An Oxford Crown Court judge, Michael Gledhill KC, has issued an arrest warrant for a Gambian national standing trial on alleged money laundering charges. According to the court, Ebrima Jabang, an alleged money launderer, was said to have flown to The Gambia on the eve of jurors finding him guilty of having criminal cash paid into his account.
Prosecutor Esther Schutzer-Weissmann said that 49-year-old Ebrima Jabang’s passport had been used to board a flight to Morocco on Monday evening (June 19) – the day before he was convicted.
Enquiries were yet to be undertaken to check CCTV at Heathrow Airport to confirm that the man using his passport was Jabang, who before the trial had admitted being in possession of his cousin’s passport ‘with improper purpose’.
But Ms Schutzer-Weissmann told Judge Michael Gledhill KC, that officers from Border Force, which brought the case against the defendant and five others accused of involvement in a scam that saw people parachuted into Sainsbury’s cleaning jobs illegally, had visited the man’s home.
His wife last saw him on Monday, when he told her that he was off to see a doctor. She had not heard from him since.
By Tuesday afternoon, Border Force had confirmed that, while the person using Jabang’s passport had missed a connecting flight from Morocco onto the Gambian capital Banjul on Monday night, he made the journey on Tuesday.
Sarah Ellis, defending, said her instructing solicitor had spoken to Jabang, who claimed to have stayed with a friend on Monday night. He produced a sick note from a Luton GP detailing that the man was suffering from back and leg pain.
She asked the judge not to issue a warrant for her client’s arrest without bail, but instead give him a chance to come to court on Wednesday morning. “His movement is limited,” the barrister said, in reference to her client’s painful back problem.
Ms Ellis said: “It really comes to this, I think. The stresses and strains of the trial have come into play, and, of course, he felt unwell over the weekend.” His friend had gone with him to get medical assistance, she added.
Judge Gledhill asked the barrister, rhetorically: “Do you think I look like I was born yesterday?”
He issued a warrant for Jabang’s arrest, but left it to the officers’ discretion what to do if they found that the defendant had been telling the truth and was acting poorly.
During the trial, the court heard how Momodou Chune, 55, used his position first at ISS Facility Services and later, when they took over the contract, at Exclusive Contract Services Ltd (ECS) to employ illegal immigrants as cleaning staff in Sainsbury’s stores in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.
Prosecutors described him as a ‘fixer’ who signed off false ID documents confirming the individuals had the right to work in the UK when they did not.
He also employed the same person under two different identities, while their wages were paid in whole or in part into bank accounts controlled by others, including Chune and his relatives.
Ringleader Chune, of Berry Close, Oxford, was convicted of assisting unlawful immigration to an EU member state and money laundering. He was cleared of one count of assisting unlawful immigration.
He had denied wrongdoing, suggesting he was the scapegoat for his employers.
Isaac Nimo, 41, of Mallards Way, Bicester, was found guilty of fraud. Ebrima Jabang, 49, of Berry Leys, Luton, Helen Tankoh, 53, of Leyside Court, Northampton, and Sabbeh Jeng, 48, of Berry Close, Oxford, were convicted of concealing criminal property, by having money paid into their accounts.
Tumbulu Colley, 41, of Walker Drive, Faringdon, was formally acquitted of possessing an identity document with improper intent partway through the trial.