Thursday, August 31, 2017

African Petroleum Corporation threatens Gambia with resorting to arbitration

Barrow (R) with APC CEO, counsel and CFO
In its interim financial report for the first half of the 2017 financial year released moments ago, the African Petroleum Corporation Limited (APCL) informs its shareholders that the CEO, accompanied by his Chief Financial Officer (CFO), visited The Gambia twice in February and July of this year and held discussions with the new Gambian President who succeeded Yaya Jammeh in January 2017.

During both visits, the APCL executives met with President Adama Barrow primarily to reaffirm the company's position that it's the rightful and legal owner of the A1 and A4 licences.

African Petroleum Corporation also made it clear to the Government of The Gambia and, in no uncertain terms, that the company is ready to utilize the dispute resolution mechanism provisions - meaning, going to arbitration - should the government refuse to consider the amendments they are seeking.

The mid-year financial report also informs shareholders that the company has invested over $60 million  and the company has, in no small measure, contributed a great deal in developing the industry and, in the interest of both the company and the Government of The Gambia, they'd rather see a deescalation of the impasse than to allow the situation to descend into a legal dispute.

Despite their appeal for reason to prevail, the report proceeded to notify Government that APCL is in the process finalizing the necessary legal preparations to go to arbitration in order to protect their legal rights.  African Petroleum describe the current stalemate as "a fluid situation" and for this reason, and also the fact that there are commercial and legal sensitivities, the company executives are restricted as to what they can say on the matter.

While the executives of African Petroleum are driven by the desire to protect shareholder value, the Government of Adama Barrow must be guided by its solemn oath to protect and defend the welfare of the 2 million Gambians who are among the world's poorest.

A1 and A4 contracts were negotiated under a cloak of secrecy by one of Africa's most corrupt regimes whose primary interest was to protect the financial interest of a dictator who saw and treated The Gambia as his personal property. Gambians demand that a fair and open process be adopted in any future negotiations with APCL that must require the engagement of the services of a new international legal team to assist Government.  

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ports Authority's former Managing Director and Financial Director acquitted

On 19th February, 2014, we published the acquittal of the former Managing Director, Abdoulie Tambadou and the Financial Director of the Gambia Ports Authority, Hali Abdoulie Gai.  Please read on to appreciate this case as it begins to unravel before the Commission that is looking into the illicit wealth of Yaya Jammeh.

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With the threat of 40 million Euro lawsuit hanging over the regime of Yaya Jammeh, by Gallia Holdings ( a Greek company) over the purchase of the two ferries, the former Managing Director of the Gambia Ports Authority Abdoulie Tambadou and his former Financial Director Hali Abdoulie Gai have both been acquitted of all charges leveled against them by the Banjul Magistrate Court.  The acquittal occured on the eve of Gambia's 49th Independence Anniversary.

This blog has been reporting on this scandal, and we cannot help but to think that over extensive coverage with hard evidence has contributed immensely to bringing international focus to this case thus forcing the hands of Yaya Jammeh to look elsewhere for scapegoats.

What we have been able to glean from an unusually long account of the judgement by the official mouthpiece of Jammeh, The Daily Observer (DO), is that the Task Force set up in the Office of the President charged with the "restructuring of the ferry services" was the driving force behind the purchases, and we know what that means when such structures are established under Jammeh's office and Chaired by his Secretary General, in this case the former Secretary General who is already serving a two-year prison sentence on other charges.

The judgement, as reported by DO, confirms all of what was reported here.  We now know from the judgement that the ferry "Aljamdu" was priced at 1.7 million Euros and that it was to be paid by a loan from the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation.  In short, from your pension contributions.  Nothing was said of the sister ferry "Kansala".  Both ferries are moored at the Banjul harbor and deemed inoperable because of structural defects and some serious design faults.

Another interesting fact to have emerged from the case was that the Financial Director, Gai, was not answerable to his Managing Director but to the then Chairman of the Task Force, former Secretary General Njogu Bah.  Jammeh was, therefore, pulling the strings as always.

