Wednesday, July 26, 2017

$ 900,000,000 from Gambian-registered companies stashed in Panama, Gambians demand explanation

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We published this blog post, May 23rd, 2016, exactly a year ago. Attorney General and Minister of Justice press conference yesterday is a reminder that in order to turn a new leaf, we must, as Gambians, garner enough courage and conviction to confront our past.  We cannot pretend that everything is fine.

Regarding the $ 900,000,000, we have come to learn from investigators that the amount might represent total proceeds that went through theses accounts in Panama over time and may not necessarily represent the actual amount in the accounts.  In short, these amounts might not all be there as we speak.

Gambians demand to know the TRUTH. Without the TRUTH, there will be no justice and without justice there will be no peace.  Thanks,  Sidi Sanneh
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According to the Panama Papers, a number of companies registered in the Gambia have stashed almost $ 1 billion in offshore accounts.

We are studying the details in consultation with tax accountants, financial and legal experts with a view to gaining insight into this massive transfer of financial resources from one of the world's poorest countries.

We wish to draw the attention of our esteemed readers that operating offshore accounts in and of themselves may not necessarily be illegal unless it can be established that the origin or origins of these funds are as a result of illegal activities, such as drug or human trafficking or other forms of international criminal activities.

The Gambia is, of course, not the only country that is shown to have its citizens operating offshore accounts in tax heavens.  Prominent Senegalese businessmen are among those listed as operating accounts offshore.  The difference between them and the Gambian businessmen listed in their forthrightness.

The Senegalese businessmen listed in the Panama Papers were quick to respond to the revelation by explaining the rationale for these accounts which, according to one, was to legally reduce or eliminate further exposure to higher tax liabilities.  To some, this is unethical or unpatriotic.  To others it is a smart business move.  In short, one man's tax dodger is another man's astute businessman.

Amadou Samba, a Gambian businessman, a business partner and a close associate of the Gambian dictator is listed as operating one or several offshore accounts.  The amounts in one or several of these accounts are unknown.  However, the global figure for the country is listed as $ 900,000,000 a figure close to Gambia's estimated GDP of $ 1 billion.

Gambians deserve a response from both Amadou Samba and Yaya Jammeh as initial step in a process that will take the expertise of world class legal, financial and tax professionals to ascertain the facts on behalf of the Gambian People.

When Jammeh seized power, "rampant corruption" was the reason he advanced to justify the illegal coup.  A team of investigators were dispatched to comb the offshore centers in search of funds they believed were derived from the Nigeria Crude allocated to the then government as balance of payment support by the Nigerian government.  Today, the shoe is on the other foot.

Gambians must hear from Amadou Samba and Yaya Jammeh.
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Amendment:  The initial blog post figure read $ 900,000 instead of $ 900,000,000

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Conversations with Amadou Samba:"I was never a business partner of Jammeh, I managed him."

Amadou Samba, Gambian businessman 
This is reproduction of a blog post we first published last December, at the height of the political impasse.
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To many, Amadou Samba is Yaya Jammeh's right hand man and business partner, period.  A few have even referred to him as "Jammeh's bag-man" and viewed by many as the sole individual who can lead the transition government to Jammeh's hidden wealth, inside and outside The Gambia.

Since we at sidisanneh.blogspot.com have written extensively on matters relating to Jammeh alleged illicit wealth and/or business dealings, Amadou Samba's name has always featured, either as a central player or on the periphery, but always present.

So, it was, therefore, surprising when, in reacting to me referring to him as "Jammeh's business partner", he corrected me tersely and swiftly by denying that he was never a business partner of Jammeh.  His response was, and I quote "I managed him [referring to Yaya Jammeh], I was never a business partner of Jammeh."

He also said something that will take many by surprise and that is, as far as he is aware, all of Jammeh's wealth is in the Gambia and not abroad.  Of course, public records in the United States show that the $ 3.5 million Brentcross Road Potomac mansion although sold to the Trustees of the MYJ Family Trust is owned by Yaya Jammeh.

Mr. Samba said he fully understands the perception held by many because of his close association with Jammeh which weighed heavily on him.  Now, that load has been lifted off of his shoulders, he's ready to make amends so that he can move on with his life.

