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Sabally delays VP’s flight in Banjul for 1 hour 30 minutes, witness tells court

Apr 24, 2015, 9:36 AM | Article By: Halimatou Ceesay

The photographer at the Vice President’s Office yesterday told the court that the former Secretary General and Minister for Presidential Affairs, Momodou Sabally, left the Vice President waiting in the plane at the Banjul International Airport for 1 hour 30 minutes.

Ousman Keita, a photographer at the VP’s Office, was testifying as the sixth prosecution witness (PW6) in the economic crime case involving Momodou Sabally, before Justice Amadi of the Special Criminal Court in Banjul.

In his testimony, Ousman Keita told the court he is a photographer at the Office of the Vice President and, as a photographer, he was responsible for taking pictures of the Vice President during official events.

He is also responsible for press affairs during functions, adding that he knew the accused as the former Secretary General and Minister for Presidential Affairs.

On 2 May 2014, the accused and VP were scheduled to travel to South Africa for Jacob Zuma’s inauguration and Thabo Mbeki Foundation, he said.

They were supposed to leave Banjul at 12:00 but they left at 1:30 because they were waiting for the accused, while the VP was on board the aircraft, Keita told the court.

He said that when the accused arrived, he (the accused) said he was on an assignment at State House, and was waiting for some materials to bring along to South Africa.

Keita further told the court that upon arrival in Johannesburg, they were received by the advance team from The Gambia, adding were lodged at their hotel.

They attended the Thabo Mbeki Foundation function in Pretoria, which was their first engagement, he added.

After that function, they returned to Johannesburg, and the protocol officer, Musa Sinyan, asked him to accompany him back to Pretoria for accreditation for the inauguration of Jacob Zuma.

They had accreditation for the entire delegation, and returned to Johannesburg.

They found the accused, the UTG VC at the time and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs sitting at the lobby of the hotel.

“I told the accused that the Vice President would like to leave for Banjul after the inauguration,” Keita told the court.

Sabally said he had another assignment, and he could not leave immediately after the inauguration, Keita continued.

He said the protocol officer told every member of the delegation that they should leave at 7 a.m. from their hotel to the hotel where the VP was lodged, to accompany her to the inauguration ceremony.

They left for the VP’s hotel at 6:45 a.m. and found that the VP and entourage were already waiting for them, to join the VP’s convoy to Pretoria for the function, he went on.

Keita said the VP asked the protocol officer whether everybody was present, and the protocol officer told the VP that the accused was not among them.

The protocol officer told the VP that he had given the information that everybody should gather at the VP’s place by 7 a.m., he said.

Asked by the DPP where were the ex-UTG VC and the Foreign Minister, the witness said they were with the convoy.

The witness said when they departed for Pretoria for the inauguration, he saw everyone except the accused, adding that after the inauguration they returned to Johannesburg.

At the hotel, the protocol officer Musa Sinyan and State Guard commander Tamba asked them if they heard anything from the pilots, and protocol officer Musa Sinyan answered in the negative, and added that it was Ndey Haddy Jeng who was responsible for that.

Commander Tamba asked him and one Buba Jammeh to go to the pilots quarters to confirm the departure time at the airport, the witness further told the court.

Upon their arrival at the pilots’ hotel, he (the witness) received a phone call from Musa Sinyan that Ndey Haddy Jeng had already communicated to the pilots that they were going to leave for Banjul at 8 p.m. and that they had to rush back to the VP’s hotel to pack their luggage, Keita continued.

He added that one hour after their arrival at the airport, the VP also arrived with her delegation and boarded the plane.

They were on the plane when the pilot came from the cabin and asked Musa Sinyan if they could depart, and Musa Sinyan said they were waiting for somebody and that somebody was the accused, according to Keita.

After 40 to 50 minutes, the accused arrived with the honorary consul Lette, and they departed for Banjul.

“You have told this court that you left your hotel for VP’s hotel at 6:45 a.m. while Musa Sinyan said you left at 7a.m. How do you reconcile these?” the DPP asked.

“I object on the grounds that it is not allowed for the prosecution to ask questions to a witness who is called by them, which could contradict the answer of an earlier witness,” said senior counsel Gaye.

The DPP urged the court to overrule counsel’s objection on the grounds that the question asked was intended to give an explanation.

Justice Amadi overruled the defence’s objection, and allowed the witness to answer the question.

The witness said they left at 7 a.m. and that Musa Sinyan was having a watch and he was not having a watch.

Hearing continues on 28 April 2015.