A Lebanese multimillionaire Businessman, Muhammed Bazzi has appeared before the commission of inquiry probing into financial activities of the former president and his close associates.
Bazzi who claimed to have both Lebanese and Belgian citizenship said he also held a Gambian diplomatic passport as he was the Gambia’s Honorary Councilor to his country of origin, Lebanon.
He said his first visit to the Gambia was facilitated by one Tarik Musa who requested for him to intervene in the country’s unstable energy sector in 2001.
“I first met former President Jammeh in the same year 2001,” Muhammed Bazzi said.
Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda asked him to take the commission through his businesses in the country which started with the importation of fuel, sand mining and flour milling among others. He then mentioned some of his companies including Global Trading, Euro Africa Group, GAMICO, Gampetroleum and Gambia Electrical Group GEG among others. He also mentioned Premiere Investment which he said he owns 75 percent shares.
Mr Bazzi could not tell the commission whether it was him or the former president who came up with the idea of taking the mining operations from Carnegie Minerals, an Australian Company whose license was terminated by the former president Yahya Jammeh. He admitted that he has never experienced mining operations. He told the commission that he handed over operations to Tony Ghattas who was working with Carnegie Menerals.
It was put to him that his company GAMICO does not have exploration license but acquired only a mining license. His license application was shown to him and was subsequently admitted and marked as exhibit.
“I am not involved in the termination of Carnegie Meneral’s license,” Muhammed Bazzi asserted.
“Why do you have to pay legal fees for the Gambia Government against the rulings awarded in favor of Carnegie Menerals,” Lawyer Bensouda asked him.
At that juncture, Bazzi explained that he was approached by a foreign lawyer who was interested in the case but the government could not afford the fees so he was asked to settled the payment.
He asked about the stuck pile of mineral sand left at the seaport by Carnegie which he said was exported. It was put to him that the stuck pile and mining equipment were part of the claims of Carnegie against the Gambia Government.
Bazzi denied the former president was a shareholder in his alleged mining company. He was asked the reason he handed over his company’s shares to the former president. He said he does not have a choice.
The Lebanese multimillionaire complained about threats of closure by the authorities together with the NIA during which files were seized from his office.
He was asked to present documents belonging to one of his businesses, Euro Africa Group at his next appearance.
Meanwhile, Dr Njogu Bah and Momodou Sabally both reappeared before the commission.