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Dec 17, 2013, 9:52 AM
John Belford, the Judicial Secretary, yesterday testified as the first prosecution witness in the criminal trial involving ex-senior judicial officials at the High Court in
The accused persons are Alhaji LS Sonko, ex-assistant Sheriff attached to the Sheriff’s Division; Haruna Jaiteh, ex-judicial Secretary; Amina Saho-Ceesay, ex-Master of the High Court; and Ngui Mboob-Janneh, ex-judge. All vehemently denied the charges preferred against them.
John Belford told the court that he is the Judicial Secretary, and his function as judicial secretary is to assist the Chief Justice in the administration of the Judiciary.
He said he assumed the office of Judicial Secretary in October 2009, and that he recognised the accused persons.
"On 26 October 2009, a team was formed to look into the Sheriff's Department and to come up with a report," he added.
He was then asked by the deputy Director of Special Litigation, Simon Abi, whether the duty that was assigned to them was performed.
But the senior defence counsel, Antuman Gaye, objected to the question on the grounds that the defence was being taken by surprise.
He stated that the defence had the witness statement, and there is nothing in that statement touching on or concerning their clients.
Senior counsel Gaye further submitted that there is nothing in that statement about any committee being set up to look into the matter concerning the accused persons, adding that the statement did not contain a report.
In response, the prosecutor submitted that the objection was misconceived and highly pre-emptive, by urging the court to disallow the question being asked on the grounds that there is nothing in the statement of the witness and the summary of evidence and the indictment touching on and concerning a panel.
He submitted that there is no law that restricts the witness from giving evidence on the issues that are not mentioned to the police or in the summary of evidence.
The prosecutor submitted further that the witness told the court that he is the Judiciary Secretary, and was being asked a question and answering about his functions.
He submitted that the objection was pre-emptive because the defence was anticipating the witness, and they have prepared in advance to object to the tendering of the report that the witness has mentioned.
He said it is a contradiction that the defence admitted that the witness is the Judiciary Secretary, and now they objected to his duty.
He urged the court to overrule the objection.
Responding, the defence counsel submitted that there is a law that restricted the witness from going outside of the summary of evidence, citing section 175 (b) of the CPC.
But the trial judge subsequently overruled the defence objection.
The prosecutor then asked the witness how he came to know that the team carried out its function, and the witness told the court that a report was submitted to the Judicial Secretary and he was privileged to see that report, as he is the custodian of the report, adding that it was with the state counsel.
The witness said he would be able to recognise the report if it was shown to him.
The case continues today.
According to the particulars of offence on count one, Alhaji LS Sonko, in 2009, being a public officer attached to the Sheriff Division of the High Court of The Gambia and entrusted with the duties to execute judgments, conduct auction sales, deduct and pay into the government account, the statutory 4% of the proceeds of sales, did levy execution in the case of Sosses and Others versus Serign Jobe, but neglected to deduct and pay into the government account the statutory 4% required by law.
The particulars of the offence on count two, stated that Alhaji LS Sonko, being a public officer to wit, Assistant Sheriff, attached to the Sheriff Division of the High Court of The Gambia received the sum of D550, 000, being the proceeds of execution in the case of Sosses and Others verses Serign Jobe and converted the said money to his personal use without the consent of the Government of The Gambia.
Count three stated that, Ngui Mboob-Janneh, Amina Saho-Ceesay and Haruna Jaiteh, in 2009 at Banjul The Gambia, did receive various sums of money totalling D550,000, from Alhaji LS Sonko knowing that the said money has been stolen or having reasonable grounds to believe that the said money has been feloniously taken or obtained.
The charge sheet on count four stated that, Amina Saho-Ceesay between 2007 and 2009, while being employed as a Sheriff in the public service of The Gambia conducted auction sales, and realised a total sum of D542,432.49, being the statutory 4% deduction from the proceeds of sale and converted the same to her personal use in the following cases: GTB versus Quantum Associates (D260,000.00), Dr. Nana Quayson versus Lang Conteh (D42,000.00), GTB versus Govinda and Sons (D48,000.00), BICI versus Sulayman Jallow (D20,000.00), GTB versus Kabiru Mouktar Mohammed (D151,488.49), Reliance Financial versus Babo Joof (D6,320.00) and Inger Johanne Ussberg versus Lamin Secka (D14,624.00).
Count five stated that Amina Saho-Ceesay, on 29 May 2009, received through the International Bank
Count six stated that Alhaji LS Sonko and Amina Saho-Ceesay, between 2006 and 2009, being public servants of the Government of The Gambia and charged with the responsibility of levying execution of judgments and carrying out auction sales, with intent to defraud carried out sales, but failed or omitted to keep proper accounts of the auction carried out in the following cases: GTB versus Quantum Associates, Dr. Nana Quayson versus Lang Conteh, GTB versus Govinda and Sons, BICI versus Sulayman Jallow, GTB versus Kabiru Mouktar Mohammed, Reliance Financial versus Babo Joof and Inger Johnson Ussberg versus Lamin Secka.