We were threatened to be sent to Mile Two Prison, Timber Association Vice Chairman discloses

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Babucarr Janneh, the vice chairman of the Timber Association, who was assisting the chairman of the said association, yesterday told the Janneh Commission that they were threatened to be sent to Mile Two Prison if their members were found exporting timber.

Lamin Barrow, the chairman of the association, was summoned in connection to Westwood Gambia Ltd.

In his testimony, he told the commission that he knows Westwood company and that his association was formed in 2010, noting that they have a ten-man committee.

At this juncture, statements by the members of the committee were submitted to the commission which were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

According to him, they were informed that Westwood was taking over the importation of timbers, noting that he did not know who was behind this because he was out of the country.

He further testified that they were told that anyone who wanted to export timber should inform the said company, and that this was communicated to his vice chairman, Babucarr Janneh.

Assisting the chairman, Baboucarr Janneh told the commission that in 2014, he was approached by some people including the managing director at Ocean Bay Hotel in a meeting where he was told that they wanted to see those dealing in timber business.

He added that one of the exporters told him that Westwood took over the exportation of timbers and they were charged $ 4,000 and subsequently reduced it to $3, 000.

Mr. Janneh further acknowledged that there was a letter from the Forestry Department which was shown to him, noting that there treasurer had a phone call from General Saul Badjie that if they did not comply they would send some soldiers to arrest them. He disclosed that some Chinese businessmen paid $3,000 to Westwood for exportation of timbers.

At this point, Mr. Barrow came in and told the commission that they sold the timbers to Chinese businessmen who would export them, noting that they paid clearance fees of D9000 in 2010, then D1000 to custom, D2500 to Gambia Chambers of Commerce as members of the chamber and D2500 for bill of laden.

He also said the total payment for the whole transaction was about D12, 000, adding that they would write to the former president to resume operation which was going on-and-off and finally the business closed.

When put to him that the Department of Forestry did not have the authority to lift the ban without the consent of the former president, he responded in the positive.

Next to give evidence was the assistant director of Forestry, Malang Jassey, who was also summoned with regard to Westwood Company.

According to him, he held the position since November 2014 and Muhammad Jaiteh is the director who is currently out of the jurisdiction.

Commission’s counsel, Amie Bensouda, told him that his director was summoned in relation to the said company. He said he knew the name of the company through their file, stating that the company was authorised by the former president to export timbers.

At this juncture, documents provided by the Department of Forestry were tendered and admitted in evidence.

Mr. Jassey further told the commission that the company owed the Department of Forestry the sum of D2, 580,000 from the years 2014 to 2016 and they exported over eleven thousand of containers.

He stated that he did not see any file indicating that the company was registered.

However, he was told by Counsel Bensouda that the director of Forestry was expected to appear before the commission.

Earlier, the chief finance director of Gamtel, Banding Sillah, also gave evidence in connection to Gamtel gateway contract.

He told the inquiry that he came with two reports, one for 2015 and that of 2016 review relating to the international gateway.

He said MGI-Swiss paid Gamtel $500,000 and the outstanding balance was $1,000,000 from 2015 to 2016.

At this juncture, compliance audit report, statement of accounts were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

Author: Dawda Faye