We will delve into the details of the ruling and the figures quoted in Court which we maintain are incorrect. We, therefore, stand by our figures.  For now, we can only say that we are happy that Messrs. Tambadou and Gai are free men today because of the fact that their case was broadcast beyond the Gambian borders, and that a lot of people, including insurance companies and other interested parties, are watching. The Joint Venture partners certainly are equally interested in the evolution of the case of the two ferries "Aljamdu" and "Kansala".

The 'new' ferries are 27 years old

First published in January 2014 about the "Aljamdu" and "Kansala" ferries.

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Faced with a persistent problem of ferrying passengers, cars, commercial trucks and animals across the north and south banks of the country divided in half by the River Gambia, resulting in huge economic cost to the economy, the government of Yaya Jammeh decided to enter into a joint venture with a Greek company to purchase "a fleet of new ferries", according to State House's own website, "that will take over service at the Banjul - Barra crossing."

The joint venture between government and a Greek firm named Gallia Holdings Ltd. purchased two ferries eventually christened "Aljamdu" and "Kansala" at a total cost of Euro 6,345,000 which, in today's exchange is approx. $ 8.7 million.  The two vessels were commissioned on 23rd July 2011 to coincide with the 17th anniversary of when Yaya Jammeh seized power unconstitutionally from a democratically-elected government of Sir Dawda Jawara.  The operation of the ferries were entrusted to the Greek company that also has a controlling shares of 55% of the venture.

It became evident soon after the vessels' arrival that there was trouble.   The vessels' size and type were inappropriate.  The roll on, roll off, vessels were incompatible with the existing ramps, suggesting that the vessels were not suitable for the purposes for which they were intended.  For instance, the entire front end of one of the vessels broke off and sank at sea off Barra in January last year, and the other has been mooring at the port facilities in Banjul or at the TransGambia crossing up-river.

Apart from their occasional use during "Dialogue with The People's Tour" by Jammeh, these vessels, which cost the joint venture $ 8.7 million, have never been operated commercially since their arrival in The Gambia. Operationally, one would consider them to have been effectively mothballed.  As a consequence, the smaller class ferries, "Johe" and "Kanilai", dubbed locally as the "floating coffins" continue to ply irregularly, and so ever dangerously across the 7 nautical miles, putting Gambian lives at risk with every journey.  Until issues surrounding the "Aljamdu" and "Kansala" are resolved, the Banjul-Barra crossing will continue to pose a threat to life for those condemned to using unsafe ferries.

For those unfamiliar with international maritime protocol, every vessel manufactured in a member state of the International Maritime Organization has an identification number.  In the case of "Aljamdu" and "Kansala", a curious occurrence was discovered, both vessels shared a single ID number : IMO 8881577.   According to Lloyd's Intelligence Report, both vessels were built in January 1987. So to refer to these vessels as new by Jammeh is incorrect.  At least one or both vessels were registered in the Marshall Islands, presumably by the new venture company under a different name.  While the beneficial owner or owners is/are unlisted, the registered owner is listed as Contess Navigations Inc. in the Marshall Island.  For our purposes, what we need to know is that the vessels are 27 years old, and are registered Marshall Island.  However, the registration of one of them was later transferred to Sierra Leone.                                                                                                                                      
Maritime records cast further doubt on the physical and structural integrity of one of the vessels which showed it was involved in a collision with another vessel in the northern Aegean Sea on the 13 March 2001 resulting in hull damage (holed, cracks, structural failure).  In the same accident with 'Thassos V'  which occured in dense fog, the starboard bow and hatchway suffered minor damage with one person injured.

How the two vessels could share one identification number was puzzling enough for us to reach out to expert marine engineer who has been following Gambian affairs and particularly Gambian Ports Authority's (GPA) ferry operations.  His explanation was that the "'Kansala' was registered from 3 May 2011 to 4th May 2013, and 'Aljamdu' was registered from 5th May 2013 to present.  From  2011 - 2013, "Aljamdu" was registered in Sierra Leone, and from 5th of May 2013 to date the registration has been moved to Panama.  After extensive scrutiny of ownership records, "Kansala's" identity has now been established as the former "Sopia P" with an IMO number 8421248.  The last recorded beneficial owner and Commercially operator of "Sophia P" now called "Kansala" was one Mr. Alexandros Boufis of Spetses, Greece.

