The fraud at State House was outrageous - EX Gamtel EC Tells Janneh Commission

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mr. Omar .P. Ndow, former executive chairman of GAMTEl, who was summon in connection to GAMTEL (Memorandum of Global Voice Group), yesterday told the Janneh Commission that the fraud at State House was outrageous.

While testifying, he said he worked in various capacities at GAMTEL and served as the executive chairman responsible for technical operation of the company and was also the board chairman.

He testified that he started working at GAMTEL in 1984, further stating that he was detained at the NIA for three months and was charged with Economic Crime at the high court and the case was transferred to the magistrates’ court for one year, and was acquitted and discharged. He said he left GAMTEL on 17th September, 2009. He confirmed that he signed the memorandum of Global Voice Group.

He was told that the commission was looking into the interference of the former president with GAMTEL, and testified that through the billing machine, they could see what was going out but could not see what was coming in.

Mr. Ndow stated that they could not recover over $600,000 through their service. He added that through the billing system, the revenue came to $1.5 million per month. However, he said the fraud was outrageous as there was termination of traffic at State House which he said affected their bilateral relations.

The witness further disclosed that there were operational problems and he decided to come up with the idea to link with the international market because in terms of revenue, what was going out of the company was known while what was coming in was not.

According to him, equipment were installed at State House including a satellite at the backyard of State House and there was blockage of traffic and they could not detect all the fraud coming into the country; adding that the purpose of partnering with Senegal was to serve as a backup should in case there was a problem with the system in The Gambia. He said they could not detect all the flow coming into the country and that nobody could go to State House to install a satellite to block the traffic without the knowledge of the former president.

He further stated that one Mr. Hakim was involved in the international traffic of Global Voice instead of the local calls he applied for, and the amount of loss incurred by State House was quantifiable; adding that it would have been an option to ask Global Voice to manage their system.

Responding to commissioners, he said among the advantages from Global Voice was that there was increase in revenue and quality services at GAMTEL because the company was able to discover numerous fraud caused by mobile operators and IPS installers; adding that the system they had could not detect some of their problems but Global Voice was able to do so.

Mr. Ndow explained that there was a better relationship to involve Global Voice with the management because they gave GAMTEL $3,000,000 for the investment.

The former executive chairman informed the commission that he did not know the contract duration of the said company but was quick to confirm that their staff were trained by the company so that they could take over the management of the company.

He revealed that the sum of $5,000,000 loan from Trust Bank was endorsed to pay Spectrum their 50% share in Gamtel/Gamcel. However, he said he was not aware of the 50% share owned by Spectrum as he was not in the system at the time of the contract agreement. He added that the management of the gateway had always been the responsibility of GAMTEL and not other stakeholders.

He said he would not know where the funds were directed and that the director of Finance should explain as to where the funds had gone to. He said the management of GAMTEL decided for the company to be privatised because the environment was getting more and more hostile.

At this juncture, documents produced by the witness were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

Next to testify was the former Foreign Affairs Minister Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, who was summoned in connection to the sale of shares at Gamtel and confirmed the sale of 50% share at Gamtel for Spectrum.

According to Mrs. Gaye, she did not know much about Spectrum but Mr. Muhammed Bazzi was with them; further stating that she found Spectrum representative at the Ministry of Finance when she was directed by the former president to sign documents with Spectrum investors.

She said she signed in good faith and respect for authority even though it did not go through due process; adding that the documents were signed in the presence of the then Finance Minister Musa Balla Gaye.

She informed the commission that with the signing of documents, there was no consultation and there was a directive from the former president; adding that there should have been due process in the sale of Gamtel shares. However, she said had it been that she was consulted, she would have raised her thought.

Mrs. Gaye testified that despite she was not consulted, she decided to involve the then attorney general and minister of Justice, Marie Saine-Firdaus, as it was a major venture and should have been tendered but the former president opted for it to go that way without following the due process.

Counsel Bensouda put it to her that given that she was the minister responsible for communication, she could have advised the former president concerning the deal. However, she said she could not, and that refusing to sign, something would come out of it.

She said she was not sure whether the former president had experience in selling company shares neither did she know whether he solicited advice from people with expert knowledge in the sale of shares of companies.

