By Lamin Cham
Police have said that investigations have revealed that a claim by a group of people that they have handed over D155 million of mutilated notes to a Central Bank staff for change into new notes is a scam.
Over the weekend, a letter from Lawyer Lamin Ceesay of Solie Chambers written on behalf of his client, Ansumana Bah, was leaked online. The letter addressed to one Abdou Ceesay, an employee of the bank and copied to the governor, urged him to return the D155 million allegedly given to him.
The lawyer further conveyed his client’s claim that another D11.1 million was paid to Ceesay upon his request to be distributed to named staff of the bank to facilitate the exchange.
The matter was first reported by Sainey Marenah of online The Alkamba Times who headlined it as a bribery scandal at the reserve bank.
In reaction, the Central Bank issued a statement saying Abdou Ceesay had denied receiving the money and that a police investigation has been launched into issue.
On Saturday, the police issued its preliminary findings as follows:
“In early 2021, Ansumana Bah and others had an encounter with an organised criminal group who encouraged them to form up a charitable organisation in order for them to access funding from certain unnamed philanthropist from outside the country.
To avoid missing the opportunity, they quickly formed “Jamma Charitable Foundation”.
Apparently, they were made to believe by the fraudsters that the charitable organisation had secured funding amounting to £2.5 million from a philanthropist in UK to commence charitable operation in The Gambia.
The fraudsters claimed that the said funds were smuggled into the country and put in boxes and kept safely in one of the houses of the partners turned scammers for a long period.
The foundation members were informed by the fraudsters that the pounds were converted into local currencies equivalent to D155 million partly mutilated which needed to be changed to new notes at the Central Bank.
The fraudsters further made them to believe without seeing that, changing or swapping the funds required payment of a certain amount as bribe to some role players at the bank through one Abdou Ceesay.
Ansumana and co were further lured into paying D11.1 million as bribe to fast track the alleged swapping.
They were promised a return of a good chunk of the money if they succeed with the swap deal at Central Bank.
The scammers provided some names of Central Bank staff including Abdou Ceesay to Ansumana and co as part of the beneficiaries to the claimed bribe.
Preliminary police investigation discovered that all the above revelations were false and deliberately made to lure Ansumana and co to pay monies to the scammers in relations to their ill-intended scam.
It was established that the fraudsters succeeded in convincing Ansumana and co in establishing a foundation called “Jamma Charitable Foundation” purposely to extort money from its members.
Ansumana Bah claimed that during the period, he and his colleagues raised about D4 million as their contribution towards the bribe.
He raised his funds through the sale of his landed property, assets and credit from families and friends to meet cost of the swap as requested by the fraudsters.
Furthermore, they were made to believe that the other party (scammers) were going to contribute towards the payment of the bribe.
Neither Ansumana nor other foundation members did visit the Central Bank during the period of the transaction.
It was also established that Ansumana Bah and the foundation members never interacted with any of the named Central Bank staff.
However, investigation revealed that some of these scammers were the same people posing as bank staff to win the minds of the foundation members.
The police are currently perusing all possible clues to expose the truth and nab those responsible for these dubious activities.
It is clear from facts gathered that neither Ansumana nor any of the foundation members had seen the £2.5 million nor the D155 million during the course of the entire transaction.
Rather, they were only banking on statements made by the scammers.
Peddling unfounded claims as given above are common attributes of fraudsters principally meant to entice their targeted victims.”
The police urged reporters “to always verify matters with the Press and Public Relations Unit for ease of clarity”.
The Standard has reliably learnt that Mr Bah has been in police custody helping them “to get to the bottom of the case”.
However, Mr Marenah of Alkamba Times who is in fact based in the US, has claimed that he is standing by his story and said “the public must not fall for the ‘cover up’ press statement from The Gambia Police Force on their so-called preliminary investigations into Central Bank of The Gambia corruption scandal.
“They’re doing everything possible to bury the case and protect criminals at the top. We are in possession of tangible evidence against those implicated in the scandal,” Marenah alleged.
Lamin Ceesay of Solie Chambers could not be reached for comments.