Meanwhile, we will continue our scrutiny in order to shed more light about the ownership of these vessels and what happens particularly to the 45% government portion of the joint venture. Meanwhile, the continued lack of regular ferry service between Barra and the capital city of Banjul, is causing major disruptions to the economy and the the lives of ordinary Gambians.

Before the diplomatic break-up, Taiwan had procured replacement engines, propulsion and steering systems for the two smaller class ferries "Johe" and Kanilai" to put them back in service but there's still no visible improvement.  Is it possible that the $1.5 million worth of replacement parts have been diverted and sold instead?  The Gambia Ports Authority operations are inefficient, its management corrupt and has become bankrupt as a result.  Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers and vehicles remain stranded on both sides of the river - another glaring failure of an incompetent and very corrupt regime.

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The € 6 million ferry rehabilitation scandal is worse than you think

The Deputy Managing Director of the Ports Authority had made several revelations in today's sitting including the procurement of the two ferries ("Aljamdu" and "Kansala") in partnership with a Greek company.   We have reported extensively on this matter.  Here's one installment.

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We reported on our blog post of 26th August 2013, exactly a year and a half ago, deploring the state of Gambia's ferries which was triggered by the gearbox problem that the "Kanilai" developed while at seas which caused it to drift rudderless to 12 hours with hapless passengers on board.  At the time, we said the blame should not be confined to the incompetent GPA administration that it should be squarely laid at the doorsteps of Yaya Jammeh.

Few months later, precisely in October of 2013, the Government of Yaya Jammeh suddenly announced that The Republic of Taiwan (RoC) has agreed to step in to help address the problem of the ferries.  A month later, the then Taiwan Ambassador to The Gambia, H.E. Samuel Chen handed over 4 (four) MAN engines as well as propulsion and steering systems from Schottel, the German manufacturer of marine propulsion systems.

During the presentation ceremony, the Taiwanese Ambassador said that the total cost of these parts were $1,625,384.80.  Ambassador Chen, however, made a startling revelation that half of the amount had already been advanced to the regime back in December of 2012.  The balance of the funds in the amount of $728,153.92 was handed over by the Ambassador with the 10% of the remaining cost to be paid upon delivery of the engines. These parts were meant for the two Banjul-Barra ferries "Johe" and "Kanilai", the very same ferries we are now being told will cost Gambian taxpayers € 6 million.

What happened to all of the Taiwanese money is unclear because the procurement procedure employed was equally unclear.  Was the regime directly responsible for procuring the engines and the propulsion and steering systems or was Taiwan.  It would appear from the reporting of The Daily Observer, the official mouthpiece of regime, that the Jammeh regime was in control of the procurement process and not Taiwan whose role appeared to have been limited to disbursement of funds.

The story becomes murkier because the diplomatic breakup between Banjul and Taipei occured soon after the check presentation and before the delivery of the engines.  Since 10% retention of the over $1.5 million of the total cost was to have been paid upon final delivery, it is unclear whether Taiwan or Gambia ended up paying.

Of course, the rehabilitation of the current ferries became the second best option of a regime notorious for is corruption and ineptitude after another "ferry deal" went horribly wrong.  The two ferries The "Aljamdu" and the "Kansala" were currently moored at the Banjul port because they are of inappropriate and poor design but not after a big inauguration with Jammeh (Morr Ndaggeh) leading the "celebrations".

It turns out the two mothballed vessels were 27 years old, refurbished with accidents during their seaworthy days, causing structural damages that may still pose serious safety problems.  Not only that, there may be other legal encumbrances, including possible insurances fraud, engulfing those two vessels which may have costed the Gambian taxpayer another € 6,345,000.

