The Gambia police wouldn’t confirm or deny allegations that its officers are allegedly complicit in an international car theft ring involving local Gambian agents and some outside operators residing in France, Sweden, Italy and elsewhere in Europe, Freedom Newspaper can report. For almost a week, we have been trying to seek reaction from the police spokesman Superintendent Lamin Njie over the damning allegations, but we are yet to receive any formal reaction from him. “Hello Mr. Mbye, sorry for not being able to get back to you. Am working on your enquiry, just that I haven’t been able to gather much on it as at now.  If you kindly give me some time, I will do more consultations. Kind regards,” the police spokesman Lamin Njie wrote in a WhatsApp message sent this past Wednesday.

Njie said he was going to meet with the Interpol office in Banjul, the next day to find out if that unit was privy to the allegations. He promised to get back to us, but he is yet to do so.

According to sources reaching us, some West African nationals living in France, and elsewhere in Europe, have been linked to the alleged car theft. Stolen cars are usually shipped to The Gambia, only to be cleared by local agents in that country. The agents have been allegedly acting in concert with corrupt police officers to clear the stolen cars, sources claimed.

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Sources further claimed that Gambian Interpol police officers stationed at the ports are usually allegedly bribed by the local agents to release the stolen cars, even though some of those cars have been flagged in the Interpol database as stolen cars.

Our sources further claimed that one of the officers had in the past cleared cars for the alleged car thieves living in France, and elsewhere in Europe. Local agents are often required to pay money before such stolen cars would be cleared from the ports, sources alleged.

According to an insider at the police headquarters, the police rarely prosecute local agents who have been linked to the international car theft scheme.

“Stolen vehicles from Europe are often parked here at the police headquarters, after local clearing agents have been busted. As we speak, we had about four stolen cars parked here. Cases are never taken to court. Cases are settled. The command would say there is no witness to prosecute the offenders, even though there is evidence obtained from the Interpol database confirming that these are stolen cars,” the insider alleged.

According to the police insider, the newly hired Inspector General police, has now taken charge of the unit that has been tasked to screen stolen cars at the ports, that officers now report directly to him. The insider claimed that some police commissioners at the police headquarters aren’t pleased with the IGP’s move to oversee this unit.

According to the insider, the police recently recovered a stolen car that was parked at the home of General Alhagie Martin. The insider said the car was already cleared from the ports, only for the command to order for its repossession.

“This was a stolen car. The car was sent by one Pa Boy. It was cleared by one of the local agents Musa Dibba. It was parked at the home of General Alhagie Martin. A registration plate number was already issued for the said car. Our officers were ordered to seize the car,” the insider told us.

“The agent was questioned and released. He has been linked to other cases. He is a familiar face at headquarters. Nothing will come out of that case,” the insider added.

Contacted for comment, the former army General Alhagie Martin confirmed that the police had indeed came to his house to collect a vehicle that was sent by Pa Boy. Martin said the agent who cleared the vehicle one Musa Dibba, hasn’t paid the necessary fees that would warrant the car to be cleared, hence that’s why the police came to his home.

Though, it is not the job of the police to handle port/GRA handling fees. Martin’s story line wouldn’t pass smell test.

“The vehicle was sent by Pa Boy. Pa Boy is not my son. He is the son of Kanja Sanneh. He is here. The car was parked at my home. The agent had not paid the necessary fees. The vehicle has been taken by the police. I am not short of cars. I have about three cars here. I was just helping Pa boy,” Martin remarked.

Martin has denied complicity into any car theft case.

Dibba could not be reached for comment, when contacted.

In another development, the police insider said the son of a Gambian cabinet minister is allegedly involved in the car theft case. He said the Minister’s son, has been clearing stolen cars at the ports.

A police officer, who has been adversely mentioned in our investigations was contacted for comment and this is what he had to say: “I am not a clearing agent. I don’t know anything about stolen cars being cleared at the ports. I have cleared vehicles at the ports, but these were not stolen cars.”

The police insider said most of the stolen cars were shipped from France. The insider added that the stolen cars are hardly returned to their owners.

Besides the international car theft scheme affiliated with the impoverished West African nation, the West African country has also been reduced as a cocaine hub.

Last year, Gambia’s anti-narcotic officers seized over three tons of cocaine that were shipped from Southern America. The main man behind that shipment Banta Kaira, a Gambian French national, is said to be at large.

The local clearing agent Sheriff Njie, who was arrested by the police, was released on bail pending a court action. The courts are yet to decide Njie’s fate.

For now, we are yet to receive an official reaction from the police command. Below is the media query that was sent to the police spokesman Lamin Njie. Please read on.

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Hi Spokesman Njie:

Hope all is well with you.

Grateful, if you can shed light on the following media queries:

It has been alleged in some quarters that The Gambia has now become safe haven for cars stolen from Europe, that some alleged corrupt police officers stationed at the ports have been conspiring with local agents of car thieves resident in The Gambia. Are such reports/allegations true?

Has any of your officer(s) been transferred from the ports of Banjul because of the alleged international car racketeering theft, that he was transferred because of his alleged dealings with the local car thief agents, that he was transferred because of cash related issues, especially monies being paid by the local agents, that the new IGP has allegedly taken control of the unit that screens imported cars, that the new IGP has deployed his “boys” (officers), to handle the vehicle screening for him? Any truth in such claims/accusations?

We also gathered that Interpol Banjul is responsible for the screening of the imported vehicles, but it has been alleged that imported stolen vehicles are hardly turn in to their owners, that your office would not report recovered stolen cars, that Gambian local car thief agents would bribe officers to clear the stolen cars from the ports. Any truth in such claims/allegations?

How many internationally shipped stolen cars have you recovered in 2020/2021? Do you have records of impounded stolen vehicles that have been returned to their rightful owners, if there is any?

Is it true that the police hardly prosecute local car thief agents that have been linked to the international car theft crime? That the police would often cite “lack of witnesses” to prosecute local agents, even though the VIN numbers of the stolen vehicles could be traced to a given country that your sister Interpol stations had filed criminal complaints on behalf of victims of car theft.

Grateful, if you can shed light on our above journalistic queries. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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