Monday, July 4, 2016

State-sponsored corruption at the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation - Part IV

Mohammed Bazzi
The decision to supply NAWEC a stock of petroleum products valued at $ 24.2 million that belonged to Total International was taken by the private investors who had controlling shares and occupied senior management positions at Gam-Petroleum Storage Facility Company.

The decision to knowingly supply fuel belonging to Total International was taken by Mohammed Bazzi, Fadi Mazeggi and Amadou Samba according to official records. This conclusion was reached by Ministries of Finance and Energy, Central Bank officials, Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation and Gambia Ports Authority officials who attended the meeting.  Conspicuously absent from the meeting was a representative of the Office of President - the office that supervises both the Energy and Petroleum Ministries.

The exact figure of the value of the Total International stock was said to be US $ 24,188,951.05 which, according to official records is "part of NAWEC's total liability to Euro Africa Group, estimated at $ 64,000,000."  Since the $ 64 million is an estimate, it should treat it as such until a final definitive figure is available.

By invoking the collateral clause of the storage agreement between Gam Petroleum Storage Company and Total International, the regime of Yaya Jammeh was forced to either pay up the $ 24.2 million or forfeit the storage facility that cost US$ 50 million to build.  (How the project was financed becomes a central issue which we will be examining in subsequent blogs.)

To avoid the unthinkable alternative of forfeiture, the regime f Yaya Jammeh decided to "nationalize" the Mandinari Storage facility by "buying out" Bazzi, Mazeggi and Samba.  NAWEC's balance sheet needs to be sanitized by engaging its creditors to restructure its debt which has ballooned to D 4.585 billion.  As a primary consumer of petroleum, it makes sense to restructure not only NAWEC's debt but its organizational and managerial structure which the World Bank had been recommending for quite sometime.

The buy-out of the private investors was made possible only when Bazzi, Mazeggi and Samba agreed that their proceeds from the transaction will go into settling the $ 24.2. million with Total International.  Their shares were subsequently distributed among government agencies as follows :- SSHFC (30%), GPA (30%), GNPC (30%) and Ministry of Finance (10%).

It is important to note, for future reference, that the individual shares were valued at €350,000 per share, a figure based on valuation made in 2009 when the three private investors purchased their shares.

The restructuring plan, including the new share structure, was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of the Gam Petroleum Fuel Storage chaired by Amadou Samba, Fadi Mazeggi, private investor and attended by Mr.   Badgie, Managing Director, GNPC, Mr. Edward Graham, Managing Director, SSHFC, Mr. Alhagie Cherno Ceesay representing GPA, Ms. Farage, Secretary to the Board, Mr. Edirissa Mass Jobe, Board Member.

In an unusual move by Yaya Jammeh, he announced that his regime has uncovered "one of the biggest economic crimes" in the 22-year history of the Second Republic before proceeding to direct his security agents to round up ten former and current senior officials in the Petroleum Ministry including Sira Wally Ndow Njie, a former Minister of Petroleum and Edrissa Mass Jobe a businessman who is close business associate of the Gambian dictator and someone who brought Elton petrol stations to The Gambia.  Mr. Jobe is also a Board member of the GNPC that is at the center of the current scandal.

It was reported last week that the lawyers of both Mr. Jobe and Mrs. Sira Wally Ndow Njie had filed bail application for their release from remand at Mile II prisons.  However, we have now learned that for some unexplained reason or reasons, the applications have been withdrawn by their attorneys. Unconfirmed reports have it that a deal is being worked out for their release from jail.  Whether the accused will be exonerated and their cases dismissed is unclear.  Watch this space.

POSTSCRIPT: This is the final installment of a four-part series on how the state is central and a facilitator to the Gam-Patroleum corruption scandal that Jammeh described as one of the biggest economic crime ever committed under his watch.  Jammeh cannot be totally oblivious of all of the stench that has been swirling over his head for all these years.

Subsequent blogs will be treating other components of the sandal individually.  For example the capitalization of the initial project investment of $ 50 million and whether Gambia's sovereign guarantee was issued by the Central Bank.

Related issues such as the transfer of ownership of the Brikama Power Station from Mohammed Bazzi who has been operating it for five years as BOT project to NAWEC has been updated here when the then Minister of Finance, Kebba Touray, paid "on behalf of NAWEC" over $ 30 million will be closely examined.  We can now say the money went to Bazzi. How it was distributed to "investors" is anyone's guess.