These scandals involving the ferry services have the potential of putting the Gambian taxpayers on the hook for over € 12 million, leaving the ferry services dangerous and unsafe at any speed.  The Greek company named Gallia Holdings, a partner in the joint venture company is threatening legal proceedings against the regime of Yaya Jammeh, further complicating an already messy situation. What a shame.

Meanwhile, we have reached out to Schottel of Germany and to our sources around the world for answers.  We will never rest until we get to the bottom of this.  The Taiwanese authorities are also being encouraged to shed light of their role in a dysfunctional ferry services that millions of dollars were spent by Taiwan with little to show for it in terms of improvements to the services.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Joint Parliamentary Committee (PAC/PEC) is on a witch-hunting expedition

This is a republication of a May 29th, 2015 piece that touched on the Brikama plant which, I hope, will help the reader appreciate the daunting task facing the Commission of Inquiry into Jammeh's illicit wealth.

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Mr, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Jammeh's hatchet man
To watch the so-called Public Accounts and Public Enterprises (PAC/PEC), the Joint Parliamentary Committees from afar gives one the impression that they are hard at work trying to weed out corruption but a closer look reveals quite the opposite.

First, the membership of the PAC/PEC is the first indication that it is a deliberated constructed body not to weed out corruption per se, but to protect from scrutiny and accountability, the Jammeh cronies embedded in every public enterprise.  The membership is stacked with relatives and staunch protectors of the person of Yaya Jammeh.  Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the Chairman of the PAC/PEC is one such character.

Second, the PAC/PEC appears to be deliberately targeting certain individuals and officials of public enterprises with biased and leading questions that suggest culpability instead of attempting to understand the audit figures and the independent and qualifying statements of the auditors with the objective of reaching the truth and not to cover the corrupt practices of Yaya Jammeh and his business cronies.

The cherry picking of candidates to be grilled before the joint committee became obvious when the Managing Director of NAWEC was allowed to describe the organizational chart of his organization and abruptly excused without any question about the financial performance of one of the poorly managed with highly dubious business transactions that involves Jammeh and his business partner named Muhamed Bazzi.

The Managing Director of NAWEC was spared the pain and embarrassment of having to explaining the ownership of the Brikama plant.  Was it sold by Bazzi to NAWEC?  What are the terms and conditions of sale, if indeed the ownership transfer did occur?  Did Jammeh force the sale?  These are questions that the joint committee should have asked the MD of NAWEC but failed to.  We hope more light will be shed on this and other transactions by the restructuring exercise scheduled to take place under the IMF bail-out - assuming that the staff monitored program is not derailed before it starts in earnest because of recent development on the monetary front.

In responding to questions by National Assembly members during the tabling of the Appropriations Bill of 2015, former Finance Minister, Kebba Touray revealed - perhaps inadvertently - in explaining the ballooning domestic debt revealed that the government had to "spend on behalf of NAWEC.  The size of this expenditure, according to the Minister was equivalent to 2.5% of GDP which we estimate to be in the region of D 783,000,000.  The nature of the expenditure was never explained - neither by former Finance Minister Touray nor by the current Managing Director of NAWEC.

Another public enterprise that has a lot to answer to is the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA).  PAC/PEC will be doing a great service to the Gambian people by asking the Managing Director about the purchase of the two ferries "Aljamdu" and "Kansala" that are currently moored on the Banjul seafront because they were ill-fitted and ill-designed to be put to service.  Several millions of dollars have been spent or committed that involved a Greek company that entered into a joint venture with GPA. The details of the joint ventureship are unknown to the Gambian people and why the two ferries are still moored.  The ownership of these vessels as well as the joint venture should have been the center of the probing of PAC/PEC.

In addition to NAWEC and GPA,  PAC/PEC should be probing the likes of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, Gamtel/Gamcell, Civil Aviation Authority and Gambia Groundnut Corporation.  Instead, PAC/PEC chose to go after the disbanded Gambia National Lottery (GNL) and other small fries because Jammeh's conflict of interest and his blatant corrupt practices will be exposed should the joint parliamentary committee conduct a serious probes into NAWEC, GPA, SSHFC, CAA and others.

