Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gambia: Ex-finance minister likely to face more charges

Mambury Njie, former finance minister is detained illegally says his lawyer but the prosecutor says he is likely to bag more charges
Counsel Lamin S. Camara, defending, has told the High Court in Banjul “the continuous detention of erstwhile Minister of Finance and Economic AffairsMambury Njie is illegal.

Mr Njie’s recent arrest show him detained for 31 days as of Tuesday without any formal charges or court order, according to his counsel who described the ex-minister’s ordeal as “unconstitutional.” 

But the prosecution hinted the ex-minister is likely to face more charges – insisting he should remain in custody pending investigation.

On Jan. 15, 2013, Camara argued that the court should conditionally or unconditionally release Mr Njie, who is charged with two counts of “Economic Crime” and “Abuse of Office”.

He is yet to take his plea, and has been in detention at Mile 2, the State’s Central Prison since Dec. 14, 2012. He first appeared before the Banjul Magistrate’s Court but his case was later transferred to High Court due to the lower court’s lack of jurisdiction hear economic crimes.

His lawyer cited Section 208 of the Criminal Procedure Criminal Code, saying: “Where a charge has been brought against any person who cannot be tried by a subordinate court, the magistrate may remand that person, but it should not be a blank check for indefinite detention.”

“Mr. Mamburay Njie is not charged with any offence before this court (High Court) and he has been in detention for 31 days,” Camara said. “He is a diabetic patient and his continuous detention will hinder the proper taking of his medication.”

More charges

Hadi Saleh Barkun, prosecuting, argued that the arrest and detention of the former minister is “justifiable” – citing the nature of the charge, its severity and the likelihood that if granted bail he will not surrender himself to trial or interfere with the witnesses.

“There is an investigation ongoing in the various ministries he served which include personnel he worked with. If granted bail he will interfere with that investigation,” the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Barkun said.

DPP further told the court that more charges are likely to be brought against Mr Njie as the investigation is ongoing. He described the charges as “so serious” and involves the economic wellbeing of the country.

So granting him bail will send a wrong signal to the general public, he argued.

On the health status of Mr Njie, he said the prison has medical facilities to treat him or if not available they will refer him to Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital and there is no satisfactory reason which stated that the applicant cannot be treat by Prison Authority.

“We act upon to decline releasing the applicant on bail either conditionally or unconditionally,” prosecutor Barkun added.

Justice Abdullahi Mikailu, presiding, said he cannot make a ruling on the bail application on Tuesday as he has to attend a Court Martial at the Yundum Barrack, West Coast Region.

He subsequently adjourned the matter till Jan. 21, 2013.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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