Sunday, July 21, 2024

Police Officer Takes Stand in Corruption Scandal Involving 3 Health Personnel

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By Mama A. Touray

The eighth prosecution witness, Modou Gaye, a police officer from the drug squad unit at the police headquarters, began his testimony today in the corruption trial of three Ministry of Health officials before Justice Ebrima Jaiteh at the Banjul High Court.

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The three officials, Balla Kandeh, Programme Manager of the Malaria Control Programme, Omar Malleh Ceesay, Executive Director of HePDO, and Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, face a total of 19 charges. These include official corruption, failure to fulfil statutory duties, conspiracy to commit a felony, economic crimes, forgery, and theft.

Officer Gaye, when asked if he recognized the three accused, who were seated in the dock dressed in their respective local haftans, confirmed that he knew them through an investigation related to the audit report of the National Malaria Control Program conducted by his office.

He also acknowledged knowing Sheriff Corr and Bakary Drammeh, clarifying that Bakary is a fellow police officer and was part of the team investigating the malaria control program’s audit report.

Gaye elaborated that he took two cautionary statements from Bala Kandeh, one in January 2023 and the other in April 2023. He added that for the January statement, Kandeh chose to write it himself after Gaye read the cautionary words to Kandeh in the presence of an independent witness.

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“After inviting an independent witness, Mr Ceesay was asked if he would record his own statement and he opted to write his own statement and I read the cautionary wordings to him in front of an independent witness and was signed by the independent witness and I also indicated my initials on each of the statements,” he told the court.

He testified that he took cautionary statements from Momodou Lamin Jaiteh on different dates and chose to write them himself in the presence of an independent witness after reading the cautionary wordings to Jaiteh. Subsequently, the statements were signed by the independent witness, Gaye, and the accused, Ceesay.

The trio’s statements were confirmed by the witness as the ones the accused wrote and signed.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, AM Yusuf, attempted to submit the statements through the witness, but this was objected to by Counsel F Jallow for the accused. Jallow argued that some of the statements were not linked and the two that were linked were not signed by an independent witness. Furthermore, Jallow contended that the statements were not obtained voluntarily and requested an adjournment.

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