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Defence challenges court's jurisdiction in Graham trial

May 31, 2011, 1:30 PM | Article By: Bakary Samateh

Lawyer Lamin Camara, the new defence counsel in the criminal trial of former Managing Director of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC), Edward Graham, yesterday said the Banjul Magistrates' Court lacks jurisdiction to try an economic crimes offence.

Graham is being tried on charges of abuse of office and economic crimes at the Banjul Magistrates' Court before acting-Principal Magistrate Taiwo Alagba.

When the case was announced, defence counsel L.S. Camara told the court that defence was applying for an adjournment on the grounds that he was just coming into the case, and did not have the charge sheet.

Counsel Camara also raised objection that the economic crimes charge was being tried in the lower court, notwithstanding that the accused person was charged with abuse of office and economic crimes.

He said that the economic crimes offence can only be tried at the High Court, and not the lower court, and urged the lower court to refer the case to a competent court.

"The state had the discretion to drop the economic crimes charge against the accused person and proceed with the offence of abuse of office, which the lower court has the jurisdiction to hear," he said.

He referred the court to section 5 of the Economic Crimes specified offences.

Responding to the defence counsel's objections on the issue of jurisdiction, the Director of Public Prosecutions, M. Abdoullahi, told the court that what the counsel was saying was totally misleading.

"We submit that despite the offence committed, I see no reason why this case should be transferred," Abdoullahi said.

He referred the court to section 9 of the Economic Crimes Decree, and submitted that the lower court has the jurisdiction to try the economic crimes charge as stated in the charge sheet.

The case was adjourned till 2 May 2011 for ruling.