The cryptic nature of the response led me to ask for clarification in a subsequent telephone conversation because as he, himself, has admitted that the public perception is that he is intricately linked with the Jammeh business empire.  Was he managing Jammeh, the person or his businesses to which he replied that he was managing Jammeh, the person, because he was unpredictable and erratic as he was impulsive.

On the Panama Papers, which was the subject of a couple of blog posts, Mr. Samba admitted that all the companies listed were registered in his holding company's name and stressed the fact that they were companies and not bank accounts.  In our coverage of the issue also we cautioned readers that "operating off-shore accounts and/or companies in and of themselves may not be illegal" unless the origin or origins of the funds are derived from illegal activities such as arms trafficking, drugs or other forms of international criminal activities.

He cited tax shelter as the reason of operating these companies offshore.  According to him, operating these companies from Panama made business sense but became "less interesting" once Britain started to clamp down on offshore evasion "is using a non-UK. jurisdiction with the objective of evading UK tax,.  He decided to close them and they have not been operational since the new laws came into effect and enforcement intensified.*

We have been working on the Panama Papers for several months now with little progress.  Offshore financial transactions are difficult to trace and the legal huddles insurmountable even for forensic accountants and international lawyers activities much less a lone blogger with a couple of volunteers who help in research.

What investigative reporters working for internationally reputable news agencies and companies have said is that the $ 900,000,000 listed under the three registered companies may represent the total proceeds that passed through those companies, and do not necessarily mean money stashed in some bank fault somewhere.

During our third telephone interview, the $ 900,000,000 figure was disputed by Amadou Samba which, according to him, is substantially different from the total turnover of all his companies.  He said he doesn't know where the figure came from.  Needless to say that the services of competent forensic accountants and lawyers are needed to thoroughly investigate these accounts with a view to confirming or otherwise Mr. Amadou Samba's claims.

On the re-establishment of the rule of law:  Mr. Amadou Samba has made clear in his letter to Jammeh where his heart is - in The Gambia with his wife, children and grandchildren.  "Gambia is my home and I will never live anywhere else", he said to me.  He said he will return home once the rule of law is established under the new political order.  He believes strongly that under President-elect Adama Barrow, the rule of law will be re-established at which time he will subject himself to any and all legal scrutiny.

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*We are also in possession of some additional background information about AMASA Holding Company through which Mr. Samba's property development business in the UK was handled until it ceased operation around 2013 when the new offshore tax laws were amended lifting capital gains tax exemption for non-UK residents.

In our next installment, we will delve into the Airport, Arch-22 and Farafenni APRC Hospital and the Amadou Samba building (on Pipeline Rd) that collapsed that resulted in loss of lives.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Zainab Jammeh's diplomatic passport must be revoked immediately

Zainab Suma Jammeh 
The wife of the former Gambian dictator, Zainab Suma Jammeh, is currently involved in a diplomatic row in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, in part, because of the laxity with which diplomatic passports are issued and managed.

Zainab Jammeh arrived in Dakar last Thursday from Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea where she and her husband have been granted political asylum after Jammeh lost his presidential bid for a 5th term.

Since January, Zainab Jammeh has been travelling, at least on a couple of occasions, to Dakar on a Gambian diplomatic passport while enjoying all the associated diplomatic courtesies at the airport in Dakar and other destinations.

Her dinner with Amadou Samba and Samuel Sarr at the Beluga Restaurant in Dakar, we have come to learn, was not the first.  The ensuing scandal is still unfolding as details of the meeting begin to emerge.

Apart from the VIP treatment she receives, her visits are kept a secret until her cover was blown with our Facebook post that got the Senegalese press flatfooted, suggesting a degree of complicity by some members of the Senegalese government.

There are officials in Banjul, as well, who are equally complicit in allowing this international jet-setter who is more interested in using her diplomatic status to amass wealth by engaging in activities unbecoming a former First Lady at the expense of Gambia and the Gambian people.

As she embroiled in a scandal that will be subject of future blog posts, the Gambian officials in Banjul responsible for allowing her to continue enjoying the privileges associated with traveling around on a diplomatic passport must take full responsibility of the events unfolding in Dakar because they fail to revoke her diplomatic passports.

Who else, in Jammeh's former entourage, is traveling around the globe on diplomatic passport who is not entitled to one?  Is Amadou Samba traveling on Gambian diplomatic passport?  If so, it should also be revoked immediately, together with Zainab Suma Jammeh's, and anyone else not entitled to be in possession of one.  They should all be traveling on ordinary passports provided they are eligible to be in possession of one.  


