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In Willy Joof trial, Gambian diplomat testifies

Mar 4, 2011, 11:08 AM | Article By: Bakary Samateh

The criminal trial of Willy John Joof, former Gambian Ambassador to France and permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Banjul proceeded yesterday at the Banjul Magistrates' Court before acting-Principal Magistrate Tawia Alagba.

The former Gambian diplomat was charged with four counts of official corruption, obtaining goods by false pretence, stealing, conspiracy to commit felony, goods used, and four counts of abuse of office.

Testifying as the third prosecution witness, Mosses Benjamin Jallow told the court that he is currently the Gambian Ambassador to the Federal Republic of France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO in France.

He said he recognised the accused person as the former Ambassador to France, between June 2001 and September 2005.

"By then I was the consular and head of chancery at UNESCO in France and second in command in 2005, and in 2001 I was third in command as Permanent Delegate to UNESCO in France," Jallow added.

"I was in charge of general responsibilities of the administration, and also for disbursement of any minor financial expenses together with the Financial Attaché," he told the court.

He said that when there are major expenses like purchasing of vehicles, house rent and electronic items they would consult the accused person as the Ambassador, for approval.

The Gambian diplomat further disclosed that they maintained two bank accounts in the name of the Gambia Government, adding that the accounts had three official signatories, the accused person, the financial attaché and himself.

The two accounts bear the name of the Gambia Government, a remittances account and a revenue account, of which "I'm a signatory to all the accounts," he revealed.

"The accused person ceased to be an ambassador in September 2005, and returned to Banjul, but prior to his departure he terminated the services of two French nationals, Michel Matti, who served as the first in command as Permanent Delegate to UNESCO and Michel Coecas, also served as second in command both attached to the Gambian Permanent Delegation to UNESCO in France," the Gambian diplomat told the court.

When asked by the Director of Public Prosecutions, whether the termination was verbal or written, he said it was written.

"The investigation was mounted in 2007 in France by Burama Dibba, former Crime Management Co-ordinator (CMC) of the Gambia Police Force," he added.

"I briefed Burama Dibba about the documents, which he went through and other files. By then I was the charge d'affaires, after the accused returned to Banjul," Jallow added.

He said he gave those files to Burama Dibba to comply, because there was a written request for cooperation in view of the investigation.

When again asked by the DPP whether these were verbal or written documents, the witness said they were written documents, and should be with the court.

At that juncture, the DPP applied to the court for an adjournment till today, but his application was objected to by the defence on the grounds that it was not suitable for the defence.

Defence counsel Lamin Camara added that his client was first arraigned before the court six months ago, and said that the DPP should be ready to proceed with the case.

Counsel revealed that this particular witness had testified in this court three years ago, and that this was why he said the documents must be with the court.

The case at that juncture was adjourned till 8 March 2011.