Solicitor General Response To Questions On Carnegie Licensing Saga

By Dawda Faye

Cherno Marena, Solicitor-General at the Ministry of Justice, was earlier today cross-examined by Counsel Victoria Andrews in connection to Carnegie Mining Company when he reappeared before the Janneh Commission. Counsel Andrews was representing Messer Muhammed Bazzi and Fadi Mazegi.

Cherno Marenah

He was asked whether he had seen the license issued to Carnegie Mining Company, and in response, he said he had seen it; adding that he did not know whether the ministry gave advice before the license was issued.

When asked by Counsel Andrews that he was not in the position to know that the Commonwealth advised against the termination of the said license, and he replied that he did not know. It was put to him that there was stockpile before Carnegie took over, and he responded that he did not know; adding that he did not see the list of items after Carnegie took over.

However, he said he only saw the arbitration file. At this juncture, Counsel Andrews requested for the production of the Carnegie file since the witness said it is with the commission.

He was further asked when the arbitration was instituted against the government, and he stated that he did not know. He testified that a liquidator was assigned to find out the asset left by the mining company.

At this juncture, Mrs. Bensouda told the commission that the liquidator, Augustus Prom, gave evidence on the assets left by Carnegie. Counsel Andrews then stated that she would like to see the evidence of Mr. Prom.

Further cross-examining the witness, Counsel Andrews asked him whether he knows a company called Conapro, and he said it is a Lebanese company that supplied fuel in the country. Again, she asked him whether his ministry sought for legal opinion from the office of the former president in relation to Carnegie Mining Company. He responded in the negative.

Marena told the commission that Carnegie’s contract was terminated before the performance was started. Counsel Andrews then asked the witness whether when legal opinion was requested by his ministry, the former president had to approve it, but Mr. Marena responded that it is his ministry that approves.

Next to testify under cross-examination was Marie Saine Firdaus, former attorney general and minister of Justice. She was asked whether she saw the license in relation to Carnegie Mining Company, and she replied that the last time she saw it was when they had a meeting at the office of the secretary general.

She was further quizzed as to whether she was aware of the advice against the termination of the license, and she responded in the negative. She told the commission that an inventory was done as to what was found on the site, and that she saw it.  She further stated that she could not recall whether there was a list of equipment.

Counsel Andrews reminded her that she had indicated that she was called at the office of the former president and she found certain investors together with Mr. Bazzi.

She replied that she said so, and that she was only invited to be a witness but was not given a copy of the minutes of the meeting. She further testified that the license issued to Carnegie and Gamico may be similar; adding that Ms. Farage attended the meeting at the office of the secretary general, when it was put to her by Counsel Andrews that Farage did not attend the said meeting.

Mrs. Firdaus maintained that Ms. Farage was present at the meeting as a lawyer for Mr. Bazzi. She further told the commission that as attorney general, they had the power to prosecute any matter; adding that she was called in connection to Carnegie case to prosecute. She said before prosecution, there should be an investigation, and based on the investigation, they filed a case.

She finally testified that she could not recall what she said at a meeting at the office of the former president in 2012.

Buba Sanyang, permanent secretary, Ministry of Lands, was also cross-examined by Counsel Andrews. She asked him whether his ministry has a policy to allocate lands, and he answered in the positive. He told the commission that they allocated a land to Sea Food Factory at Sanyang. He was asked whether they directly allocate lands to hotels, and he responded that it is the responsibility of the Gambia Tourism Board.

According to him, there is an application fee of D50, 000 for the allocation of lands; adding that the government can allocate state lands.

Abdou Colley, former Finance and Trade minister, testified that he is now a freelance consultant but prior to that he started working as an economist in 1997 and in 2004, he was working with Gambia Divestiture.

However, he told the commission that he has been rotating between the ministries of Finance and Trade. At this juncture, he was shown a statement on the exclusivity granted to some companies to go through, which he did and said he had seen it before. He also went through some correspondences and confirmed that he had written the said letters.

With regard to fuel supplied by Euro Africa Group, he told  the commission that he was not in favour of the exclusivity granted to Euro Africa Group, noting that the former government appointed an agent for the exclusivity facility but Euro Africa Group was not paying the IPP facility.

A letter dated 8th of May, 2013, was read to him and he said the former government wanted to withdraw the facility, and according to the letter, they were threatening the former government. He said as the former minister, he did not have the power to stop the exclusivity because the office of the former president granted Euro Africa Group with the exclusivity facility. “If I had the power, I would have stopped it,” he told the commission.

According to him, when he was appointed as minister, the exclusivity was already in place; adding that they had an idea to allow GNPC to import fuel. He said GNPC did their initial supply but there was a query by Euro Africa Group. However, he said GNPC initial supply had a better quality than that of Euro Africa Group.

Hearing continues.

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