Saturday, July 8, 2017

African Petroleum reaches deal with Gambia's Yaya Jammeh - a republication

A November 21, 2014 blog post about the bromance between
African petroleum and the former dictator : A republication .
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The regime of Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator announced in January this year that it has terminated the exploration contracts of African Petroleum (Gambia) Ltd for Blocks A1 and A4.

Soon thereafter, African Petroleum Corporation announced that it is going to international arbitration with the Government of The Gambia, a request lodged with the World Bank's International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) based in Washington DC.

The Ministry of Petroleum officials were in London a couple of weeks ago to negotiate a deal with African Petroleum where the arbitration request with ICSID will be dropped in exchange for the restoration of the contracts for Block A1 and A4.

The Senegalese oil discovery announced recently may have been an influencing factor in getting the dictatorship in Banjul to temper their belligerent and unpredictable attitude towards foreign companies they have been dealing with in the last decade most of which ended in arbitration.

The details of the deal between AP and Government of The Gambia are unknown, as are other similar contracts with other petroleum companies designed and intended to keep Gambians in the dark.  It is expected that a joint announcement will be made shortly.


Gambia's petroleum sector is opaque for a reason

This is a republication of a blog post that is relevant as
African Petroleum Company is in the news again.
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The announcement by ERIN Energy (formerly CAMAC) that it has reached an agreement with FAR Ltd. to farm-out Blocks 2 and 5 kick starts a petroleum exploration concession awarded to the Texas-based, Nigerian controlled company by Yaya Jammeh in May of 2012.

FAR is an Australian oil exploration company that is currently operating in Senegal.  In fact the two Blocks (2 and 5) are next to FAR's 2014 SNE-1 oil field one discovery considered the largest offshore oil discovery of the industry that year.

The Agreement between Erin and FAR, FAR will pay a purchase price of $ 5.18 and take over $ 8 million of the company's shares in exploration costs of a well that is expected go be drilled in 2018, according to industry sources.  By contrast, $ 400 million was paid in the case of the adjacent blocks in Senegal, making these figures appear minuscule, even when the size of the blocks in the adjacent areas in Senegal cover larger areas.

According to FAR's own estimates, Blocks 2 and 5 have the potential of producing in excess of one billion barrels of oil.  Block 2 as indicated earlier, is adjacent to Senegal offshore block in which FAR already has an interest as junior partner of the Scottish Cairn Energy that operates the SNE world class oil and gas field,

Since the Erin-FAR deal is subject to government approval, the Barrow government must revisit this particular contract Agreement i.e. between Erin (formally CAMAC) and Yaya Jammeh.  Pertinent issues must be raised with Erin ( for Blocks 2 and 5) and African Petroleum Corporation (for Blocks 1 and 4) including the amount paid for the two licenses and to whom the monies were paid.

The circumstances that led African Petroleum Corporation's (APC) withdrawal of its arbitration request with the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes after its license for Blocks 1 and 4 were terminated by Jammeh only to be reinstated without explanation must also be explained. Were the terms and conditions maintained as previously or were they varied? Obviously, more questions must be raised by the Barrow administration about all of these contracts and satisfactory answers provided by both APC and Erin.  

Gambia's energy/petroleum sector is opaque for a reason.  It allowed Jammeh to negotiate these deals personally with a select number of civil servants being privy to the details of the Agreement when these concessions should have been publicly tendered for transparency.

We need not remind readers that the Jammeh style of governance is unsustainable because it is inefficient and corrupt, depriving the public treasury much needed financial resources at the expense of Gambians who, on average, are living in abject poverty. The new government must reverse the trend by adopting best public procurement practices in the petroleum, energy and other public sectors.
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CORRECTION :  The $ 400 M referenced in this blog was paid by Kosmos to Petrotim for the Deep Sea - St. Louis Block and not the adjacent blocks as initially reported.        

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Joint UN-AU-ECOWAS Declaration is political, does not have any legal status, says a senior UN official

Mai Ahmad Fatty, Interior Minister 
Following our most recent blog post entitled "Is Jammeh's exit Agreement legally binding?" in which we asked whether the document, featured in the ECOWAS, United .Nations. and African Union websites has any legal status and encouraged by the intense interest generated by the post, based on the size of visits to out blog site, we decided to further extend our inquiries.

