Wednesday, November 22, 2017

1.1 billion barrels estimated by FAR in Blocks A2 and A5 in The Gambia, offshore

An Australian Securities Exchange listed oil and gas exploration and development company known in the industry as FAR Limited says that it has identified 1.1 barrels of resources in its two blocks offshore The Gambia i.e. blocks A2 and A5.

The resources are in the two prospects known as "Bambo" and "Samo".  According to company sources, operations are already underway to prepare for drilling in late 2018.   Industry sources also observed that it will be the first time that drilling is done in offshore Gambia since the adminsitration of Sir Dawda K. Jawara in 1979.

Blocks A2 and A5 cover 2,862 sq km within the Mauritania-Senegal-Guinea Bissau (MSGB) Basin and lie about 30 km offshore in 50 - 1,500m water depth.

From the 3D seismic data, FAR was able to identify the Bambo and Samo prospects.  Despite the quality of the seismic data available, FAR opined that more work needs to be done to improve its understand what's at stake and to further reduce the risk.

According to FAR, the opportunities in Blocks A2 and A5 "represent a huge prize, if successful."  And based on FAR's experience in its drilling operations in neighboring Senegal, the geological chance of success in the key reservoirs in the Samo prospects is "high for a frontier exploration well".   Success in the Samo well would be "truly transformational" for The Gambia and FAR, the firm says.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Senegal's former Foreign Minister, Chinese businessman charged in New York with conspiracy to violate the FCPA

Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, Senegal's former Foreign Minister 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 20, 2017

Head Of Organization Backed By Chinese Energy Conglomerate, And Former Foreign Minister Of Senegal, Charged With Bribing High-Level African Officials

Defendants Allegedly Conspired to Bribe the President of Chad and the Foreign Minister of Uganda

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Kenneth A. Blanco, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), James D. Robnett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), and Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today the unsealing of a Complaint charging CHI PING PATRICK HO, a/k/a “Patrick C.P. Ho,” and CHEIKH GADIO with participating in a multi-year, multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe high-level officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for a Chinese oil and gas company (the “Energy Company”).  HO and GADIO were charged with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), international money laundering, and conspiracy to commit both.  GADIO was arrested in New York on Friday afternoon and presented on Saturday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox.  HO was arrested on Saturday afternoon and was presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck and ordered detained.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “In an international corruption scheme that spanned the globe, Chi Ping Patrick Ho and Cheikh Gadio allegedly conspired to bribe African government officials on behalf of a Chinese energy conglomerate.  Wiring almost a million dollars through New York’s banking system in furtherance of their corrupt schemes, the defendants allegedly sought to generate business through bribes paid to the President of Chad and the Ugandan Foreign Minister.  As alleged, Ho’s Ugandan scheme was hatched in the halls of the United Nations in New York, when the country’s current Foreign Minister served as the President of the U.N. General Assembly, and then continued unabated upon his return to Uganda.  International bribery not only harms legitimate businesses and fair competition, but it also destroys public faith in the integrity of government.  And when this type of international corruption and bribery touches our shores and our financial system, as the alleged schemes did, federal criminal charges in an American court may very well be the end result.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco said:  “This alleged scheme involved bribes at the highest levels of the governments of two nations.  The Criminal Division is committed to investigating and prosecuting corrupt individuals who put at risk a level playing field for corporate competitiveness, regardless of where they live or work.  Their bribes and corrupt acts hurt our economy and undermine confidence in the free marketplace.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “The scheme described in this case boils down to these subjects allegedly trying to get their hands on the rights to lucrative opportunities in Africa.  They were allegedly willing to throw money at the leaders of two countries to bypass the normal course of business, but didn’t realize that using the U.S. banking system would be their undoing.  The FBI, our partners in the IRS and the law enforcement community work diligently day after day to protect the integrity of our financial institutions, and stop foreign entities corrupting international commerce.”

IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge James D. Robnett said:  “IRS Criminal Investigation operates worldwide and has the expertise to identify bribery schemes such as alleged in the Criminal Complaint.  Our Special Agents are especially skilled at piecing together these financial puzzles, even those that involve such high level participants.”

HSI Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez said:  “These individuals allegedly offered millions of dollars in bribes to foreign officials, disguised as charitable donations, in order to seek business advantages. One used his position with a United Nations Council to further this scheme.  We will continue to aggressively investigate financial crimes committed by corrupt foreign officials while working collaboratively with our counterparts at the FBI and IRS.” 

According to the allegations in the Complaint[1] and other statements in the public record:
           
Overview

This case involves two bribery schemes to pay high-level officials of Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for the Energy Company, a Shanghai-headquartered multibillion-dollar conglomerate that operates internationally in the energy and financial sectors.  At the center of both schemes is CHI PING PATRICK HO, a/k/a “Patrick C.P. Ho,” the head of a non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong and Virginia (the “Energy NGO”) that holds “Special Consultative Status” with the United Nations (“UN”) Economic and Social Council.  The Energy NGO is funded by the Energy Company.

In the first scheme (the “Chad Scheme”), HO, with GADIO’s assistance, caused the Energy Company to offer a $2 million bribe to the President of Chad in exchange for securing business advantages for the Energy Company in its efforts to obtain valuable oil rights from the Chadian government.  In particular, in exchange for the bribe, the President of Chad provided the Energy Company with, among other things, an exclusive opportunity to obtain particular oil rights in Chad without facing international competition.  GADIO, who is the former Foreign Minister of Senegal and who operated an international consulting firm, played an instrumental role in the Chad Scheme by, among other things, connecting HO with the President of Chad and conveying the $2 million bribe offer to the President of Chad.  HO compensated GADIO by paying him $400,000 via wires transmitted through New York, New York.

In the second scheme (the “Uganda Scheme”), HO caused a $500,000 bribe to be paid, via wires transmitted through New York, New York, to an account designated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda, who had recently completed his term as the President of the UN General Assembly (the “Ugandan Foreign Minister”).  HO also provided the Ugandan Foreign Minister, as well as the President of Uganda, with gifts and promises of future benefits, including offering to share the profits of a potential joint venture in Uganda involving the Energy Company and businesses owned by the families of the Ugandan Foreign Minister and the President of Uganda.  These payments and promises were made in exchange for assistance from the Ugandan Foreign Minister in obtaining business advantages for the Energy Company, including the potential acquisition of a Ugandan bank.

The Chad Scheme

As alleged in the Complaint, the Chad Scheme began in or about October 2014, when HO and GADIO met at the UN in New York, New York.  At that time, the Energy Company wanted to expand its oil operations to Chad, and to do so, it wanted to enter into a joint venture with a Chinese government-owned oil and gas company (the “Chinese State Oil Company”) that was already operating in Chad.  Earlier that year, the Chinese State Oil Company had been fined $1.2 billion by the government of Chad for environmental violations.  HO enlisted GADIO – who had a personal relationship with the President of Chad – to assist the Energy Company in gaining access to the President of Chad, with the initial goal of resolving the dispute between the government of Chad and the Chinese State Oil Company, and the ultimate goal of obtaining oil opportunities for the Energy Company in Chad.

GADIO successfully connected HO and the Energy Company to the President of Chad and to other Chadian officials.  HO, acting on GADIO’s advice, then caused the Energy Company to pledge a $2 million bribe to the President of Chad, in what was characterized as a “donation” for charitable causes.  GADIO later solicited from HO a $500,000 payment for GADIO’s firm, arguing that he should receive a percentage of the $2 million “gift” from the Energy Company to the President of Chad.

