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Thursday, August 6, 2020

I have never met Jammeh – Ghattas

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By Baba Sillah

Tony Ghattas, the managing director of APAM, Gamico and Afristar company has refuted the claim that he was a close associate of former President Yahya Jammeh, saying he ever met Jammeh in person.
Continuing his testimony at the Janneh Commission under cross-examination by Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda, the Lebanese businessman confirmed bank statements of Shanghai Gambia Industrial Limited at Sky Bank which were admitted as exhibits, in addition to admitting that his company, GHATSON Company has a bank account at Sky bank and Guaranty Trust Bank respectively.

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When shown a document by Counsel Bensouda bearing the dalasi and dollar accounts statements at GT Bank, Ghattas confirmed they belong to GHATSON Company Limited which were accordingly applied and admitted as exhibits.

According to Mr Ghattas, Shanghai Zhong Zheng Mineral Company is a Chinese-based company dealing in the buying and selling of heavy mineral concentrates (HMC) which his Company, GHATSON is partnering with.

Mr Ghattas further explained that GHATSON Company which is partnering with Shanghai Zhong Zheng Mineral operating in Mozambique, Vietnam and Indonesia for HMC business, but he has never visited any of these countries but rather acted as a middle agent and after every transaction or dealing, he will have his percentage or profit.

Counsel Bensouda at that point intimated to Mr Ghattas that he was answering her question and has not shown any document of contract with the companies he is partnering with in China and other countries. Counsel for Mr Ghattas, Sheriff Tambadou however argued that his client has been consistent in his testimony and did not know that his client will be questioned on contract documents for other companies in China among others.

Barrister Tambadou further said that Mr Ghattas has always stated that the businesses are done by Shanghai Zhong Zheng Mineral but when asked by Commission Chairman whether he received money or payments directly from China, Mr Ghattas responded in the affirmative. He stated that his payments come through Shanghai Zhong Zheng Mineral after the sales of mineral he will get his percentage based on his capacity as a middle man in the business but he has no share in the company.

Mr Ghattas was tasked to show any payment made by the said company in his Gambian accounts which he promised to provide to the Commission. He added that he did not claim the sum of $290,000 to buy dredgers because his licence was terminated by the Geological Department noting that the said sum was approved by General Saul Badjie from the fund of APAM but he has no document to prove that as Bajie’s approval was verbal.

He refuted the allegation that he committed APAM to approve $2,130,000 to buy dredgers, noting that he paid D9.7 Million to GHATSON Company to provide services to APAM.
Mr Ghattas also claimed that he has paid the villagers of Gunjur for the construction of a road after an agreement with Geological Department and the project was funded by APAM but he did not have an invoice to show the payment he made to the villagers.

When asked whether he has documents relating to the shipment of equipment from China upon arrival in the Gambia he responded in the affirmative. He also claimed that he negotiated with General Badjie prior to the construction of the road in Sanyang and not the Geology Department. Asked why he used APAM’s money to buy cement, animal feed and basalt, he said he did so because APAM did not have money then and he will use his money for the supply and later be refunded.

According to him, the reasons why he paid money to Gambia Milling Corporation was because he was doing animal feeding which was paid by GHATSON Company limited. He said he spent D67, 000,000 and all the dollars generated from HMC on animal feeds.

Under cross-examination by his lawyer, Ghattas said he is not a close associate of Jammeh as alleged by Nuha Touray, former Secretary to Cabinet neither did he meet Jammeh in person.
“I am not a close associate of Yahya Jammeh and I never met him in person,” Ghattas told the Janneh Commission.

He said he did not know who appointed him as Managing Director of APAM but promised to check his letter of appointment to know who actually appointed him as the MD.

Mr Ousman Jobarteh, deputy managing director of Gambia Ports Authority reappeared and was shown documents relating to Barajali Ferry. He said photos of the ferry were taken showing the condition of the ferry at the time. The photos said to be obtained in 2006 by Suwaibou Barrow, a staffer of GPA were admitted as exhibits.

According to him, the sum of $2,431,000 was the contract awarded to Michaela Constructions for the extension of the landing site at GPA ferry terminals. He said the platform built at the Banjul and Barra for the landing of Aljamdou and Kansala ferries cost GPA D8, 000,000 while that of Bambatenda and Yellitenda cost D70, 000,000
Correspondences from office of the former president to the managing director of GPA and other information relating to constructions at GPA were admitted as exhibits.

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