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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Judge threatens to free PS Banja unless…

Judge threatens to free PS Banja unless…

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By Binta A Bah

Justice Bakri of the high court complex at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court had threatened to close the case of the former permanent secretary at the ministry of fisheries if the state prosecutors failed to play an audio purported to be a conversation between Bamba Banja and a Chinese interpreter, Ming Ning.

The judge gave prosecutors two hours to facilitate a laptop to play the audio, believed to be recorded by the Chinese interpreter at Banja’s residence in Batokunku, as well as a video interview between the accused and investigative journalist Mustapha K Darboe.

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The court’s decision came after Banja’s lawyer, Abdoulie Fatty objected to the prosecution’s request for an adjournment under grounds that they did not have a laptop to play the recordings implicating Banja.

“I will stand down the matter for two hours or I will close the case. We are all equal before this court. You brought him to court because you have a case against him. If you think you have no case, I will let him go,” the judge warned, as he gave state prosecutors two hours to put their house in order.

However, state prosecutor S.L Jorbarteh was able to provide a laptop when the case was called for continuation but the judge adjourned the matter until November 24.

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Bamba Banja is charged with economic crimes, official corruption and public officers receiving property to show favor.

Testifying earlier, Essa Sowe of the fraud squad unit, said he was part of the panel constituted following a directive from the Office of the President to have Mr Banja investigated after an audio involving the accused went viral on social media where the accused allegedly received bribes from Golden Lead officials when their vessels were captured by the Navy.

Sowe further testified that the accused was invited to the police headquarters but denied that it was his voice in the audio. He said the accused also denied being in contact with the Golden Lead officials prompting them to request for a printout from Africell which later shows that they were in contact.

“Investigations also revealed that both the accused and the Chinese interpreter were in Batokunku, which is the residence of the accused person. That was the day the audio was recorded and the Chinese interpreter could be heard translating from Chinese to English,” the policeman told the court.

According to him, the investigators also downloaded a video from YouTube where he was being interviewed by Mustapha K Darboe, an investigative journalist and they realised the voice is similar to that on the audio.

The court is expected to hear the contents of the audio and video when the case resumes on 24th November.

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