We will continue to monitor PAC/PECs biased and uneven application of  parliamentary rules and procedures to advance the partisan politics and the financial interest of one man - Yaya Jammeh - instead of the interest of The Gambia and its people.

Was NAWEC forced to buy Brikama power station from Mohamed Bazzi?

On December 10th, 2014, we asked the question "Was NAWEC forced to buy the Brikama power station from Muhammed Bazzi?"  Mr. Fadi Mezaggi partially answered the question at yesterday's Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of Yaya Jammeh.   We are republishing that piece here where the then Minister of Finance (Kebba S. Touray) tried to partially blame the ballooning fiscal deficit on the "spending on NAWEC's behalf" that government had to make.   Here's the piece.
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In what appears to have been a leaked Cabinet Paper (CP) of the Minister of Finance, Kebba S. Touray, laying out the outline of his 2015 Budget Estimates, several stauning revelations and admissions were made to his cabinet colleagues.

The CP's preamble warns of the impending hardship that Gambians should expect in 2015 because of the rapidly deteriorating fiscal condition resulting from imprudent fiscal and monetary management of the economy.

The deficit which was projected to be in the region of 4.5% of GDP is now projected over twice that to 10% of GDP, forcing the Finance Minister to admit to both the Joint National Assembly Members last week, and now his cabinet colleagues that "2015 is not going to be easy."

Despite numerous warnings by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of the devastating effects a ballooning deficit will have on the overall performance of the economy, the regime of Jammeh has proven unable to control spending most of which are of the frivolous kind that contributes nothing to economic growth.

The latest explanation of the ballooning deficit is what the Minister described as "spending on NAWEC's behalf" equivalent to 2.5% of GDP which we estimate to be in the region of GMD 783 million.  What was the amount for?  It now appears that NAWEC was forced to buy the Brikama plant from Mohamed Bazzi, Jammeh's business partner.

We look forward to the Minister's  Budget Statement in the next few days to see if further details are provided to Gambians about this particular expenditure, the rationale for the sale and terms and conditions of the sale.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

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

This is a republication of an earlier piece, first published July 4th 2016

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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.

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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.

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

 A republication of a piece first published last February

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This is Part III of a four part series that we ran last year on the downstream petroleum sector.  This part deals with the ownership structure of the GNPC from its inception to when the regime of Jammeh was forced to buy-out Bazzi and partners.  This involuntary - or more appropriately, forced divestiture - was made possible because of a little known clause, apparently buried in the agreement, that many government official said they were unaware of its existence, made it possible for the non-government shareholders to milk the alliance for 5 years before off-loading the liabilities of the GNPC to government.

We, at sidisanneh.blogspot.com, have been focusing more of our attention on the downstream activities that involves GNPC with little attention paid to the off-shore or upstream activities of Yaya Jammeh who was, without doubt, the dominant player and most consequential player in these activities that have resulted in arbitration, cancellation and reinstatement of contracts.  There is no doubt that the entire set of agreements with African Petroleum Corporation and other foreign companies must be reviewed to ensure equity.  Our next new blog post will be looking at these developments and how they will impact future petroleum exploration in The Gambia.

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Yaya Jammeh, Head of the cartel 
The one-of-a-kind 51,000 metric-ton petroleum storage facility built in 2008 at a cost of $ 50 million and located at Mandinari village was jointly owned by a consortium of public enterprise and private individual investors until it was 'nationalized' last year.

Social Security and Housing Finance (31%), Gambia Ports Authority (10%) and Gambia National Petroleum Company Ltd (7%) represent government share in the venture that totals 48%.

The private investors led by the Lebanese-Syrian, Mohammed Bazzi (30.8%) comprise of another Lebanese, Fadi Mezaggi (10.3%), a Gambian, Amadou Samba (9.9%) and Premier Investment Group (1%) which is jointly owned by Mr. Bazzi and Fadi Mezaggi.  How the 1 per cent is shared among the two is unknown.  The two, however, control 42.1% of the facility and with Amadou Samba's 9.9%, the private investors control the facility with 52% an with it the management and operations of the facility.

