Interesting revelations emerged at the Financial Commission on Wednesday. Tony Ghattas, a Lebanese National, and also a former economic operative for the exiled Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh, adduced in evidence as to how he was hired by Jammeh to run a ghost a sand mining company called APAM to export sand and other minerals to a Chinese based mineral company for commercial purposes. Mr. Ghattas said millions of dalasis were accrued from the sand mining export business. He and Jammeh also sold sand to Gambians, who are engaged in the construction industry. Although, the government of the Gambia, and her people were kept out of the loop during the Ghattas, General Badjie and Jammeh secret sand exportation to China.
Mr. Ghattas said he was appointed to run the APAM ghost company, following the firing of Ansumana Jammeh, dictator Yahya Jammeh’s brother. He was in Dakar, Senegal, when Nuha Touray, Secretary to Cabinet informed him that he has been appointed Managing Director of APAM.
“I was in Dakar, when I was informed by Nuha Touray that I have been appointed MD of APAM. I have never heard of the company. This was the first time of a company called APAM. This was also the first time that I have spoken to Nuha Touray. He told me that APAM is involved in sand mining in Sanyang, Tujereng, and Kartong. I told him fine,” Ghattas said.
“Upon my return from Dakar, Nuha Touray showed me my appointment letter from the president’s office to run APAM. I took instructions from General Badjie. I was answerable to him,” he added.
Ghattas immediately took over the operations of APAM. He runs the company from his office along the Kairaba Avenue, just opposite the United States Embassy. He refused to use the office that was occupied by his predecessor Ansumana Jammeh. He told the NIA’s Yankuba Badjie and co that he preferred to use his office to manage APAM than working at the APAM office.
Ghattas said he used his own staff to help run the company. He reported to work and started coordinating the activities of the ghost company, alongside his own company.
He later opens a dollar and dalasi bank account at the Guaranty Trust Bank for APAM. Funds were deposited and withdrawn from the said accounts. These were monies derived from the sand trade.
The GTB account was later blocked. But Ghattas did not go into details as to why the GTB account was blocked. He later opened a similar dalasi and dollar bank accounts at the First International Bank (FIB). He said he was a signatory to the accounts.
According to Tony Ghattas, 119 containers of black sand was shipped from the Gambia to China. He said the company he was tasked to manage had a contractual agreement with the Chinese based mineral company to export sand from the Gambia.
Ghattas also said an amount of $322,000 was transferred from the Chinese company to the ghost company’s GTB Account.
“The containers were exported to china. I was paid $100 per ton. It was sold to “Hinan” minerals. I have the contractual documents with me,” he tells Amie Bensouda, the lead Council for the Commission.
Ghattas recalled giving General Saul Badjie over $33,000 from the funds derived from sand mining account. He said Badjie, was in the up country, when he phoned him and requested money from him.
Meanwhile, Gambians have been taken aback by the revelations coming from the Commission. One of them is this concerned Gambian: “ Pa, please listen to Tony Ghattas’s testimony he made after 2 PM. He was caught in a big scam by Amie Bensouda. The agreement Sanghai minerals had was to provide $ 2 million worth of equipment. He charged Gambia $ 2 million to ship the old equipment from Senegal. He sold APAM his old equipment in Senegal, which he couldn’t clear at the port of Dakar. He owed $ 1 million plus storage fees. Jammeh killed us big time. Plus, he paid his partner 165,000 Euros to negotiate for his damage fee at the port.”