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GAMBIA: IN COURT, THREE OFFICIALS OF THE HEALTH MINISTRY FACE CORRUPTION & ECONOMIC CRIMES CHARGES

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Three officials from the Ministry of Health have been brought before the High Court of the Gambia on charges of official corruption, economic crimes, and other offenses.

Balla Kandeh (the first accused), Omar Malleh Ceesay (the second accused), and Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh (the third accused) are the three individuals who will be arraigned. The State has presented them with a total of 21 accusations.
The State has filed charges of official corruption in accordance with Section 86(a) of the Criminal Code; failure to fulfill statutory duties in accordance with Section 115 of the Criminal Code; conspiracy to commit a felony in accordance with Section 368 of the Criminal Code; and two counts of economic crimes in accordance with Section 5(a) of the Economic Crimes (Specified Offences) Act, cap 13:07, and punishable under Section 6(1) of the Economic Crimes (Specified Offences)

In addition, the accused is charged with eight counts of forgery under Section 318 of the Criminal Code and seven counts of larceny under Section 252 of the Criminal Code.

During the plea-taking procedure, the defendants’ attorney, Lamin S. Camara, brought to the court’s attention that counts 19 and 20 are identical to counts 18 and 21, respectively.
Attorney LS Camara added that count 14 is identical to count 15, and count 16 is similar to count 17.

In response to the concerns raised by Attorney LS Camara on behalf of the defendant, Attorney E. R. Donga, representing the state, confirmed that the counts in question are identical.

“I concede that counts 14 and 15 are identical, and counts 16 and 17 are identical.” Count 18 corresponds to count 19, and count 20 corresponds to count 21. Lord, I request a postponement in order to modify the information. We are requesting permission to amend,” Attorney E. R. Donga informed the court.
Counsel LS Camara did not object to the State Counsel’s request.

“My lord, we do not object to the postponement. However, we advise the court to maintain the defendant’s previous bail conditions. Counsel LS Camara told the court, “We have no objection to the amendment.”
Then, Justice Jaiteh granted the state’s request to amend the bill of indictment against the defendants.

“The state’s request for a postponement is granted, and the accused’s police bond is also extended. The state is granted permission to update the information. In the interim, I shall delay the taking of pleas pending the amended information,” ruled Justice Jaiteh.

On the issue of parole, defense attorney LS Camara informed the court that the accused do not pose a flight risk.

“Had they posed a risk of flight, they would have left since. Because the accusations are already available online and they have been viewed. “They would flee, but they are here to clear their names,” argued Counsel LS Camara.

In response to Counsel LS Camara’s argument, the Honorable Justice Jaiteh stated that the accused are charged with a sum equivalent to D19 million, and the parole set by the police is insufficient.

“Their bail should be at least D25 million, as they are accused of committing a crime involving approximately D19 million.” The Honorable Justice Jaiteh stated, “I am aware that you are concerned about their remand, but under normal circumstances, they should be remanded.”
Counsel LS Camara insisted that the accused would not flee in order to restore their good reputations.

The Honorable Justice Jaiteh stated that he would have to revoke the parole conditions set by the police before granting release to the accused.

“Given that the state’s alleged offenses are bailable and do not carry the death penalty or life in prison, the state requested a postponement on the grounds that the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I will exercise the court’s discretion in their favor and grant the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd accused persons bail, subject to the following conditions: that the 1st accused person (Balla Kandeh), 2nd accused person (Omar Malleh Ceesay), and 3rd accused person (Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh) are admitted to bail in the amount of D19,000,000.00 (Nineteen Million Dalasis) each:

“That each defendant shall provide one or two Gambian surety(s) who shall be deposed to an affidavit of means: that the surety(s) shall be an owner of landed property worth not less than D19,000,000.00 (Nineteen Million Dalasis), and the property shall be valued by a recognized estate valuer or government valuer and provide a valuation report no later than this order of this Court. The authentic title deeds to the surety’s property must be deposited with the Principal Registrar of the High Court, ordered the Honorable Justice Jaiteh.
The Honorable Justice Jaiteh also ordered the defendants to surrender their travel documents to the Chief Registrar of the High Court.

The honorable judge Jaiteh also ordered that all defendants must appear in court for every hearing on time.

“The police parole is immediately revoked. “In the interim, this case is adjourned to Friday, October 30, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. for the continuation of pleas,” the Honorable Justice Jaiteh ruled.

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