Today’s ceremony is the culmination of nearly two years of painstaking investigations by the Commission of Inquiry into the Financial Activities of Public Bodies, Enterprises and Offices as regards their dealings with Former President Yahya Jammeh. Allow me to state from the outset that due to various constraints including limited time, the Commission could not look into all the financial activities of former President Jammeh, but there was no illusion about the magnitude of the task entrusted to the Commission, and the challenge was no doubt daunting. It is impressive that they were able to complete their work within a period of 18 months given that their temporal mandate covered a 22 year period from July 1994 to January 2017.
More impressive is the fact that they were able to sift through thousands of transcripts of 253 witness testimonies and other documentary evidence, analyse and make sense of the information collected, and produce a report in 9 volumes all within this short period. It demonstrates commitment, dedication to duty, responsibility, and above all the zeal and patriotism with which the Commission has carried out its work.
The Commission’s Report exposes former President Jammeh’s financial activities ranging from complex webs of intricate and sophisticated international financial transactions that bear all the hallmarks of criminality and money laundering in particular aided by his close associates, to shameless acts of brazen outright thievery at the Central Bank of The Gambia.
The total amount of money spent by the Commission from its inception in July 2017 to date is D50,951,261. This includes all the expenses incurred in the course of their investigations including but not limited to honorarium paid to the three Commissioners and 58 staff working full time at the Commission throughout this period, counsel’s fees, fuel, stationery, food, security, rentals etc.
However, this figure pales in comparison to the huge amounts of money embezzled by the former President and his close associates which the Commission has uncovered and which we intend to recover. For instance, it has now been established that the former President alone pilfered at least D1,065,012,512; $304, 718, 071; 29, 475, 269 Euros; and 2,250,000 Pounds Sterling. This is a staggering amount of money that could have had significant impact on the lives of the ordinary people of this country, in health, in education, in agriculture and many other priority areas. Instead, it was money used to satisfy the pretentious and delusional lifestyle of an egotistic megalomaniac; acts that were both unconscionable and criminal.
Meanwhile, Your Excellency, the Commission was also able to generate income for the State in the course of its work totaling D100,617,442 and $498,481 discovered from hidden accounts at local commercial banks, the sale of recovered tractors and other items. Moreover, we intend to recover the entire cost of the Commission’s investigations by making those against whom adverse findings have been made to bear the costs of recovery in proportion to their responsibilities.
The work of the Commission should not be measured in monetary terms alone. I am proud to report that largely because of their work, conducted in a professional manner with respect for and adherence to due process, fairness and transparency: we have exposed the alarming scale of corruption of the former President and his close associates; we have now established that he claimed title to 281 landed properties in the country; we have shared information generated in the course of the Commission’s work with foreign governments that are assisting us with the tracking and recovery of assets abroad and which led to the freezing of the Potomac residence by US authorities; we now know that the value of his Kanilai assets alone are worth D1,404, 000; and we have seen a tightening of financial regulations by government departments and agencies to prevent corruption and financial leakages in the system.
More importantly, we now have a legal basis for our recovery efforts going forward. Allow me to re-iterate that our primary objective henceforth is to recover as much as possible if not all, and we will use all legal means at our disposal including civil and criminal proceedings to achieve our objective. All options are on the table and we are not ruling anything out. We now have six months to study the details of the Report and advise the President on appropriate actions. His excellency will then decide whether or not to publish the Report or any part thereof.
Before concluding, allow me to extend my sincere gratitude to the Chairman, Mr SBS Janneh, his fellow Commissioners Mr Bai Mass Saine and Ms Abiosseh George, and of course the indefatigable Counsel who assisted the Commissioners, Mrs Amie Bensouda for their hard work and commitment throughout the work of the Commission. They have displayed remarkable maturity, patience, and adherence to and respect for due process, fair hearing and the rules of natural justice in general. It clearly demonstrates that we have what it takes to handle our own affairs with the highest standards without resorting to foreign assistance in many governance areas. Those who were around to see the commissions at work following the military coup in 1994 would not have failed to notice the marked difference in proceedings between those commissions and this one.
I salute the courage of these group of commissioners for accepting this challenging but noble task for our country and I re-iterate their statement in the Report that the most important feature of their work “is the potential to help shape the future direction of our country by avoiding some of the exposed pitfalls and follies of the past 22 years”.
Finally, I wish to thank many who have supported the work of the Commission. These include my own staff from the Ministry of Justice, former Secretary to the Commission Mr Alhaji Kurang, the lawyers, the investigators including members of The Gambia Police Force, the clerks, the drivers and the security personnel who were deployed at both the residences of the Commissioners and at the seat of the Commission. We thank you all