Premier Agro Oil Company defaulted to pay loan: Finance PS

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Mr. Abdoulie Jallow, permanent secretary, Ministry Of Finance, yesterday told the Janneh Commission that Premier Agro Oil Company situated at Denton Bridge, failed to pay a loan owed to Standard Chartered Bank.

Mr. Jallow made this revelation when he reappeared before the said commission to explain about the sale of Premier Agro Oil Company Ltd. He said the company was involved in the processing of groundnut oil which was exported overseas.

According to him, in 2005, the company took a loan from Standard Chartered Bank and they defaulted. He further stated that the bank took over the assets of the company. He testified that the chief executive officer of the bank engaged the Ministry of Finance for the sale of the assets to the tune of D20, 000,000.

He said prior to the sales of the assets, the Ministry of Finance engaged GGC, now called National Food Processing and Marketing Company (NFPMC), to provide them with a brief report to help the ministry in the negotiation process; adding that the report was prepared on the 13 June, 2006. However, they could not trace the directive from the former president and they engaged the Ministry of Justice and the bank to find out the sale agreement of the company but they could not.

However, the commission’s Counsel Amie Bensouda asked him to make further efforts to trace the said agreement. Mr. Jallow testified that the original owners of the company were Indians and the Ministry of Finance noticed that all the exporters of groundnut were not operating and this was why the former government deemed it prudent to buy the company to add value, and that the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and GGC was a grant.

The witness further explained that it was agreed that the plant should be rehabilitated before it was bought by the former government, and that the company was not registered under the single window business registration and the D20, 000,000 used was not from the budget and the Ministry of Finance paid the money.

At that juncture, correspondences between the Ministry of Finance, the company, the bank and the office of the former president were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

Earlier, Mr. Lamin Nyabally, former secretary general, who appeared for the second time in relation to payments made from the GNPC accounts, was asked to identify some transaction documents which were shown to him by Mrs. Bensouda’s assistant, Counsel Anna Njie, to which he said were in relation to fishing nets and engines.

Mr. Nyabally was again shown other transactions to identify and he said they were for the purchase of dental chairs for Fajara Barrcks dental clinic and this was a directive from the former president. He added that there was a scholarship scheme and the former president would authorize to award the scholarship and they would effect payments.

According to him, they used to receive applications from individuals and they would forward them to the former president who would approve them to award scholarships; adding that he was not aware whether the applications passed through the Ministry of Education. He said they had little idea how awards were made by the former president, and it was not an easy situation when scholarships were being awarded. He confirmed that he signed some documents in relation to fishing nets and scholarships respectively.

At that point, Ms. Njie applied for supporting documents on fishing nets, boats and scholarship payments to be admitted as exhibits.

Next to testify was former Secretary General Njogu Bah, who was summoned in relation to Kanilai International Festival and Tribute to Michael Jackson Account. Counsel put it to him that approximately the sum of D11, 000,000, being public funds, was deposited into this account.

During his testimony, Mr. Bah said he could not recall that an account was opened at Eco Bank bearing the same name. However, he disclosed that the former president was introduced to Jamen Jackson by one Mbacke Thioun.

 He said Mr. Jackson wanted to organise a tribute for his late brother and the former president opted to host the event and when the event was approaching, an account was opened at Trust Bank for the event.

The former secretary general testified that the former president was acquainted with celebrities and that he was going to fund the event, further noting that funds never came from Jammeh but from Trust Bank. The former president was the leader and had decided that he would host the event, and that there was an excitement because the event would attract tourists. The minister of finance had to go and find the funds to host the event.

Mr. Bah informed the commissioners that he would not know where the former president was going to get money to fund the event; adding that he was not aware whether there was any point in time that the Jackson family financed the event. He said there was an organising committee comprising Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, Fatou Lamin Faye and others whom he said were tasked to make sure that the event was successful and the former president would then approve for the event to be hosted.

At this juncture, he was shown some transactions and told that he and the former president were signatories, which he confirmed. With regard to the chartered flight for Jamen Jackson, the sum of D2, 856,522 was spent while the sum of D650,000 was also paid to one Babucarr Bah for foreign exchange in relation to the event. There was another disbursement of D2, 450,731 paid to Trust Bank and as well as D620,000 to the same bank for Babucarr Bah, who was  providing Trust Bank with foreign currency.

Commission’s counsel further told the witness that the sum of D1,510,000 was paid to Babucarr Jobarteh, head of protocol, and as well as D3,000,000 paid to Amadou Samba which the witness assumed was in relation to fireworks. He added that it was correct as stated by counsel that there were payments made to hotels for accommodating celebrities from United States of America.

On the National Security Project Account, it was put to him that he and the former president were signatories, which he confirmed. He said that the purpose of the account was for projects relating to issues of national security, further stating that $2,100, 000 was paid into the account and was from the Republic of China; adding that he was asked to open the account by the former the president.

Author: Dawda Faye