In reality, this “donation” was a bribe intended to influence the award of oil rights in favor of the Energy Company.  Following this $2 million pledge to the President of Chad, the Energy Company obtained a business advantage in its negotiations to acquire oil rights in Chad, in particular, by having the exclusive opportunity to purchase particular oil rights without facing international competition.  Ultimately, the Energy Company did not complete this acquisition, but instead purchased other oil rights in Chad from a Taiwanese company.  In exchange for GADIO’s efforts to facilitate the bribery of the President of Chad, HO caused $400,000 to be paid to GADIO’s firm, via two wires that were transmitted through a bank in New York, New York.

The Uganda Scheme

As alleged in the Complaint, the Uganda Scheme began in or about October 2014, when HO met at the UN in New York, New York with the Ugandan Foreign Minister, who had recently begun his term as the 69th President of the UN General Assembly (“PGA”).[2]  HO, purporting to act on behalf of the Energy NGO, met with the Ugandan Foreign Minister and began to cultivate a relationship with him.  During the year that the Ugandan Foreign Minister served as PGA, HO and the Ugandan Foreign Minister discussed a “strategic partnership” between Uganda and the Energy Company for various business ventures, to be formed once the Ugandan Foreign Minister completed his term as PGA and returned to Uganda.

In or about February 2016 – after the Ugandan Foreign Minister had resumed his role as Foreign Minister of Uganda, and his in-law had been reelected as the President of Uganda – the Ugandan Foreign Minister solicited a payment from HO, purportedly for a charitable foundation that he wished to launch.  HO caused a $500,000 payment to be wired to an account in Uganda designated by the Ugandan Foreign Minister, through a bank in New York, New York.  In his communications, HO variously referred to this payment as a “donation” to the reelection campaign of the President of Uganda (who had already been reelected) and as a “donation” to “support” the Ugandan Foreign Minister.

In fact, this payment was a bribe to obtain business advantages for the Energy Company in its efforts to secure contracts and ventures in Uganda’s financial and energy sectors.  HO also provided the Ugandan Foreign Minister, as well as the President of Uganda, with promises of future benefits, including proposing to partner with both officials’ family businesses in potential joint ventures.  In exchange, the Ugandan Foreign Minister assisted the Energy Company in obtaining business in Uganda, including by facilitating the Energy Company’s interest in potentially acquiring a bank.

*                      *                      *

HO, 68, of Hong Kong, China, and GADIO, 61, of Senegal, are each charged with conspiring to violate the FCPA, violating the FCPA, conspiring to commit international money laundering, and committing international money laundering.  The maximum penalties for these charges are as follows: five years in prison for conspiring to violate the FCPA; five years in prison for each violation of the FCPA; 20 years in prison for conspiring to commit international money laundering; and 20 years in prison for each charge of committing international money laundering.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Kim praised the outstanding work of the FBI and IRS-CI, who jointly conducted this investigation.  He also thanked the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), and the Department of Justice, Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, which provided critical assistance.  Mr. Kim noted that the investigation is ongoing.

This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas S. Zolkind, Thomas McKay, Daniel C. Richenthal, and Shane T. Stansbury, and Trial Attorneys David A. Last and Paul A. Hayden of the Fraud Section, are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.
[2] Although the Complaint refers to the “Ugandan Foreign Minister” throughout for clarity, during the year that he served as PGA, he did not simultaneously serve as Foreign Minister of Uganda.  Rather, he resumed as Foreign Minister of Uganda shortly after his term as PGA ended.
Topic(s): 
Foreign Corruption
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
17-370

Monday, November 13, 2017

Strong and confident leadership demanded of our politicians and men and women in uniform

Circa 1959 
At the height of our fight to rid The Gambia of Jammeh, there were many doubters as to whether we will be able to pull it off in 2016.  We happened to have been among those who were not expecting his defeat through the ballot box but through public protests employing Arab Spring tactics of civil disobedience.  Therefore, it was as much a pleasant surprise for us as it was for millions of Gambians and friends of the Gambia across the globe to dislodge an entrenched 22-year old brutal and corrupt dictatorship. .

