Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ambassador Elizabeth Ya Eli Harding to testify in the £5 million duty-free caper?

Amb. Elizabeth Ya Eli Harding
Ambassador Elizabeth Ya Eli Harding is scheduled to testify next Thursday before the Southwark Crown Court on the case involving Deputy Ambassador, Yusupha Bojang, his First Secretary, Gaston Sambou, and six other Embassy staff.
Yusupha Bojang                   Gaston Sambou                         

The eight are accused of swindling the British taxpayers of £5 million in the illicit use of the duty-free privilege by ordering 32 tonnes of tobacco during a span of three years.

Ambassador Ya Eli Harding is the principal prosecution witness in a case that has engulfed her entire Embassy staff, ranging from a Deputy Ambassador, a Tourism Promotion Officer, a receptionist and a driver.

The question that must preoccupy the Crown prosecution is whether Ambassador Harding will testify because it is unclear whether she has received 'clearance' from Banjul to testify.  As at this writing, there's no indication that Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator, has given the green light.

Under the delegation of authority, Ambassador Harding will have to respond to some questions.  The extent, however, of her cooperation with the prosecution is open to question.  She is some what between a rock and a hard place.  She must tread carefully because she is serving a dictatorship that has been accused of involving in drug and arms trafficking among other illicit activities, and , therefore, will not hesitate to throw her under the bus too.

We are of the view that it is in her best interest, even if Yaya Jammeh refuses to authorize her to testify unreservedly, to fully cooperate with the British authorities, even if it means that the evidence points to Yaya Jammeh.  To act otherwise, the Ambassador risks being declared persona non grata, and what awaits her in Banjul is unpredictable, according to legal experts familiar with the case.

The silence, from the Banjul end, is deafening since the case broke, suggesting the involvement of the regime of Yaya Jammeh for a criminal operation of this magnitude will go unnoticed for three years, 32 tonnes and  £5 million later.  The official mouthpiece of the regime, The Daily Observer, has also refused to report the case, although other news outlets have carried the U.K. Daily Mail story about the case.