The Gam-Petroleum Storage Facility Company, as the company is officially known, had two other strategic entities who do not own shares in the company but are critical to the viability of the venture.

The two non-shareholding strategic partners were Total International and the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) - the former serving as the international procurement arm and the latter as the single biggest consumer of heavy and light fuel oil and other petroleum products.

Total International is a French multinational energy company that enjoyed the exclusive right to procure petroleum and petroleum products on behalf of Gam-Petroleum Company and also for its own retailing purposes.  NAWEC on the other hand is a public enterprise whose current liabilities as at 31st October 2014 stood at nearly D 5 billion, D 3 billion of which was outstanding heavy fuel bills owed to supplier.
A separate storage agreement was entered into between Gam-Petroleum and Total International, the details of which are not known in full.  According to official documents government - at least, one or more key ministries - was unaware that the storage facility was used as collateral with obviously the full knowledge and approval of the majority shareholders and Total International.

The fact that the storage facility was used as a collateral without the knowledge of a certain segment of the government, came to light when another surprise was sprung on a regime that is either incompetent or corrupt or both.  It was discovered that the private investors i.e. Messrs. Bazzi, Megazzi and Samba had supplied stock belonging to Total International to NAWEC without the knowledge of the owner.

The discovery was by Total International when it went to access its stock and it was empty who immediately invoked the collateral clause by demanding full and immediate payment of US $ 24.2 million, barring which investors will forfeit the facility.  Under the agreement Total International will take possession and the subsequent selling of the facility, depriving all shareholders, including government of ownership.

During the negotiations, it was revealed that the US$ 24.2 million owed to Total International is inclusive of the US $ 64 million Mohammed Bazzi claimed NAWEC owed to the Euro Africa Group, a company owned by the same Mohammed Bazzi.
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Part IV will look at the events following Total International's decision to invoke the collateral clause, matters relating to NAWEC debt settlement proposal and its implications on the future of the national electricity company.          

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

This is re-publication of a piece published June 6th, 2016

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In Part I of the blog post on the scandal that has engulfed the country and billed by Jammeh as one of the most serious economic crimes in twenty-two years, we looked at the main agencies central to the corruption in addition to NAWEC, the national electricity company and biggest consumer of heavy fuel oil.

The Ministry of Petroleum is under the the Office of the President and thus subject to constant monitoring by Yaya Jammeh.  The Ministry of Energy has focused its attention on renewable energy while the Board of the GNPC oversees the upstream and downstream sub-sector operations of the Corporation.

Like everything else in a dictatorship, Jammeh has absolute control over every aspect of these agencies, including information flows.  Therefore, to act surprise with his "most serious economic crime in 22 years" announcement using both state-controlled television and the Daily Observer - his propaganda sheet - is pretentious behavior designed to prepare the groundwork so that others will take the entire fall for what Jammeh and his Lebanese and Gambian business associates should take a bigger share of the responsibility for the chaotic mess in the petroleum sector.

The initial organizational configuration of the petroleum sector comprised of Gam-Petroleum (Gambia) Ltd that has invested heavily in the Mandinari fuel depot to procure, store and sell petroleum and petroleum products to NAWEC.  Total International also procures and stores at the same depot for it's own operations.  The Ministry of Petroleum under the Office of the President is charge of the sector.

Mandinari Fuel Depot was built at the cost of US $50 million.  The facility considered a strategic infrastructure by the Jammeh regime was inaugurated in 2008.  Until the fuel depot was nationalized in March 2015, the equity share holdings looked like this: Social Security (31%), GPA (10%), GNPC (7%), Mohammed Bazzi (30.8%), Fadi Mazegi (10.3%), Amadou Samba (9.9%), Premier Investment Group (1%) *.  We are unable to say, for now, who the Premier Investment Group that own 1% of the fuel depot are.

