By Baba Sillah
Alagie Ousman Ceesay, the Chief of Protocol at the President’s Office yesterday appeared before the Janneh Commission to shed light on withdrawals he made at the central bank while serving as Chief Protocol at the office of the former President Yahya Jammeh.
According to him, he has been in the public service since 1995 and in 2001, he was appointed as the deputy chief of protocol and finally becoming chief of protocol in June 2002.
Mr Ceesay said while serving under the office of the former First Lady, he did not know how that office was funded and has never been a signatory to any of the accounts.
He recalled that he used to travel with the First Lady to the USA and during their travels, he used to stay in a hotel while the First Lady would stay in their family compound in Maryland but did not know whether there were any Gambian staff at the residence of the First Lady.
The Chief Protocol also remembered travelling with the former First Lady to Morocco and Guinea Conakry on several occasions.
He said during their travels to Morocco, he would stay in a hotel and has never visited any home of the Fist Lady except the family compound in Rabat.
According to him while in Conakry, he would stay in government quarters and has no idea regarding properties owned by the former First Lady, Zineb Jammeh in Conakry.
Regarding the withdrawal of $1,000,000, $500,000, $700,000, $700,000, $300,000 and $500,000 respectively which were the main subject matter of his summon, Ceesay said he was instructed by the former president to collect the said sum of monies from the central bank which he did and after the transaction, he handed over the cash to Jammeh.
He however explained that in his capacity as the then Chief Protocol, he had no idea what the purpose of the monies was.
Commission counsel, Amie Bensouda who is assisted by Olimatou Danso and Anna Njie appealed to Mr Ceesay to assist the commission understand how the former president spent such amount of monies since he has served under the president in his capacity as Chief Protocol. Mr Ceesay in reply said throughout his travelling with Jammeh it would be difficult for him to substantiate how the former president spent all these monies.
Responding to question from commission members, he said normally he would hand over the money in boxes and would not know how Jammeh count all that monies neither did he know whether his former boss had a vault at the office.
Next to appear was the Belgian-Lebanese national, Muhammad Bazzi who has become a household name in the Janneh Commission.
Mr Bazzi who is also the proprietor of Global Trading Group informed the commission that he is a Belgian-Lebanese and the also has a Gambian diplomatic passport which was issued to him by the former President Yahya Jammeh.
He said in The Gambia initially he was involved in electrification project with the National Water and Electrification Company [Nawec], importing fuel as well as milling flour.
He said the companies he operates include GEG, GAMICO but later GEG was closed while Gamico had some problem but is not closed. He added that he also has a share of 73-75% in Premier Investment Group but initially they were not involved in mining until when Carnegie Mineral Company had a problem and GAMICO was offered to involve in mining activities.
According to Mr Bazzi, his first meeting with Jammeh was in 2001 when he came for electrification project.
He claimed that Tony Ghattas was the one involved in the mining activities and Mr Ghattas was later given certain percentage since his company was not directly involved in the mining at the time.
Mr Bazzi said he was not involved in the termination of Carnegie Mineral license, noting that he was the one who identified a law firm for the Gambia Government and paid the legal fees in his capacity as the Consular General for The Gambia.
He recalled that they were stopped from mining on several occasions and some of their documents were taken by the then NIA and appealed for the documents to be handed over to them.
On the issue of stockpiles, he said he did not know how many stockpiles were left by Carnegie Mineral which was taken over by GAMICO at the mining site, claiming that despite the fact that Carnegie has left, his company has some of its equipment and also imported some machineries and equipment as well.
Mr Bazzi explained that his company did not take over the equipment left by Carnegie Mineral but instead their equipment were given to them by the Geological department and the government.
He stressed that the former president has no share as far as GAMICO is concerned, neither has he intermediary shareholder.
He said his company did not refuse the government request to transfer their shares but all they wanted was a fair deal, adding that GAMICO has never been involved in sand selling at the beginning of their operation.
Mr Bazzi is expected to reappear today in order to furnish the commission with certain documents and information with regard to his company.