At this juncture, Commissioner Saine asked her whether beside the president, was any Gambian involved or represented Gambian interest, she responded that she did not believe the former president consulted anyone.

Documents produced by the witness were admitted in evidence.

Mrs. Gaye confirmed that she signed the documents to hand over the management of Gamtel to Spectrum. However, Mrs. Bensouda explained to her that when Spectrum was in charge of the management of Gamtel, they signed an agreement with Oratus Company but she said she was not aufait with Oratus Company.

Counsel Benouda further asked her to inform the commission the representative of the former government as shareholder; she responded that it was the Ministry of Finance. She added that the gateway was taken care of by Gamtel prior to Spectrum coming in.  

When asked by counsel whether she was aware that  Spectrum was terminating calls, she responded in the affirmative and as minister, it was correct that she never investigated this issue. She added that she was aware of Global Voice but was not a minister when their contract was terminated.

Asked by Commissioner Saine as to who drafted the contract between Gamtel/Spectrum, she said she believed it was drafted by Spectrum. However, Saine intimated to her that when it came to the disposal of government assets, the Ministry of Finance was seen as the leading role but the witness said she would not know.     

Mr. Lamin Karba Bajo, former ambassador to Morocco and China respectively, who was summoned in connection to the Republic of China on Taiwan loans and grants, testified that he became member of the AFPRC on the 31st January, 1995, after the failed attempt by Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara.

However, Mr. Bajo said he was not involved in the restoration of relationship between The Gambia and Taiwan but could recall that the restoration was in 1995 and was announced.

On whether he was aware of the $30,000,000 loan granted by Taiwan to The Gambia, he responded in the affirmative, noting that Captain Ebou Jallow came with a briefcase containing the sum of $5,000,000 and later an account was opened.

According to the former AFPRC military Junta, he was a signatory to a Special Development Account which was opened at the Central Bank for the purpose of development projects. He said he became signatory to the account after Ebou Jallow absconded with $3,000,000 which he lodged in a bank in Switzerland. He said he was part of the 3 -man delegation that travelled to Switzerland to recover the money stolen by Ebou Jallow.

The president of the Gambia Football Federation further testified that the court in Switzerland ruled in favour of The Gambia government which enabled the state to recover some of the money. 

Mr. Bajo disclosed that the Special Development Account was meant for infrastructural development, such as the building of Farafenni General Hospital, airport and some schools. He added that he would not know whether properties were purchased from this loan.

The former diplomat revealed that he did not know formally that the former president owned a property in Morocco but was informed that the former president used to own a property in Morocco.

On the relationship between the late Baba Jobe and Jammeh, he said he believed that everybody knows that Mr. Jobe was a right-hand of the former president before they fell out. He said he did not know anything about the grant from Libya.

When asked by the commission whether he specifically raised concern to the then president about extraordinary expenditures over the expensive buildings in his (Jammeh) home village, he replied that he knew Jammeh was constructing houses at Kanilai but did not know his source of fund as he was not privy to the construction.

However, he said he only came to know his source of funds during the testimony made by witnesses before the commission and had on several occasions raised concern to the former president regarding the construction in his home village.

Next to testify was YankubaTouray, another member of the then AFPRC, who said he is currently a farmer and a trader in his home village (Nlawnaru) in the Central Badibu.

He also gave evidence on the grants and loan from the Republic of China on Taiwan and 3M Account as well.

According to him, he was a member of the council from 1994-1996 and when they took power, the council had discussions in order to restore bilateral relation with Taiwan which was discussed among all the members including the co-opted members as well as civilians.

The former military Junta disclosed that led the delegation to Taiwan to restore the relationship, noting that he was not involved in the loan agreement but the amount involved was $35,000,000. He added that he was not aware of the $3, 000, 00 stolen by Ebou Jallow but he heard it over the radio as he was not in town.

Mr. Touray said he did not know the amount of money disbursed because he was not managing the funds, neither was he aware of the $5,000,000 brought by Ebou Jallow in a briefcase to the Council. He said they could not challenge some of the decisions taken by the chairman (Jammeh) as civilian and military set-up was different.

When asked about the relationship between Baba Jobe and the Council, he replied that they did not have any direct relationship except Baba Jobe. 

Author: Dawda Faye