Ansumana Jammeh and Co were first arraigned before the Banjul Magistrates’ Court on two counts offence of conspiracy to commit a felony and official corruption. They all pleaded not guilty and were granted bail in the sum of D100 million by the presiding magistrate, Omar Cham. Later, the state took over the case and filed a bill of indictment against them at the High Court.
Count one of the bill of indictment alleged that Ansumana Jammeh between 14th June 2010 and 5th January 2011 in Banjul and diverse places, being employed in the public service as Gambian Ambassador to Qatar and in the discharge of his official duties, corruptly and dishonestly received the amount of USD 1, 555, 065.00, equivalent to D45, 515, 907.00 from CONAPRO DENA BMS SARL, as incentive for procuring a contract for the building of a Gambia Food and Feed Mill project for the Government of the Gambia.
On count two, it was alleged that during the same period in Banjul and other diverse places, being employed in the public service as Gambian Ambassador to Qatar, and in the discharge of his official duties, Ansumana unlawfully received the amount of USD 1, 555, 065.00 equivalent to D45, 515, 907.00 from one Mr. Saoud Gandour in order to confer benefit or favour in a contract between the Gambia Government and CONAPRO DENA BMS SARL company.
Count three stated that in Banjul and other diverse places, being employed in the public service as Gambian Ambassador to Qatar and in abuse of the authority of his office, Ansumana Jammeh arbitrarily received the amount of USD 1, 555, 065.00, equivalent to D45, 515, 907.00 from CONAPRO DENA BMS SARL of Qatar for his personal gains.
On count four, Ansumana Jammeh and Hassan Badjie were said to have between the periods of 2010 to 2012 in Banjul and diverse places conspired amongst themselves to unlawfully receive for personal use, the sum of USD 1, 555, 065.00 equivalent to D45, 515, 907.00 as an incentive for procuring a contract for the building of a Gambia Food and Feed Mill project for the Government of the Gambia.
Ansumana Jammeh was also charged on count five for wilfully and unlawfully facilitating the procurement of a contract with CONAPRO DENA BMS SARL which caused an economic loss to the Government of The Gambia in the sum of seven million US Dollar, which is equivalent to D205, 100, 000, between 14th June 2010 and 5th January 2011 in Banjul and diverse places while being employed in the public service as Gambian Ambassador to Qatar and in the discharge of his official duties.
Count six stated that Sanna Bah and Hassan Badjie between the months of June, 2010 and February, 2011 in Banjul acted in collaboration with Ansumana Jammeh, Gambia’s Ambassador to Qatar to wilfully and recklessly cause economic loss to The Government of the Gambia in the sum of seven million US Dollar equivalent of two hundred and five million, one hundred thousand Dalasi being money expended for a contract between the Government of the Gambia and CONAPRO DENA BMS SARL, which act is detrimental to the economy of the Gambia Now the question which we think is bothering the mind of all Gambians and the world over is why the sudden U-turn on the part of Ansumana and Co warranting a change of their pleas. Well the answer is simple.
The Gambia government had entered into a contract with CONAPRO. They have breached the terms of the contract prompting CONAPRO to sue them. The Gambian government has hired the service of international lawyers to defend them.
Now they want to use Ansumana Jammeh as a witness to testify before the International Tribunal hearing this matter that he was bribed by CONAPRO to award them the contract which is the subject of litigation herein. In short, they want to raise the defence of bribery and Ansumana Jammeh is the only potential witness to help them in substantiating this defence for them.
This defence will frustrate the claim of CONAPRO. People are not stupid. Section 29(3) of the Criminal Code empowers presiding officers in The Gambia to impose an option of a fine instead of an imprisonment term where the punishment for the offence charged is not death. This provision has been invoked several times without numbers in state interest cases and have been refused. Why the change of tune in relation to Ansumana Jammeh? Gambians lets wake up!
Another important factor which is worth considering is the fact that the Criminal Code is a general provision. The Economic Crimes (Specified Offences) Act Cap. 13:07 is a specific legislation with its specific provisions.
Therefore, as a matter of construction of statutes, a general provision of the laws of a land cannot be invoked to do away with specific provisions of the laws. It is a trite cardinal principle of interpretation of statutes that where there is a conflict between the general and specific provision, then the specific shall prevail.
There shall be no avenue to derogate the clear provisions of a specific legislation and hide behind the general provisions of laws. Section 6(1) of the aforesaid Act states that a person convicted under it shall be sentence to a fine which is the total amount of loss occasioned to the state by the offender and in addition to a term of imprisonment not less than three years and not more than 10 years.
It is clear from this specific provision that the punishment which should be imposed on Ansumana Jammeh is both a fine and an imprisonment term. Section 29(3) of the Criminal Code cannot help here as the Economic Crimes (Specified Offences) Act is a specific legislation and its provisions are very clear as to what the court should no. There is nothing else the Judge could do save as what is provided by law.
The only discretion open to the Judge was to reduce the minimum imprisonment term of three years and even if she does so, she must state reasons for such as provided by section 6(3). Whichever direction the Judge took, an imprisonment term as a matter of law which guides her conduct in court, must lie against Ansumana Jammeh.
Ansumana Jammeh as per the clear provisions of the law must have tasted the four corners of the prison wall as a convict even for a day. Why only the fine against him without an additional mandatory jail term provided by the law? Because the state wants to use him as a witness against CONAPRO and tender this rubbish judgement as an Exhibit to show that Ansumana Jammeh had pleaded guilty to the fact that he was indeed bribed by CONAPRO. This whole trial is a sham.
As if all these were not enough, the Judge had the impetus to even reduce the fine. There is no provision under the Economic Crimes (Specified Offences) Act allowing a reduction of fine to be imposed when a person has been convicted under it. Its punishment provision is very clear. It states the amount of loss occasioned to the State should be the fine to be imposed. The loss as per the charge sheet is seven million US Dollar equivalent of two hundred and five million, one hundred thousand Dalasi.
The Judge in this case imposed D25 Million when the loss alleged to be committed by Ansumana is seven million US Dollar equivalent of two hundred and five million, one hundred thousand Dalasi. The question again is, why this VIP treatment for Ansumana Jammeh? Also, Ansumana Jammeh was given a grace period of 32 months to pay the fine imposed on him by the court. This grace period being given by the court is unlawful.
It is not borne out of any good faith and or law. It transgressed the law the court was set out to enforce. This is a clear manifestation of the fishy games the Yaya Jammeh government continued to exhibit in the country’s judicial deliberations. Section 6(5) of the same Act mandatorily requires of a Judge when ordering for an instalment payment of any fine imposed under the Act to set the time limit not more than 6 months.
Why 32 months for Ansumana Jammeh? The question remains the same. This is a trial set in motion by the government of The Gambia in other to cook a defence in a case against them by CONAPRO for breach of contract. You can elect to play smart but people will still know the underlying factor fuelling your evil moves. CONAPRO be aware of this.