Although skeptical of the election route, what was never in doubt was the power of the human resolve to achieve what looked, at the time, unachievable and thus the battle cry of the moment among the online activists: "Never Relent".   Our advice then, as now is never give up or surrender your core beliefs and values because your life is meaningless without them and a life without a set of values, in our view, makes you less of a human.

Although a child of the colonial era, born, raised and high school educated in the colony of Banjul, I have always felt liberated, enjoying all the inherent freedoms that every freeman and woman was endowed, even when the top three to four most senior police officers in the Police and the Field Forces were British and so were most of the Commissioners (now called Governors).  

This brings us to the incarnation of the Public Order Act of 1955, not by any colonialist or imperialist oppressor but by one of our own, a brutal and corrupt African dictator in the name of Yaya Jammeh that sent the top echelon of the United Democratic Party, including its leader to jail using the very same 1955 odious law.  It now appears that it is the same sword of Damocles that is being dangled over our heads by the transition government we all fought so hard to elect to usher in the New Gambia under new management and new orientation.  

Instead, the government decises to operationalize a relic of our colonial past that Jammeh used to jail his opponents and Governor Edward Windley used to crush the “Bread and Butter" riots of 1959.  

Whether the Barrow administration realizes it or not, the insistence by the Inspector General of Police to reverse the previous decision to allow the #OccupyWestfield protests is raising concerns among our traditional allies and friends abroad.  The trend is chilling as it is disappointing. 

If the Inspector General of Police cannot guarantee the safety of a few hundred peaceful demonstrators, as initially projected by the organizers, then Gambians have every reason to question his fitness to man the post.  The security of the country must also be in a much more precarious state than ever imagined to cause the denial of law abiding Gambians to exercise their inherent right to publicly display their displeasure at their government; even in the presence of ECOMIG troops in the country?   

ECOMIG’s mandate had recently been extended for one year with the simultaneous drawdown from the initial troop level of 4,000 to its current 2,500 stabilizing force level.  Can you blame laymen if the IGP’s claims are treated as suspect?  We believe we could do better, as a country, with more confident leadership from our politicians as well as our men and women in uniform, especially now. 
  
          


Saturday, November 11, 2017

EDITORIAL: President Barrow must put his stamp on the transition government

President Adama Barrow 
When Gambians went to the polls last December 1st, their choice to lead the Coalition of 7 +1 was Adama Barrow.  He campaigned and won an election that the entire world, except Yaya Jammeh, acclaimed as free, fair and credible. 

In fact,  Barrow's election was historic as being the first time that a sitting dictatorship, with all the instruments of power still firmly under his control, was defeated at the ballot and democratically without a shot being fired. 

African dictators have lost power in the past but it has almost always been through the use force or the threat of the use of force.  Because of the uniqueness of our last December experience, we have been pleading with the new administration to avoid stepping on a very powerful and unique story that should serve as a platform to start the consolidation of out new found democratic freedoms. 

The Coalition government stumbled right out of the gates as some of us expected.  If you ask a dozen Gambians the cause for it, you are likely to get a dozen but one different answers.  The one reason they all share in common is that the majority of the cabinet lack experience in governance.  Whereas this common factor may not be sufficient reason for failure, it is a necessary condition for a slow start as cabinet members feel their way around the treacherous terrain.  Most, if not all, have been out in the political wilderness for over two decades. 

After almost a year at the helm, President Barrow and his team have made some progress, not of the earth-shattering kind, but progress nonetheless especially in the judiciary where discernible progress is being registered in appointing qualified and experienced Gambians on the bench.  Members of the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of the former dictator have been seated over three months ago and its live extended for an additional six month. 

The law establishing the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission is on its final stage of being tabled before the National Assembly.   The security sector has also been scheduled for restructuring.  This is by no means an exhaustive list because there are ministries where public information is thin. 

