By Baba Sillah
The Commission of Inquiry into the financial dealings of former President Yahya Jammeh and his close associates has entered its penultimate stages with commission Counsel Amie Bensouda now starting to address the commission.
Beginning her address yesterday, Bensouda disclosed that out of the 253 witnesses that testified before the commission, 26 have been identified as close associates of the former president.
She however did not disclose their names.
Bensouda then referred the commission to the act that mandated its establishment and the principle of fair hearing, which she said has been accorded to all the parties by the commission.
Counsel Bensouda also drew the attention of the commission to the interim order on Amadou Samba, Muhammad Bazzi and Fadia Mazegi whom she said were all shareholders in Euro Africa Group and Global Trading Group, explaining further how payments were made into the personal accounts of former president Jammeh.
According to her, Euro Africa Group received and made various payments from various banks without any explanation.
She further argued that over US$10 million was paid to the personal account of Jammeh by Mr Bazzi and Mazegi without any legal explanation.
Counsel Bensouda further contended that the counsel for Mr Bazzi has challenged that her client was deprived of his privilege to a fair hearing, arguing that there is no evidence to substantiate that claim. Rather according to Bensouda, the witness was ignorant of his right.
Counsel Bensouda at that point cited the Evidence Act authored by Chief Justice Hassan Jallow to back her submission.
She further contended that neither Mr Bazzi nor Mazegi has claimed privilege at no time, challenging that, that privilege has no place during the proceedings and was not claimed by any of the said persons, citing various sections of the law to substantiate her submission.
Bensouda further argued that when the commission made an interim order, Amadou Samba and Muhammad Bazzi challenged the order at the court of appeal but their appeal was dismissed for lack of merit and the court upheld the power of the commission on the interim order.
Counsel Bensouda thereof urged the commission to uphold the ruling of the Court of Appeal on the interim order challenged by Bazzi and Mazegi.
She went on to state that Mr Bazzi and others who have been named close associates of Jammeh have failed to defend themselves as to whether they are close associates or not, citing section 204 of the Constitution which she read out to the commission to strengthen her submission.
Bensouda also revealed that three categories or factors were identified in this finding of the financial dealings of Jammeh, as the initiators, collaborators and facilitators in the withdrawal or use of public funds and resources, stressing that these factors needed to be considered by the commission to make a decision and recommendation.
Bensouda will continue her address today.