GRA 4 seek bail at High Court
Friday, June 15, 2012
The four former top officials of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) charged with the offence of Economic Crime, contrary to the Economic Crime Specified Offences Act, Laws of The Gambia, Thursday, June 14th 2012, moved their bail application at the High Court in Banjul, presided over by Justice Mikailu Abdulahi.
The applicants, all charged with the said offence, each filed in application through their various defence counsel. The applications were heard on a piece meal process starting with Musukebba Corr, ex-commissioner of Domestic Tax at the GRA, followed by Louie Gillen. The rest will be heard today Friday, June 15th 2012, at the said court.
Lawyer Hawa Sisay-Sabally was the first to submit her bail application, which she said was by way of an alternative summons made by the registrar on June 12th ,2012 and she intends to rely on all the prayers contained in the affidavit for the court to grant bail to the applicant, Musukebba Corr, the second accused person, pending the determination of the charge against the accused at the High Court and Banjul Magistrates’ Court.
According to the defence counsel, her application is pursuant to Section 19 (5) 24 (3) and 37 of the Constitution of The Gambia. She added that the application is also brought under Section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and its supported by a 29-paragraph affidavit sworn to by one Senghor Thomas Sowe on 9th June, 2012.
Further submitting her bail application before a crowded court room filled with relatives, friends and colleagues of the accused persons, who were keenly listening to every detail of the announcements made, Lawyer Sisay-Sabally said there are two affidavits, one sworn to by Senghor Thomas Sowe , Musukebba’s sister and the other sworn to by Ousainou Corr, husband of the accused person.
She disclosed that she received an affidavit in opposition to the bail application, but the defence is not conceding to any of the claims by the prosecution. At that juncture, she read a portion of the affidavit sworn to by Senghor Thomas Sowe, which stated among other things that, the applicant Musukebba Corr was born in the year 1971, graduated in 1991 and spent her life in the service of the Gambia Government, despite her qualification as a chartered accountant, when she could have gone intoprivate practice if she wanted to make money.
The defence further pointed out that the applicant is a mother of two children one of whom is due to sit her examination abroad and they are traumatised by the news of their mother’s arrest and detention at a time when their father was out of the jurisdiction of The Gambia. The defence added that the applicant spent all her productive life in the service of the Gambia Government and besides, she is also a diabetic patient who missed her medical appointment on June 13th , 2012, while in custody.
This piece of information led the defence to read a portion contained in the second affidavit sworn to by the husband of the accused. According to the defence counsel, the husband said he visited the applicant at the Mile 2 State Central Prison and found her in a condition that could deteriorate her health status as a diabetic patient.
urged the court to take note of the judicial notice with respect to what she
called the alleged findings of the Commission of Inquiry, which alleged among
other things, the economic loss caused to the state. She also urged the court
note the annual estimate bill, which dealt with financial budget of The Gambia
and the budget speeches delivered in the Parliament.
She still urged the court
to take note the period covering 1999 to 2011 financial statements and budget
speeches of which, she said the mentioned financial statements and budgets
covered in the mentioned period tendered before the Parliament, it was not even
within the contemplation of the Gambia Government that they would have D2
billion plus which they alleged was lost to them [Government].
“Hence I would urge the court not to consider the figure in question when granting bail and exhibit MC 1 is one of the holding charges on Economic Crime, which is subjected to a bail,” defence counsel Sisay-Sabally said.
Still commenting on the need to have her client bailed, Hawa Sisay Sabally said, her client has responsible persons ready and willing to stand as sureties for her and once granted bail she will not leave the jurisdiction of the court, she will be always present at all trial proceedings pending the determination of the case, she will not interfere with any of the witnesses in the matter and she will not also intervene with any investigation into the matter while on bail.
According to the defence counsel, the court should exercise its discretion in granting and should not make the bail condition excessive considering the fact that The Gambia is a developing country with a development programme on poverty eradication, hence the need not to make the bail excessive beyond D1 million.
“My lord, this country is a developing country, virtually all Gambians are poor. Imposing heavy bail condition means the applicant cannot afford it,” Hawa Sisay stated, before moving on to challenge the rationale behind the charges relating to a period covering 1999 to 2011.
According to her, the GRA Act came into force in the year 2006 while the charge relates to the period covering 1999 to 2011. She argued among other things that, by virtue of status, the GRA Act came into force in the year 2006 and hence the need to be cautious about the sum involved in the charge sheet as well as the need to look at the status when considering bail in the matter.
Further challenging the charge, the defence said her client Musukebba Corr has never been served with any adverse findings of the Commission of Inquiry, and it’s her submission that, her client is entitled to a bail cognizant of the circumstances mentioned with regards to her status cited.
The director of Public Prosecution (DPP) SH Barkun, responded to the submission of the defence counsel by making his position known for the court to refuse bail to the applicant. According to the DPP, the state filed a 24-paragraph affidavit sworn to by one Ebou Jeng and he intends to rely on all the paragraphs contained in the said affidavit. However, he acknowledged that bail is at the discretion of the court, but urged the court not to grant bail to the applicant and cited Section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code and other decided cases to back-up his submission.
said the mere fact that the applicant is part of an extended family does not
mean that there is no other person to be responsible for the family and such is
not be considered in granting bail, but instead the court should take into
consideration, the nature of the offence charged, its gravity and the
likelihood of the applicant to commit a similar offence while on bail.
The DPP then referred to the Economic Crime Specified Offences Act Section 6 of which the law made punishment for 3 to 10 years imprisonment or a fine in connection to the sum involved and in this particular case the sum of 2 billion is involved. He then cited the case of Alhaji Bakary Trawally and 8 others, but this particular was challenged by the defence counsel Hawa Sisay-Sabally, who said the just cited case does not avail the state prosecutor as the said accused persons were granted bail by Justice Amadi at the Brikama High Court.
The DPP later challenged the argument made by the defence counsel that her client was not served with any adverse findings of the Commission. According to the DPP, adverse findings of the Commission of Inquiry as contained in Section 204 of the Constitution of The Gambia, can only be challenged in court.
On the application for medical attention, the DPP was at hand to question the defence whether the prison authorities said they could not attend to the medical need of the accused. “My lord ill-health is not an exception to grant bail and there is nowhere indicative before the court where the prison authorities said they cannot attend to the medical need of the accused,” the DPP argued and later cited the case of Sani Abacha and the Nigerian state, before urging the court not to grant bail as applied by the defence.
The second bail applicant, Louie Gillen
Conteh, defence counsel for Louie Gillen said the motion dated 8th June, 2012,
was pursuant to Section 8 of the Economic Crime Specifies Offences Act and
Section 195 of the Constitution of The Gambia as well as Section 99 of the
Criminal Code, Laws of The Gambia.
According to Lawyer Conteh, the motion is meant to ask the court to grant bail to the applicant, Louie Gillen and is supported by a 20-paragraph affidavit and he intends to rely on all the paragraphs contained in the said affidavit.
The defence counsel later related his submission to the provisions of the common law, which made provision that presumption that bail should be in favour of the accused and the accused should be presumed innocent until the contrary is proven before the court and a similar provision is made in the Constitution of The Gambia.
According to the defence counsel, the applicant should be granted bail to enable him have adequate time and facility to prepare his defence against the charge. He said his client is still in custody contrary to the said Common Law and Constitutional provisions and urged the court to grant bail to his client, saying bail is at the discretion of the court.The case comes up today for others to have their say on the need to have them bailed.
Author: Sanna Jawara