By Baba Sillah
Abdoulie Cham, retired financial controller at the Central Bank of The Gambia, yesterday explained how the Daily Observer newspaper was purchased as well as the financing for the construction of the Banjul International Airport and Arch 22.
Cham, who was testifying before the Janneh Commission explained that the newspaper was purchased for $268,000 from Kenneth Best while Arch 22 was built for $1,000,000. He said these funds together with the financing of the new Banjul International Airport terminal building were paid from the $35,000,000 loan given by Taiwan.
He further testified that the late Baba Jobe presented the invoice for the sale of the Observer with instructions from President Jammeh for payment to be effected.
Cham said he worked at the Central Bank from March 1997 to November 2003 and his remit included ensuring that the books of the bank were kept properly.
He recalled that after the 22 July 1994 coup d’état, the international community imposed sanctions on the regime. He said the military council approached the then governor to accept a loan of $35,000,000 from Taiwan which attracted a five-year grace period before repayment was to begin. He said two accounts were opened at Citibank in New York and Captains Edward Singhatey and Ebou Jallow were the signatories.
According to him, Singhatey withdrew himself as signatory but Jallow was maintained. He said the bank initially received $30,000,000 and Captains Jallow and Singhatey later deposited $2,000,000 and $220,000. Cham said Captain Jallow later transferred $3,000,000 to a private account.
Cham said he accompanied the Governor of the Bank, Famara L Jatta and the Attorney General to Geneva, Switzerland to recover the $3,000,000 that was surreptitiously transferred by Captain Ebou Jallow.
Mr Cham further revealed that later on the governor of the bank allowed for an overdraft on the account after a request from the Office of the President in the belief that they were expecting $30,000,000 from Colonel Ghadaffi.
Finance Minister Jatta, Finance Permanent Secretary Dodou Bammy Jagne, Alieu Ngum and Baba Jobe were sent to Libya to finalise the negotiations for the release of funds amounting to $30,000,000. But, he said, the monies were not released by Tripoli. He did not volunteer information as to why.
He said the overdraft amounted to $28,500,000 and that in early February 2003, the government made an arrangement to settle the liabilities.
Mr Cham revealed that CBG paid at least $10,000,000 to Muhammed Bazzi for the refurbishment and expansion of electricity transmission within the Greater Banjul Area while another payment of $1,500,000 was paid to an investment firm signed by Baba Jobe.
On 19 December 2001, he said the sum of $75,000 was paid to Baba Jobe while on 2 November 2001 there was a telegraphic transfer of $500,000 to Genus Import and Export Services and $600,000 was paid to TK Motors.
He further told the Commission that on 24 August 2001, the sum of $800,000 was paid to EAW Group on instructions of the former president and that $2,000,000 was paid to West Coast Property Holdings, signed by Baba Jobe on the instruction of President Jammeh
Mr Cham finally testified that Baba Jobe received two personal cheques of the former president from Taiwan amounting to $2,000,000.
Hearings continue today.