It can be seen that 52% of this "strategic infrastructure" was controlled by private/foreign interests for over six years.  The private businessmen namely Mohammed Bazzi, Fadi Mazegi, Amadou Samba and PIG, together, had controlling shares from the inception with little effort to force them to divest until forced by circumstances beyond the regime's control which will be the subject we intend to address in our next installment.
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* Premier Investment Group is listed as owned by Mohammed Bazzi and Fado Mazeggi

Part III will look at the hows and  whys Jammeh arrived at the new share structure, the cost to the public treasury and why we think the Gambian people got the short end of the stick as a result of the exuberant cost of the "nationalization" of the Gam-Petroleum Fuel Depot.    

State-sponsored corruption at the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation - Part 1

The  conjunction with the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of Yaya Jammeh and his business cronies and to help our esteemed readers fully appreciate the proceedings, we are republishing our four-part series about GNPC, its share structure and the key players in a sector that has been kept a secret from Gambians by Jammeh and his business partners.

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A week ago, in a highly unusual move by Jammeh regime that raised a lot of eyebrows, the news reader of the government controlled national television read a press release informing the general public that the Office of the President has discovered "one of the most serious economic crimes in government during the past twenty-two years" of the Jammeh regime.

The release characterized the nature of the crimes committed as being related to the procurement of petroleum that involved personnel at the Ministry of Petroleum, Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and Board of the GNPC.

Because it is out of character for the regime to make such public pronouncements, it raised immediate suspicions when ten senior officials - past and current -  including a former Minister of Petroleum and Chairman of the GNPC were rounded up and speedily arraigned at the Banjul Magistrate Court in less than 48 hours.  It is important to note that even though the ten have been arraigned, the charges against each have neither been specified - at least, not publicly - nor the amounts involved.

A short historical context is essential to appreciate the problem.  Gambia National Petroleum Corporation was created in 2014 to take over the Gambia National Petroleum Company Limited established in 2003.  In presenting the Bill creating the Corporation, Infrastructure Minister, Balla Jahumpa, on behalf of the Vice President Njie-Saidy, said the GNPC Ltd. was created "to serve as the business arm of the government in the oil and gas industry in The Gambia."

The Gam-Petroleum Storage Facility at Mandinari was inaugurated in May 2008 to address the petroleum storage problems the Gambia faced over the years.  The country had outgrown the only facility owned and operated by Shell company Company (Gambia) Limited located in Banjul.

The new facility at Mandinari is listed as part of the Spectrum Group headed by Muhammed Bazzi, Jammeh's business partner and operator of the Brikama electricity power plant. The Mandinari facility, according to official sources, was build at a cost of US $ 50 million.  Initially, equity was split between the Gam-Petroleum holding group, Total International and Gambian and European banks with Total International designated as the exclusive supplier of petroleum products to the facility.

The storage capacity which is now billed as the sub-region's largest largest oil and gas storage container facility is 51,000 metric tons of heavy and light oils as well as LPG.  The facility is expected to eventually serve as a refueling stop and bunkering hub for vessels en route to South Africa and South America.
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Part II will look at the evolving share/ownership structures of these so-called state-owned petroleum companies, the procurement, storage and petroleum retailing practises that led to the massive loss of equity and revenue to the State.  It is inconceivable to think that Jammeh is not part of the scheme. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

US$ 900M is no '"chicken change", Amadou Samba owes Gambians an explanation

AMASA Holding Ltd. registered in China 
The Panama Papers listed $ 900 million against the name of a company named AMASA Holding Ltd. owned by Amadou Samba.  Two addresses were shown to be the home of the company -  78 Atlantic Road, Fajara, The Gambia and  No. 103 Ezian, Wanxin Village, Waxi City, in Wuxi City, Jiang Su Province, People's Republic of China.

$ 900 million, almost $1 billion is no 'chicken change' (a favorite Jammeh lingo) by any standard, including American.  By Gambian standard, the amount is obscenely humongous for a country as dirt poor as ours.

Rather than making threatening phone calls, spewing insults and renting "journalists" to defend the indefensible, Amadou Samba owe it to Gambians to explain the origins of the nearly $ 1 billion that pass through his Panama-operated off-shore account , how and to whom were these sums disbursed to.   Renovating and selling properties in Kensington and peddling fishing licenses cannot account for a million dollar, much less a billion.  

