Saturday, November 22, 2014

Yusupha Bojang to Southwark Court: "I am happy to take profit wherever it comes from."

Deputy Ambassador Yusupha Bojang         Gambian Embassy
This blog is based entirely on the reporting of Keith Perry of UK's Telegraph newspaper

Described as the diplomat who oversaw the tobacco racket that cheated British taxpayers of £ 5 million, Yusupha Bojang (aged 54) the former Deputy Ambassador at the Gambian Embassy in London told the Southwark Crown Court Magistrate that he was happy to make profit wherever it came from.

The court also heard that the Gambia Embassy was "turned into a tobacconists", with customers queuing up outside the Embassy after Yusupha Bojang allegedly started his £ 5 million duty-free scam with seven other co-defendants in the case.

The Deputy Ambassador and seven of his former Embassy colleagues are accused of abusing the duty-free, tax exempt of goods for personal use and used delivery driver to send them more than half a million 50g pouches, it was said.

The Embassy became a tobacconists, the court was told, with customers queuing to receive their ordered tobacco which has no limit, unlike alcohol.  The court was told that deliveries where usually taken and signed for by Ms. Audrey Leeward (aged 45) who sat on the front desk.

Although Yusupha Bojang denied ordering thousand of pounds of rolling tobacco, and insisted on knowing nothing about the orders he made and appeared to have signed for.  He told the court that he had no idea how much Ms. Leeward was ordering or how much money he made from the scam.

The court heard that over a three year period, the eight defendants collectively ordered or were invoiced for in excess of 350,000 50g pouches.

Prosecutor Jane Bewsey QC said there was "systematic abuse" of privileges granted to Diplomatic Missions based in the UK.

Four of the eight defendants were employed as diplomatic staff and thus entitled to enjoy the tax-breaks of items such as alcohol, perfume and tobacco "for personal use". They are Bojang (54), First secretary Gaston Sambou, 48, finance attache Ebrima John, 38, and welfare officer Georgina Gomez, 29.

Co-defendants and staff members receptionists Leeward, secretary Noah, 60, and driver Ramarajaha, 54, were locally recruited and therefore not entitled to the privileges.

The eighth defendant Ida Njie, 42, was employed by the Gambia Tourism Authority.  Although housed at the Embassy, she was employed by the Embassy and thus not entitled to the same privileges.

Jurors were told that diplomatic immunity did not apply in this case and all the defendants were subject to U.K. law.   All defendants deny a single charge of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.

Ambassador Ya Eli Harding, Deputy Ambassador Bojang and First Secretary Gaston Sambou, Georgina Gomez and Ebrima John have taken the stand.

The case continues.