Using a back channel, we reached out to a senior U.N. official at the New York headquarters whose response is replicated below and it reads thus:

"The Joint U.N-A.U-ECOWAS declaration is political in nature and does not have any legal status."

The UN's interpretation appears consistent with Gambia's current Interior Minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty, who went by the title of Special Assistant to president-Elect Adama Barrow back in January before he was inaugurated President and before Mr. Fatty was appointed Interior Minister and whose position was corroborated by Senegal's Foreign Minister on Senegalese state television.

From the above, it appears that the legal questions have been put to rest - at least from the standpoint of the United Nations, leaving the politics of Jammeh's assets squarely in the hands of the politicians to grapple with.

Unless we've missed it, no official declarative statement was made after Adama Barrow was officially installed as President and the appointment of a cabinet.  We'd still suggest that this be done to put the legal component of the joint declaration to rest which is no guarantee that the politics of Jammeh's assets will go away anytime soon.    

 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Is Jammeh's exit Agreement legally binding?

Sidi Sanneh 
Hon. Halifa Sallah, leader of the PDOIS political party, has brought back to life the question of the status of Jammeh’s exit Agreement by pointedly challenging the Barrow administration with the warning that government will be going against its own word if it doesn’t honor a purported deal whose status remains a mystery.

The ambiguity of the status on an Agreement that will be at the center of discussion moving forward in the Barrow administration’s attempt at ultimately expropriating Jammeh’s wealth and holdings.  This part Agreement is so central to the work of both the Ministry of Justice and the judiciary looming in the horizon that it is extremely important that the administration respond urgently to the need to put the matter to rest and expeditiously.

We all agree on one thing: that a document does exist purporting to be a binding agreement between the Barrow administration and the former dictator laying out the conditions under which Jammeh will exit the scene of the State House for Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.  In spite of the fact that the document is still posted on the websites of the African Union and United Nations giving the document some official recognition – perhaps for its historic significance rather than its legal relevance and legitimacy - President-elect Barrow’s Special Adviser – Mai Ahmad Fatty – (now Interior Minister) did characterized it as a “hoax” in a Facebook entry last January and reconfirmed to me in my 5 AM phone call while both of us where in Dakar.  An undefinitive search of the ECOWAS website did not show a display of the document

Mr. Fatty further referred me to Senegal’s Foreign Minister’s press briefing of the same day reaffirming the same i.e. that the document in question has no legal teeth and therefore unenforceable.  He did not stop at that.  Still in his capacity as Special Adviser to the president-elect, he issued another Facebook statement all but declare the Agreement null and void.  “There was NO DEAL signed” (his emphasis) he declared.

The draft was prepared by Mauritania and Guinea-Conakry, according to Mr.  Fatty’s statement which was immediately rejected by the president-elect.  We also learned from the statement that ECOWAS’s Marcel Desuza and a Qatari envoy who consulted Barrow in Dakar on the matter were unsuccessful in changing Barrow’s mind.

We advised Mai Fatty, while in Dakar, back in January to definitively put to rest the issue by assuring Gambians and the international community that the status of the document has no standing.   

Was the position of the president-elect’s position on the status of the document communicated to members of the National Assembly?  The question of informing his cabinet is a moot point since he had not taken the oath of office at the time and was still holed up in Dakar because Jammeh was refusing to depart without tying few loose ends, including, perhaps a free pass in the form of the agreement that is now in contention. Why is there such a disconnect between Adama Barrow and Halifa Sallah on such an important and crucial matter of international law.

Our humble advice to the Barrow administration is to brief his entire cabinet with the help of a Cabinet Paper that provides background and context that led to the draft Agreement and allow cabinet to take a formal position on the document; then allow the National Assembly to give its blessing to the non-binding character of a document that is still being featured in official websites of the United Nations and African Union.

By allowing the document to continue to be prominently displayed in official websites of international organizations and development partners, it feeds into the narrative that the document is legitimate and legally binding, a claim that Mr. Fatty has so strenuously tried to dispel since last January.  Leaving these claims unanswered will hinder future attempts by the Barrow administration to start navigating through the legal entanglements left behind by Yaya Jammeh.