Officials of the Gambia drug law enforcement agency (DLEAG) have denied the allegation that directors of the agency shared a D3 million government compensation after a major cocaine burst.
Some operatives of the agency who spoke to The Alkamba Times (TAT) have made this claim against DLEAG’s top management.
In January 2021, Gambia’s anti-narcotics agency made a seizure of nearly three (3) tonnes of cocaine with a street value of about $88 million, at Banjul seaport.
According to our source, three (3) million dalasis was given as honorarium to DLEAG, and the agency’s director-general, Bakary Gassama, the director of operations, Jim Drammeh, the director of intelligence, lamin Gassama, and the director of forensic investigations, Demba Jammeh, shared the bulk of the money amongst themselves and “certain officers in their good books.”
“The rest of the operatives didn’t receive even a penny,” added our source, who is an operative with knowledge of DLEAG operations.
Responding to the allegation in an Interview with TAT, which sought the agency’s side of the story, DLEAG DG Gassama denied the claim, and said that “all those who took part were duly compensated by the agency”.
“The cocaine case involving one Banta Keita has been investigated. The suspect is on the run, and we are working with international partners to apprehend him.”
At the end of the trial, the drugs are tested and weighed to ensure they match the original seizure quantity before their destruction, Gassama further explained.
DLEAG spokesperson Ousman Saidyba also told TAT on Friday that “the money was not meant for the seizure at the seaport alone, but also for the officers who participated in the landmark seizure of almost a quarter tonne of cannabis resin (hashish) at Yundum (airport) before the seizure of the cocaine.”
He said DG Gassama initiated the move for his men to be compensated by writing to the Interior Ministry, which also channel it through the Secretary-General at the Office of the President, and the matter ended in the National Assembly which approved the D3 million compensation to DLEAG officers.
“He initiated this to ensure that those who seized the cocaine and hashish are compensated to motivate them. The money was primarily meant for the arresting officers and the investigators, and not any other person.
“it was battled from the Ministry of Finance and, finally, the parliament approved it,” Saidyba told The Alkamba Times late Friday evening.
He added: “In fact, this has been the norm in the agency. When officers make a good seizure, they are compensated. These are all initiatives aimed at battling corruption and temptations from traffickers.
“There isn’t a single officer involved in the operation who hasn’t been compensated. Some who are in those units, but weren’t involved in the operation were also rewarded, but those directly involved in the operations and investigations were adequately compensated.”
Questioned about the progress made on the Banta Keita affair in June 2021, Gambia’s Interior Minister, himself a former Police chief, told lawmakers in Banjul that “International investigations cannot be put within a timeframe.
“You can [make] temporary seizures, temporary activities until the main suspect is arrested. This is a criminal link, linking to Ecuador; a lot of personalities are involved, the Ecuadoran authorities are also investigating.
“We have to remember that these drugs transited through many countries undetected until they arrived in The Gambia. So this is why we are collaborating with international partners to make sure the link is controlled, from where they departed, and in all transit areas up to The Gambia.
“All we have as of now is only people we arrested here. We’re urging others to arrest others in other areas to dismantle the criminal gang.”
There have previously been reports of The Gambia being used as a transit route for South American drugs shipments bound for Europe and other destinations.
It would be recalled January 2021, Gambia’s anti-narcotics agency reported a seizure of nearly three (3) tonnes of cocaine with a street value of about $88 million, at Banjul seaport.
Following the seizure, it was officially announced that 2.9 tonnes of cocaine stuffed in 118 bags was shipped from the port of Guayaquil in Ecuador through Algeciras in Spain via Maersk Line Shipping Company.
The affair which attracted international attention saw the arrest in the Gambia of one Sherif Njie, whose name was reportedly used as the contact person for the shipment; and, he was charged before the courts.
Meanwhile, the Gambia government, through the Ministry of Justice in Banjul, in October 2021 called on its international partners including INTERPOL to help in arresting Banta Keita wanted in The Gambia in relation to the seized cocaine.
According to the DLEAG, It was alleged that the three (3) tonnes of cocaine belong to Banta Keita, who is presently on the run. Sheriff Njie was arrested in February last year, as the person who was supposed to clear the container of cocaine at the seaport.
An investigation panel was constituted headed by Lamin Gassama, the director of intelligence; however, with Sherif Njie in detention, but Banta Keita on the run, further investigations into the matter appear to have stalled.