Nuha Touray a former Secretary to Cabinet on Monday, explained before the Janneh Commission how dictator Yahya Jammeh used him and Momodou Sabally, the former Secretary General and presidential Affairs Minister to steal money from the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) bank account at the Guaranty Trust Bank to buy a Casino Hotel from one David Ford. The hotel in question is situated behind the Palma-Rima Hotel. It was registered in the name of the Kanilai Family Farms, Touray tells the Commission.
“He acquired the “Dunes Casino Hotel” behind the Palma-Rima Hotel. Actually, this was procured from the funds from the GNPC petroleum account; either from the account at Sky bank or Guaranty Trust bank was used to buy the hotel. But I have seen the documents in which the hotel was registered in the name of the Kanilai family farms, even though it was bought with state funds,” Nuha Touray adduced.
Mr. Touray said he started working with the Gambian government in the early eighties. He was first hired to work with the Personnel Management Office (PMO), where he worked as an Assistant Personnel officer. He later climbed the ladder and was promoted to the rank of Deputy Permanent Secretary, Perm Sec, and then Secretary to Cabinet.
In the interim, he was demoted and recycled in different Ministries before he was hired to work at the president’s office. He admitted being used by the dictator to steal from the GNPC. Funds that were meant for national development were diverted to Jammeh for personal aggrandizement.
Mr. Touray was jailed before the dictator was forced into exile in January. He told the Commission that he was accused of destroying a file regarding the petroleum Ministry. He has penned a memoir in regards to the said allegations, which he shared with the Commission.
Touray was subsequently pardoned by president Adama Barrow, when he ascended to the presidency in December of 2016. He was later assigned to work at the ECOWAS Secretariat in Ghana, where he serves as an Assistant to Edward Singhateh.
Explaining his involvement in the purchasing of Mr. Ford’s Casino Hotel, Touray said he was instructed by Jammeh to handle the transactions. He has no choice other than complying.
“I drafted the instruction to the bank for Jammeh to sign it in regards to the payment to David Ford for the purchase of the hotel. It was purchased from the Guranty Trust Bank account,” he said.
Mr. Touray admitted that he was a signatory to the aforementioned accounts Jammeh opened at Sky Bank, and Guaranty Trust Bank respectively. He said it was against his wish to be used by the dictator to engage in such fraudulent activities.
Touray said when the former Secretary General Kallilou Bayo refused to be part of the signatories of the said accounts, he was told by Jammeh that he must serve as a signatory. He said at some point his name was removed from the account. The person who replaced him was not happy either to be associated with the secret accounts, he said.
“These were his explicit instructions from the former president. One former Secretary General Dr. Kalillou Bayo refused to sign to be a signatory to the accounts. The president told him that he did not have a choice but he has to sign. I didn’t have a choice either; I had to sign,” he said.
Momodou Sabally’s name also came up during Monday’s sittings. He was linked to taking part in some of the monies withdrawn from the Sky Bank and the Guaranty Trust Bank secret accounts. There were instances Sabally wrote an internal document which was copied to Touray to authorize for the withdrawals. Touray said he always insisted that Sabally must document some of the instructions he gave him before he will execute the instructions.
Nuha Touray also testified that Momodou Sabally was the main signatory to the accounts, while he was the co signatory. He said their actions were not in line with the government’s Financial Instructions Regulation saying “there was no policy at the state house when it comes to financial disbursements.”
“Ordinarily, the Sectary to cabinet should not be a signatory to the accounts. It was wrong for him to sign,” he said.
Mr. Touray also testified about the Gamtel gateway account, which the former dictator hijacked from the telecommunication company. He said Jammeh denied Gamtel access to the funds derived from the said account which was opened at the Central Bank.
“The account was held at the Central Bank. It lodged the proceeds of the gateway. It was managed by a company called TELL. The monies were paid to Gamtel. But an instruction was given for an account to be opened by the office of the president at the CBG on behalf the president. I heard him (Jammeh) saying that he was not happy with the way Gamtel managed the account. These were funds meant for Gamtel. Gamtel has wrote on numerous occasions demanding to have access to the funds, but Jammeh would say no,” Touray said.
According to Touray, the sum of $ 610,000 dollars was withdrawn from the Gamtel gateway account at the Central Bank. The name of Momodou Batatata Juwara and Momodou Sabally were linked to the said withdrawals.
In one of the letters written by Sabally, he informed Jammeh that there was money at the Gamtel gateway account. He also suggested to the dictator in one of the correspondences for Jammeh to borrow money from one of the accounts to buy Tobaski rams, which Jammeh was supposed to reimburse, which he failed to do.
So far Momodou Sabally has been incriminated by Nuha Touray’s testimony. He was actively aiding the dictator to swindle funds from the state. Some of the documents presented to the Commission by Nuha Touray, were admitted into evidence as exhibits.
Mr. Touray also told the Commission that Muhammed Bazzi, a Lebanese businessman, Amadou Samba, also a Gambian businessman, Tibou Camara, an in law to the former First Lady Zeinab Jammeh, and Tonny Ghattas were Jammeh’s closest associates. He said Bazzi used to come to the State House alone. He identified Bazzi as the owner of the Euro Africa group company.
Mr. Touray couldn’t tell the Commission what kind of business Mr. Samba was engaged in. He recalled seeing Samba at the State House on numerous occasions.
The Commission resumes sittings on Tuesday.