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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Court set to rule in immigration officials’ ‘corrupt’ case

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By Binta A Bah

The defense lawyers for four immigration officers accused of taking D75,000 bribe from Ousman Bahoum, the owner of a vessel that capsized in the high seas in Mauritania leaving 63 migrants dead, have urged the high court to acquit and discharge their clients.

The lawyers are unconvinced that any of the state witnesses produced incriminating evidence to link their clients to the crime and had filed a no-case-to-answer following closure of the prosecution’s case.

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Bahoum, who is standing trial with four immigration officers, is accused of negligently overloading a vessel at Jinack village in the North Bank Region to convey 195 migrants to Europe through the high seas which capsized and resulted in the death of 63 migrants and endangered the lives of others.

The officers, Sarjo Sanneh, an immigration migration officer stationed at Barra in North Bank, Omar Bojang, the Officer Commanding the Barra Immigration Post, Baboucar Gassama and Ansumana Touray on the other hand are facing charges of official corruption, conspiracy to commit felony, giving false information and making false documents. They are accused of receiving D75,000 from Bahoum through his agents for the release of his intercepted vessel purposely to convey migrants to Europe via the high seas. They all denied the allegations.

Adopting briefs of arguments, Lawyer Badjie for Sarjo Sanneh and Ansumana Touray argued that prosecution failed to prove evidence to warrant his clients to enter their defense.

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However, the prosecutor, Saikou Lamin Jobarteh said there is evidence before the court that the immigration officers accepted ‘bribe’ from Bahoum. He said the D75,000 placed on the table in the presence of the officers was taken and shared among themselves for the release of the boat which he said was overloaded.

“There is sufficient reason for the accused persons to come forward to explain their own side of the story,” he said.

The judged is set to rule whether to free the men or ask them to enter their defense.

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