Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Mohammed Bazzi's request for an in-camera testimony should be denied

Mohammed Bazzi, CEO of Euro-Africa Group
Mohammed Bazzi's request to the Commission of Inquiry into Jammeh's illicit wealth for an in camera testimony was immediately met with a barrage of opposition voices and acute skepticism from Gambians.

We learned a couple of weeks ago that Jammeh's closest business associate  was going to formally make the request to members of the Commission through a Gambian lawyer engaged to represent him.

His lawyer, Ms. Farage, informed the Commission that her client was concerned about his safety.  According to her presentation, there are supporters of the previous regime who have made specific threats to Mr. Bazzi should he disclose certain information they obviously considered to put Jammeh and his regime in very bad light.

Responding to the Chairman's questions, Mr. Bazzi and his lawyer suggest that the threat on the Belgian businessman's life extends beyond him to include threats to those working for him and with him because of sensitive documents in his possession.  The details that will be revealed concerning the monthly payments made by his Euro-Africa Group into Yaya Jammeh's Trust Bank account from 30th June 2011 to January 2013 totaling D 240 million will also cause consternation among supporters of Jammeh and his regime.

According to a reliable source, Mr. Bazzi might also be worried that the revelations in the Commission might prove problematic to certain business interests and partners outside of territorial Gambia, particularly the monthly dalasi deposits by Euro-Africa into Jammeh's account.  The fact that Mr. Bazzi claimed to be unaware of these payments during his previous appearance suggests he had to tread carefully on the subject.

Reactions to Bazzi's request for an in-camera appearance were swift and categorical.  Jeggan Grey-Johnson calls the request a "ploy and a ruse" and if granted "a precedence will be set", sharing a view with the Commission's counsel who warned of the precedent-setting nature of the request should the Commissioners agree to his request.  "All the biggest crime big wigs and there are only two left to testify - one in Equatorial Guinea and the other...at Atlantic Road - can get in under that blanket and shroud themselves from public shame and in the process negotiate a deal to shield themselves from prosecution influencing the Commission's recommendation for prosecution."

General skepticism of the request was on display from the sample of comments on my Facebook page, supporting the view that the Commission's deliberations must be public for all - no exceptions, as summarized by MamaLinguere Sarr who said there 'can't be one rule for one and another for the rest."  Needless to say, we share the sentiments of the majority of Gambians who registered their views with us that the Commission of Inquiry must continue to hold their hearings in public.  To act otherwise will certainly invite doubts about the credibility of the Commission of Inquiry.