By: Fabakary B. Ceesay
Trumpet Newspaper has been investigating and connecting pieces together that led to the discontinuation of the cocaine trial involving the mighty business tycoon Shyben A. Madi (SAM) and Sons Limited. The 49 Kilograms of cocaine case which first came up in a law Court in April 2015 was later withdrawn from proceeding before any witness testimony was heard. The State Prosecutors who filed the aggravated drug possession charges against the company owners withdrew the trial from proceeding without advancing any reason before the Court.
At the initial stage of the case, the defence Counsels filed a motion before the Court for the matter to be refer to the Supreme Court to determine whether Section 43 (A) of the Drug Control Act 2010 under which the accused were charged was made in excess of the legislative authority. The presiding Judge Justice Simon Abi had set aside 7 July 2015 to rule on the motion, but that never materialised as of Monday 22 June the office of Director of Public Prosecution filed a ‘’Nolle Proseque’’ to discontinue the trial.
Our sources within the Judiciary informed us that when the office of the DPP received the notice to discontinue the case, the then Nigerian born DPP was not happy as he believed the Madis has a case to answer. On the day of filling the notice before the Court the Director of Public Prosecution Mr. Saleh Hadi Barkun did not bothered to go to Court. He did not delegate his deputy either but instead sent counsel Mrs. Ella Rosaline Dougan to appear for the withdrawal of the trial.
Our investigation into the matter reveals that there was an executive directive ordering the office of DPP to discontinue with the case. The said directive was also conveyed to the Director General of Drug Law Enforcement Agency of The Gambia Mr. Bakary Gassama. Our sources indicated that Mr. Gassama was ordered by ex-president Yahya Jammeh to write a letter of apology to Shyben A. Madi Directors and exonerated them from the matter. The said order was conveyed to Gassama by a second party.
When contacted Mr. Gassama confirmed that he was called by then Director General of National Intelligent Agency (NIA) Mr. Yankuba Badgie on the orders of Yahya Jammeh for him (Gassama) to exonerate and apologise to the Madi Company. In a very strong voice, Mr. Gassama said “yes Yankuba Badjie called and inform me about the message from Yahya Jammeh but I refuse to act on it’’. I was ready to lose my job because we all knew there is sufficient evidence against the Madis’’.
Our investigation further found out that the Madis relationship with former president Yahya Jammeh turned sour over unpaid debts from commodities they credited to him. Our sources believe that Jammeh owed SAM about D13 Million by the time of the drug catch. He seized that opportunity as collateral and used his executive powers to free the Madis from the charges and they waved the D13 Million off him.
But in an intense interview with Charles Madi, the deputy Managing Director of the company, at his office in Banjul on Thursday 16 May, confirmed that they refuse to come to The Gambia at the time of the investigation based on the advice of their lawyer. He said the facts that all their staffers were arrested and detained and their business outlets locked that make them fear to come back as the same fate awaits them.
He said their business almost collapse during that period. He alleged that Jammeh has created lots of tough time for big businesses operating in the country. He also said Jammeh used to owe them lots of money from commodities he took from them on credit basis. But was quick to point out that Jammeh settled his arrears before he left for exile.
Mr. Madi further said the fact that they contacted their lawyer to inform the authorities about the drug found in their container is a clear indication that they have nothing to do with it. He added that even the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that came from Dakar did believe that the cocaine was mistakenly loaded in their container or the container was mistakenly labeled as theirs after the loading. He later referred the reporter to his lawyer for further clarification on the matter.
Mr. Madi reacted furiously when confronted with allegations that they made a deal with former president Yahya Jammeh for the withdrawal of the case in exchange of his debts. He swore at the reporter with threats of suing him for libel and slanderous publication even though he denies the allegations.
Earlier on Monday 13 May, Mr. Issac one of the senior staff of SAM who was also present during the interview with Charles Madi did showed this reporter the purported executive letter dated 18 June 2015. Though, he refuses to share the content of the said letter without the permission of Mr. Charles Madi.
When contacted Mr. Aziz Bensouda the lawyer for Shyben A. Madi said he was never aware of any executive order concerning the withdrawal of the trial against his clients. He said all he knows the matter was discontinued due to further investigation by US DEA and further legal advice on the matter.
He further stated that he and his colleagues have done an intensive investigation into the matter and found out that drug cartels in South America have the ability to plant drugs in containers whiles at sea during loading with the intention of diverting that container to their agents somewhere. However, at times such containers are mistakenly sent to a wrong destination. He said there is general understanding that such was the case in the matter of SAM.
Barrister Bensouda also stated that during their own independent investigation they came across such scenario similar to their clients’ case in Holland, where a wrong shipment containing drugs was sent to a particular supermarket but later found out by the authorities that it was not meant for that destination.
Mr. Bensouda also confirmed that Jammeh was very envious of the Madis owning lots of properties in The Gambia and thus occasionally intimidates them. He added that Jammeh was waiting to capitalise on that case to seize the properties of the Madis. But based on the finding of DEA and further legal advice he could not interfere with matter.
The current acting DPP Mr. Abubacarr then deputy DPP said he was not involved in the case and could not tell if there was any executive interference in the matter. He said he believes the case was withdrawn due to further legal opinion and DEA report on the matter.
The Solicitor General and Legal Secretary Mr. Cherno Marenah said the mandate of his office does not include criminal matters neither to advice on it. He said even if there was an executive directive his office would not know about it. He added that the office of the president can deal with the DPP directly without consulting the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. He added that the current Minister of Justice would not be in position to know about the said executive order. He also indicated that the said purported order would not be available in their records.
According to the two counts charges, Shyben A. Madi and Sons Ltd, George S. Madi Fatara, Charles Victor Shyben Madi Fatara, George Madi jnr Fatara, and Carmen Gomez Madi Fatara, in March 2015, at Banjul in the Banjul Municipal Council of The Gambia and elsewhere within the jurisdiction of the court committed and conspired to commit two offences of aggravated drug trafficking. They were accused of importing 49 kilograms of cocaine found in their possession pursuance to the said agreement, and thereby committed an offence.