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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Solicitor General unravels Carnegie legal saga

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By Baba Sillah

Cherno Marena, Solicitor General and Legal Secretary at the Ministry of Justice yesterday gave evidence about Carnegie Minerals Company, the termination of its contract and arbitrations.
Marena said a total amount of cost awarded to Carnegie Minerals was about $22 to 23,000.000, adding that after the award Gambia Government challenged the decision of the court and the award has not been granted because the government annulled it and file annulment proceedings in 2015.

According to him, the Gambia Government was represented by Mayer Brown Legal Firm and the legal cost or fees were €971, 000.
Mr Marena at that point produced the invoice of the legal cost, email correspondence to the commission, which were admitted and marked as exhibits.

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However, he explained that the case was mentioned at the International Centre for the Settlements of Investments Disputes (ICSID) but couldn’t remember where this tribunal sits and added that he needs to find out where exactly the proceedings took place. “Is either in Europe or North America,” he assumed.
At that juncture, a document bearing heavy mineral account of Carnegie Mining Company which Mr. Marena said was in connection with the annulment proceedings and Gambia Government was required to pay the sum of $200,000.

He said he believed the payment of over D4.2 million was in relation to the payments of the annulment fees by Gambia Government. “The annulment proceeding has been suspended but might come up next week,” he disclosed.

Mr Marena further testified that it was a mystery for him when he heard that Mr. Muhammed Bazi and Euro Africa Group paid the legal fees on behalf of the government. Asked by counsel what benefit did the government seek to achieve in pursuant of this case, he responded that this case was during the former administration and the current government needs to advise itself on the matter.

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Next to testify was Ousman Jobarteh, the deputy director of Gambia Ports Authority. In his testimony, he told the commission that the Youth Development Enterprise (YDE) was in existence up to 2010. He said there were transactions of vessels carrying goods such as rice, sugar, cement, flour and cattle were imported by Kanilai Family Farms but services provided to them were not paid.

According to Mr Jobarteh, there were outstanding sums of money from 2009-2013 owed to Ports by KFF amounting to D11, 480,194.28. He said the then Managing Director of GPA dealt with the office of the president in respect to CFA transactions.

The Gambia Ferry Services Management Terminal book dated 3rd December 2015-2016, Memoranda of liquidation and Memoranda of CFA sales to ex-president by the GPA were admitted as exhibits. He said GPA provides management and financial supports to Gambia Ferry Services (GFS).

With regard to the Kanilai Cultural Arena, Mr Jobarteh recalled that services were provided and procurements were made for the construction and rehabilitation of the arena. At that point, commission counsel, Amie Bensouda applied for the summary of expenditure in relation to Kanilai Cultural Arena and was also admitted. “I received telephone calls from the Managing Director of GPA informing me that the office of the then President requested for CFA sales. General Saul Badjie and Major Yusupha Sanneh usually come to the office to collect the CFA. We received verbal instructions from OP,” he explained.

Jobarteh further explained that the director of finance wrote several memos to the office of the President asking for the payments of these monies. However he said he’s not aware of any letter emanating from then MD Modou Lamin Gibba and Lamin Sanyang, in respect to the recovery of the money owed to them by KFF and office of the former president.

At that juncture, documents showing outstanding sums owed by KFF and OP were admitted as evidence. Receipts of ferry services company were also admitted.
The deputy director revealed that both Aljamdou and Kansala ferries were both on joint venture under the directives of former president Jammeh at a tune of €7,000 000 but, according to him, the ferries are not operational because they are not suitable for the environment.

Mr Jobarteh went further to inform members of the commission that over six million and half was spent for the procurement of construction materials for Kanilai Cultural Arena. Summary of expenditures on the Arena accompanied with a cover letter were exhibited. He adduced that when a vessel docks with consignments belonging to KFF, the MD will instruct finance for invoices to be raised.

He however acknowledged that the correct procedure is for the receiver in Banjul to make payments prior to discharging the consignments but for KFF, vessels will be discharged without payments. All invoices and supporting documents relating to KFF were tendered by counsel. He said the finance department followed KFF for payments but to no avail.

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