3 senior gov’t officials arraigned with over 13 criminal charges
Three senior officials from the Ministry of Health and Health Promotion and Development Organization (HePDO) were yesterday dragged to the High Court in Banjul presided over by Justice Jaiteh and charged with over 13 counts ranging from economic crime, corruption, theft and forgery among others.
The trio are Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health, Balla Kandeh, programme manager of the Malaria Control Programme and Omar Malleh Ceesay, executive director of HePDO.
They all pleaded not guilty to charges levelled against them after it was read to them during their first court appearance on Monday.
State Counsel E.N. Dounga with M. Faye and S.L. Jobarteh appeared for the State while Lawyer Lamin L.S. Camara appeared for both accused persons.
According to Count One, the statement of offence includes official corruption, contrary to Section 86 of the Criminal Code, Cap 10:01 Vol: 111 Revised Laws of The Gambia, 2009.
The particulars of offence stated that Balla Kandeh, Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh and Lamin Jarju (now late) between the years 2018 and 2020 in diverse places in the Republic of The Gambia “within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court being employed in the public service, and being in charge of the management and implementation of consultancies for malaria research for the period 2018-2020, corruptly obtained the sum of D4, 287, 645.26 on account of your omission to ensure that consultants were hired to conduct the consultancies.” When the charge was read to them, the duo pleaded not guilty.
The statement of offence on count two indicated that Disobedience of Statutory duty, contrary to Section 115 of the Criminal Code, Cap 10:01 Vol: 111 Revised Laws of The Gambia, 2009.
The particulars of offence indicated that Balla Kandeh, Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh and Lamin Jarju (now late), on or about the 2nd day of February 2018 at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Banjul of the Republic of The Gambia within jurisdiction of this Honorable Court wilfully disobeyed the provisions of the Gambia Public Procurement Act 2014 to wit: by signing a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Development (HePDO) and award contract of consultancies to control programme in the management and implementation of consultancies for malaria research without subjecting the said award of contract to an open tender process and thereby committing an offence. The two officials also pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The statement of offence on count three states conspiracy to commit felony; contrary to Section 368 of the Criminal Code, Cap 10:01 Revised Laws of The Gambia, 2009.
The particulars of offence stated that Balla Kandeh, Omar Malleh Ceesay, Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh and Lamin Jarju (now late) sometime in 2018 at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Banjul and other diverse places in the Republic of The Gambia within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to commit a felony to wit: steal the sum D11, 480, 023.00 from a grant to the Gambian government from Global Fund and thereby committed an offence. When the charge was read to them, all the three accused persons pleaded not guilty.
Meanwhile, during the plea taking of the accused persons, Defence Counsel Camara raised an issue, saying: “My lord, Count 19 is the same as Count 18 and Count 20 is the same as Count 21. My Lord, the doubtful counts were in respect of Count 14 which is the same as Count 15 and Count 16 is the same as 17 as well.”
For his part, Counsel E.R. Donga acknowledged that Count 14 is the same as Count 15 and that Count 16 is the same as Count 17 while Count 17 is the same as Count 18. “My Lord, I am applying for an adjournment with a view to amend the information, thus we are seeking leave to amend,” she posited.
Lawyer Camara further interjected, saying: “My lord, we are not objecting to the adjournment. However, we urge the court to maintain the earlier bail condition for the accused person. Again, we are not objecting to the amendment sought by the State Counsel.”
For his part, Justice Jaiteh, said: “The objection sought by the state is hereby granted and the police bail of the accused is also extended and leave is granted to the state to amend the information. Meanwhile, I shall push the plea taking pending the amended information.”
The presiding Judge in his ruling for bail, said: “In view of the facts; the offences alleged by the State are bailable offences and do not attract the punishment of death or life imprisonment. Hence, the State sought an adjournment and considering that the accused persons are presumed innocent until proved guilty, I shall use the discretion of this Court in their favour and grant the 1, 2nd and 3rd accused persons bail on the following terms and conditions:
(a) That the 1st accused person, (Balla Kandeh), 2nd accused person (Omar Malleh Ceesay) and 3d accused person (Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh) are admitted to bail in the sum of D19,000.000.00 (Nineteen Million Dalasis) each.
(b) That each of the accused person shall provide one or two Gambian surety(s) who shall deposit to an affidavit of means.
(c) That the surety(s) shall be an owner of the landed property worth not less than D19, 000,000.00 (Nineteen Milion Dalasis) and the property shall be valued by a recognised estate valuer or government valuer and provide a valuation report not later than this order of this court.
(d) The surety(s) is to deposit the original title deeds of their property with the Principal Registrar of the High Court.
(e) That the accused persons are to surrender their travelling documents with the Principal Registrar of the High Court.
(f) That each of the accused persons is required to attend court sitting and on time.
(g) The police bail is hereby revoked forthwith.
Meanwhile, the case is hereby adjourned to 30th October 2023 at 10:00 a.m. for continuation of plea taking.
Source: The Point