Tuesday, August 28, 2018

First Lady's Foundation may, or may not, share the results of the Board's investigation of the missing $752,544, says a FaBB Board member

Gambia's First Lady, Mrs. Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow
The recent case of a mysterious bank transaction amounting to a little over $750,000 that originated from Hong Kong via the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Chinese to Guaranty Trust Bank, London Branch to Novo Banko in Lisbon before being lodged into the account of the First Lady's Fatoumata Bah Barrow's Foundation (FaBB) at the Guaranty Trust Bank in Banjul.

Although the transaction took place last December, it was not until last week that the public became aware.  It has since raised more questions than the officials of the Foundations can provide answers to an increasingly frustrated public that should be a cause for concern, not only to Gambia's First Lady and officials of the FaBB but to the Barrow government.

A Board member of the Foundation recently provided a glimpse at what their strategy will be.  The Foundation representative immediately claimed ignorance of who deposited the money and for what purpose the over $750,000 was meant for.  In fact, the representative while denying that the money belongs to the First Lady's Foundation, she announced that the matter will be investigated, not by an outside independent arbiter but by members of the Board of the Foundation.

Further inquiries by the online press further revealed that when the monies were deposited at the Guaranty Bank, the amount was transferred to an account operated by White Airways, a Portuguese charter airline company but was returned soon thereafter to the Foundations account with the Guaranty Trust Bank in Banjul. 

Speaking to a local newspaper, the Foundation representative revealed that FaBB reserves the right to share the finding of the investigations by members of the Foundation with the public because they are a private and not a public entity that is entirely funded by private donations.  Of course this sweeping claim fails to take cognisance of the fact that the First Lady is the First Lady of The Gambia with a fully-funded Office of The First Lady, serviced by Gambian civil servants, all paid by Gambian civil servants.  Her ability to raise all those humongous sums is not by being citizen Fatoumata Bah Barrow but as the wife of the President of The Republic.   

However, since the announcement more details came to light as revealed by the FatuNetwork, an online online television outlet that the transfer was made by a Chinese energy company named TBEA that is currently bidding, and has been declared a leading contender, for a transmission and distribution project under NAWEC, Gambia's public utility company.  It just so happens that the Foundation representative who assured Gambians that the Foundation will get to the bottom of the mysterious transfer also happens to be a member of the Board of NAWEC.

As at the time of writing this blog post, the entire (and precise) amount of $752,544.42 is still unaccounted for.  Of course, Gambians are asking the same questions as any reasonable person would:  Where's the money, who was it transferred to and for what purpose?  It must be noted that this transfer occurred last December but it was not until last week when the matter became public that the Fatoumata Bah Barrow Foundation officials offered to investigate the matter, the results of which they will not necessarily share with Gambians. 

We will not do justice to this story without bringing in sharper focus the role the Guaranty Trust Bank has played during the Jammeh era and they continue to play in the financial sector of The Gambia's economy.  In the banking business, the initials KYC stands for Know Your Customer - a mantra that GTBank appears to ignore, if not flout regularly as evidenced by the revelations in the Commission of Inquiry looking into the financial affairs of the former dictator. 

One would have thought with the vigilance of the international financial authorities and national treasuries across the world regarding illicit transfers, money laundering activities of traffickers in drugs, humans and small arms, banks operating in The Gambia, including Guaranty Trust Bank would be more hawk-eyed by conducting extra vigilant due diligence.  We hope more care will be taken in future.  We intend to examine this and related matters relating to the banking sector in subsequent posts.