What we do know, up to this point, that we are in a position to disclose is that both Amasa Holdings Ltd. and the off-shore accounts in Panama are non-operational but not before almost $ 1 billion of bank transactions went through the account in Panama.
Amadou Samba and the man he 'managed' 

What Gambians and authorities around the world would like to know is the origins of these funds and to whom were they disbursed.  All of it cannot be proceeds from companies owned by Amadou Samba.  He never owned and operated companies that generated a billion dollar revenue stream.

We have seen, very early in the Commission sittings, the numerous schemes hatched by Yaya Jammeh and his enablers with the primary aim of siphoning off public funds meant for development assistance.  These funds, once schemed off the top, find their way into local commercial banks and other destinations.  

Until the alarm bells were sounded by the former Senegalese Minister of the Environment, Ali El Haidar, Yaya Jammeh was illegally exploiting Senegalese timber from the Casamance region at a rate that, according to experts, Senegalese forest cover may be depleted in two years because of the unsustainable rate of exploitation.  According to estimate,  The Gambia earned $ 238.5 million in timber exports mainly to the People's Republic of China.  Gambia was second only to Nigeria in redwood timber exports when Gambia has approximate 2% of forest cover confirming that these timbers were coming from Casamance.

Gambians demand to know who benefited from these operations and where's the money?  Westwood Company Ltd. has been prominently featured by some Senegalese authorities and identified as an active partner of Jammeh in the exploitation of the redwood.   The petroleum sub-sector demand special attention that requires external (legal) assistance in piecing together the numerous contracts entered into with African Petroleum and others to protect the interest of the Gambian people against unscrupulous con-artists who pose as legitimate businessmen.

There are other known international illicit trade in arms and ammunition, drugs (mainly cocaine) and human trafficking.  The Gambia had become the hub for these illicit trade during Jammeh's 22-year dictatorship.  Illicit and private mining conducted under the cloak of secrecy provides the Commission with a wide range of possibilities to uncover more of Jammeh's secrets that could not have been possible without the active participation of civil servants and businessmen and women of all hue and nationalities.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Gambia will not seek extradition of Ousman Sonko from Switzerland, says Justice Minister

Responding to journalists questions regarding the fate of former Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko, one of Yaya Jammeh's most powerful and trusted member of his ousted regime, Gambia's current Justice Minister revealed that the Barrow administration has no desire to pursue the extradition route.  

Instead, his government will cooperate with the Swiss authorities in furtherance of the legal charges that the notorious Ousman Sonko who referred himself as "Yaya Jammeh's disciple" or "Baye Faal" may likely face in Switzerland where he was intending to seek asylum only to be arrested for alleged human rights violations during the 22-year dictatorship of Jammeh.

Ousman Sonko was arrested following a formal complaint by Trial International, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization. that alleged that as Interior Minister and a senior member of Jammeh's security establishment,  he took part in the arrest, torture, rape and disappearances of citizens.

In March, the Gambian Interior Minister announced government's intention to seek his extradition to The Gambia to face trial.  The change in strategy may have been necessitated by the overwhelming demand on the Gambian judiciary - the aftereffect of the defeat of 22-year dictatorship -  that is understaffed and thus facing capacity issues that its shares with the rest of the civil service.  I

It, therefore, makes sense to let the Swiss authorities have a first crack at the case.  If Ousman Sonko is found guilty and sentenced to a prison term, he's expected to serve it in a Swiss prison before being deported to his native Gambia.  However, in the event he's found innocent - an unlikely outcome given the overwhelming evidence against him -  it is unclear what would happen.  He could be deported to The Gambia, returned to Spain to face deportation hearings as his initial port of entry into the EU.  We will continue to monitor developments.

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Correction:  We may have implied in our previous reporting on the Ousman Sonko's case that there was no extradition treaty between Gambia and Switzerland.  If we did imply it, we'd like to correct ourselves.  There is indeed a treaty between the two countries.  Our sources in Switzerland have confirmed it.