35,097,207.50 while the total credit was D29, 704,426.91 and the balance was D5,392,000. On KGI account, he said the total debit was D3,382,184.25 while the credit was D3,389,732.68 and the balance was D7,548.48.

At this juncture, Counsel Bensouda asked the witness to make further search on Kanilai Family Farms account and present them to the commission. Mr. Jatta revealed that PHB bank was owned by Nigerians but due to imprudent lending by the bank, CBG decided to take over the bank and they injected capital.

Responding to Commissioner Bai Mass Saine, he said the practice was not an arrangement for the long-term and CBG was not obliged to use this method as there were so many other options but this one was the best among them and the strategy was to attract investors.

On whether there could be someone else other than a former CBG staff to run the bank, he responded that the management of the bank was not restricted to CBG staff only but rather other interested parties. He added that he did not come across any record showing that the former president had interest in the bank.

Mr. Jatta stated that the bank was acquired by both the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance; adding that part of the proceeds generated would go back to government but if there was any loss, the government and CBG would bear it.

However, the MD told the commission that he was confident that the bank was making profit as it was working smoothly and is among the main capital banks in the country. He said he did not know whether the former president owned MALIGAM International Ltd. 

Abdou Cole, former deputy chief of Mission and head of Chancery, at the Gambian Embassy in America, U.S.A., reappeared in connection to monies transferred into the said embassy’s account.

In his testimony, he said he was transferred to the embassy from 2005-2009 and he oversaw the administrative and financial matters of the embassy, further stating that he also co-signed accounts as a signatory.

The former deputy chief of Mission testified that Mr. Lamin Sanyang was the financial attaché’ who keeps the books of the embassy and also reports to him (Cole) and the ambassador.

According to him, negotiations were done in Banjul and Mr. Sanyang would travel to Banjul and send the invoices from the office of the former president and they would get back to the former president via email for approval. He said upon approval, the money would be disbursed to them to carry out transactions for the former president. He said Mr. Sanyang was exchanging emails on the procurement for the disbursement of funds.

He said when he queried about the reasons for the money, Mr. Sanyang told him that it was for the president and was strictly confidential and he (Sanyang) asked him whether he wanted to challenge the former president but he responded to him in the negative and added that he already had a problem with the former president.

The witness confirmed that the embassy banked with the City Bank in U.S.A. and he handed over to Mr. Musa Mboob, noting that Mr. Sanyang was recalled in December, 2017, while he (Cole) left in 2009. However he could not remember who replaced Sanyang as financial attaché’ 

Documents relating to the embassy Account including bank statements were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

Mr. Pa Bubacarr Mboob, former director general of Immigration, testified in connection to the Citizenship Programme and disclosed to the commission that he was unlawfully terminated on the 22nd of June, 2017, as a result of a bilateral cooperation with Italy.

He said he travelled with a permanent secretary to Italy and they met the consul and his counterparts explained to him about the challenges faced by his department in terms of immigration and they approved forty vehicles for the Department of Immigration.

However, he said when the vehicles were allocated, he pleaded to them to change the brand to Toyota which they did and four vehicles were sent to The Gambia; adding that one Ebrima Jaiteh explained the matter to the former Interior minister, Mai Ahemed Fatty, who told them that they wanted the vehicles to be changed.

Mr. Mboob said he told Mr. Fatty that the vehicles were initially changed to a Toyota brand and the matter was forwarded to the head of state who was able to address the matter amicably and the said vehicles were delivered.

At this juncture, Counsel Bensouda told him that his complaint about unlawful dismissal was not within their mandate but, however, she advised him to seek for an advice on the matter.

Mr. Mboob revealed that he was told that he would be redeployed but described their action as malicious, further stating that they teamed up against him; adding that he went to the PMO and was given a letter that he was discharged on medical grounds. However, he told the commission that the said PS did not have the powers to discharge him on medical grounds.

Reacting further, he said his matter was supposed to be referred to the Medical Board for them to come up with their recommendations on his case.

