Lawyer C.E Mene, defence counsel for Momodou Taal, one of the accused persons in the ongoing criminal trial involving Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Gambia’s former Minister of Petroleum and 9 other former top government officials, Monday conducted a rigorous cross-examination on Chief Inspector Bakary Darboe, the first prosecution witness in the case.
When the case was called before Justice O. Otaba of the Special Criminal Division of the Banjul High Court on Monday, lawyers representing the accused persons respectively announced their representations.
During cross-examination, lawyer Mene asked the witness whether exhibit G was prepared by the investigation panel resulting from their investigation, the witness responded in the positive.
He also asked the witness whether he is conversant with exhibit G, the witness responded in the affirmative.
When handed a document and after going through it, the witness identified it and Lawyer Mene applied to tender it as a defence exhibit.
The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) SH Barkun however objected to the tendering of the document, arguing that it is not an original copy and therefore is cannot be admissible as exhibit.
Responding to the DPP’s objection, Barrister Mene argued that the prosecution was served with a notice to produce and the copy in court was the one that was served to him with.
Justice Otaba overruled the DPP’s objection and admitted the said document as defence exhibit and further held that it shall be substituted with the original copy when it is made available. “Mr. Darboe, apart from this due diligence that was conducted by the 7th accused in Dubai, was there any other due diligence that was conducted in Qatar?” Lawyer Mene enquired but the witness said that was not to his knowledge.
“Is it correct that the due diligence was a fact finding mission to find out the capability of March Petroleum Company in supplying petroleum to GNPC?” the lawyer asked but before the witness could answer, DPP Barkun interrupted and objected to the question, arguing that the defence cannot read from the said exhibit.
Lawyer Mene said he does not know what law the DPP was relying on, saying the law says evidence cannot be given on a document that is not before the court but in this case the document is already tendered before the court.
Justice Otaba again overruled DPP’s objection and ordered defence counsel Mene to make reference to the said exhibit. In answering the said question, the witness responded in the positive. “Is the contract between GNPC and March Petroleum now terminated?” lawyer Mene asked and the witness responded, “I cannot confirm that.”
The witness was again instructed to read paragraph 7 of the said exhibit to the hearing of the court, which was done and lawyer Mene again asked him whether he still maintained his earlier answer and he responded in the positive.
Lawyer Mene further asked the witness whether March Petroleum Company’s contract with GNPC’s was terminated when the questionnaire was prepared; the witness said he cannot confirm that because there was no official document. “Who terminated the contract? The lawyer asked but the witness said that was beyond his knowledge.
“In one of your answers to questions asked by Lawyer Sanneh, you told the court that you carried out a thorough investigation. Do you still maintain that answer?” defence counsel Mene asked. “Yes Sir,” the witness responded.
The lawyer further questioned the witness whether his panel knew that the contract between March Petroleum and GNPC was terminated when they came up with question number 7 on exhibit G and the witness responded in the negative. “So where did question number 7 come from?” lawyer Mene asked. “It came from the panel,” the witness answered.
When asked whether GNPC was still receiving supplies from March Petroleum at the completion of their investigation, the witness said he does not know.
The case is adjourned to today at 3-4pm.
by Fatou Sowe