On the subject matter that warranted him to appear before the commission, he said under the Foreign Investment Programme, Miracle Company was to supply manual and Alien ID Cards. He said as the watchman of Miracle’s contract, it was his duty and responsibility to update the minister of the Interior on the contract.

He further stated that without updating the minister on the contract, it might lead to legal implications; adding that The Gambia government is owing Miracle Company the sum of D9,000,000 and according to him, he brought this to the attention of the minister and asked him to check whether the contract was valid.

According to him, the foreign residency was processed by the same company and the company would process the foreign ID Cards, collect the money and pay back in dollars which was deposited into a CBG account. He said he was in the Immigration Department for 30 years and he first came in contact with this programme in 2010. However, he said he did not know when the programme started.

He said all communications with Miracle were channeled through their representative in the Gambia; adding that he did not know who collected monies from the Citizenship account at CBG but Miracle did not pay the outstanding owed to the government.

Mr. Mboob further told commissioners that he could not remember how long they worked  with Miracle to produce the Alien ID Cards, neither did he find out how much Miracle was earning from the Chinese nationals. “If the Ministry signed a contract, we make sure that we go by what is in the contract. The programme was beneficial because the government benefited from it,” he told the commission.

He said he might not know the involvement of the former president in the programme but their responsibility as immigration officers was to ensure that monies were collected and deposited into the CBG account. He said Miracle had a share of 30% in the manual ID Cards which was dropped after the introduction of the biometric system in 2009.

He said no Chinese was a Gambian national under the Foreign Investment Programme.

Abdoulie Jallow, permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, also reappeared in connection to the Republic of China/Taiwan Grants and Loans respectively.

According to him, between 1995 and 2015 the Gambia government had five loans from the said Republic, noting that the first loan agreement was a project on Agriculture and Light Industries to the tune of $35,000,000 which was acquired in August, 1995. He said the loan was recorded in their Debt Management System but they could not trace the loan agreement.

“We recorded $30,000,000 in our records but the withdrawal of $5,000,000 was not brought to the attention of the ministry,” he revealed.

When told by the counsel that the sum of $2,220,000 found its way back to the CBG account, PS Jallow responded that this was not brought to the attention of the ministry; adding that they signed for $35,000,000 as loan but in terms of disbursement, they recorded $30,000,000.

 He stated that the interest rate on the loan was 4% with five years grace period and it matures in 2015 that they paid the sum of $41,691,140, noting that a sum of $11,691,940 was the interest on the $30,000,000.

When asked by counsel whether the loan was ratified by the National Assembly, he said loans ratified by NAM are usually captured in their data base but notwithstanding, he promised to find out.

On NAWEC Power Supply Contract Project, he said it was meant for the purchase of generators and they secured a loan to the tune of $5,000,000 on the 18th of December, 2002, which was signed, and attracted an interest of 4% with a grace period of 5 years and it matures in 25 years.

Mr. Jallow revealed that the interest on this loan was $3,800,000 and the sum of $1,156, 665 was outstanding but after he visited the Kotu Power Station he was told that there was no 6 Mega Watts generators at the station.

The third loan he dwelled on was on the Supply of  three 6 Mega Watts generators at Kotu Power Station, which was dated 1st of April, 2002, to the tune of $25,542,000, which attracted an interest of 4% with a grace period of 8 years and 25 years maturity. He stated that the sum of $12,770,954 was outstanding on this loan.

The generators, he said, were supplied by Global Trading Group before the contract was signed. On the fourth loan Gambia government entered with China was the Micro Finance and Capacity Building to the tune of $1,000,000, and was dated 8th of November, 2004, with an interest of 3% and 5 years grace period and it matures in 20 years.

He said out of this loan, the sum of $500,000 was disbursed to Social Development Fund as a grant and the remaining $500,000 was cancelled.

He finally testified that the fifth loan was for the construction of a Technical and Vocational Skill Centre at Siffoe, but there were directives for the centre to be relocated to Ndemban village. He said the loan was $3,600,000 and $1,700,000 was cancelled in 2013 when the former government terminated diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Sittings continue today.   

Author: Dawda Faye