All of the gains enumerated here will come to naught if hard choices are not made in the country's economic management team.  A significant draw down of the ballooning domestic debt over the last decade must be made to start the reversal of the crowding out of the private sector that has been starved of cash from the commercial banking sector for investment purposes. 

The rebuilding effort  of the Central Bank must commence from the ground up after what has come to light at the Commission of Inquiry.   Without the restructuring of the civil service, it'd not be possible to successfully implement the reforms that must take place to set us on the road to economic recovery.         

#OccupyWestfield group has been issued with a permit to protest on Sunday, November 12th


President Adama Barrow 
After a week of much ado about nothing, the government of Adama Barrow has decided to allow the #OccupyWestfield group to protest at the Westfield Junction, a decision that should have been made last week to avoid the unnecessary rancor and vacillations that ensued.

However, the decision was finally taken by Hon. Ba Tambadou, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice who has been been selected by President Barrow to oversee the Interior Ministry while a substantive holder of the post is identified and appointed.  Hon. Mai Fatty's dismissal is unfortunate but as the saying goes in these parts it comes with the territory.  Ministers serve at the pleasure of the president and thus can be removed without offering reason(s) for the removal.  That is the prerogative of the President.  It is not a right but a privilege to serve in a cabinet post.

Regarding the protests, Mr. Alieu Bah of #OccupyWestfield speaking to us from Banjul confirmed that permission has been granted for his group to protest at the Westfield Junction on Sunday 12th November from 3PM - 6PM. 

To peacefully protest in a democracy is a right that must not be infringed.

The decision is a welcome relief that will serve as an outlet for pent up frustrations for a number of our youth - an important constituents of the Coalition -  frustrations resulting from the lack of progress in the provision of reliable supply of electricity, as seen from their vantage point.

Yes, we acknowledge the promises made by government and the efforts made for the realization of those promises which should not preempt the inherent right of every Gambian to publicly and peacefully express his or her dissatisfaction or otherwise without fear of arrest or worse. 

The government has shown, through action, that reasons advanced by the former Interior Minister that resulted in his decision to deny #OccupyWestfield permit were, in our view, without basis.

The refusal to allow the protest to proceed projected weakness and not confidence in our security forces to maintain order at all times.  It was also a grave mistake for the paramilitary forces to be on high alert and in full battle gear thus escalating a problem to unnecessary levels.  Let us leave such knee jerk reactions to dictators.

Today, we are all democrats.

President Barrow's government should consider memorializing Solo Sandeng in naming the Westfield Junction in honor of the UDP youth leader and to designate it as a zone for Gambians to peacefully assemble to show their opposition to or support of issues they consider to be essential to contributing to a stable and prosperous society. 

The Gambia needs a clean break from its dictatorial past by throwing away the Jammeh playbook.  Many Gambians will lend support to this or any other effort that will solidify our democratic gains.  These young people are the future of the country and must be seen as a reservoir of hope for the future of the country and not as a source of potential conflict and instability.     

Friday, November 10, 2017

Mai Ahmad Fatty has been fired as Gambia's Interior Minister, effective Friday November 10 2017

PR/C/6/Vol. 21(84)                                             

Media Advisory

Fajara, 10th November 2017 - The General Public is here by informed that His Excellency, Mr. Adama Barrow, President of the Republic of The Gambia, acting under the provision of Section71 (4) (b) of the Constitution of The Republic of the Gambia, has decided to relieve  Mr. Mai Ahmad Fatty of his appointment as Minister of The Interior with effect from today, Friday, 10 November 2017.  

Mr Fatty has been re-deployed to the diplomatic service. 

In the same vein, His Excellency, the President has assigned the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Honourable Abubacarr M. Tambadou to oversee the Ministry of The Interior until further notice.
 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

To what are Gambian migrants returning home to?

The European Union signed recently a D 200 million grant agreement with IOM and the government of the Gambia, represented by the Interior Minister, as part of the $ 2 billion EU - Africa emergency trust fund.*

The initial tranche is earmarked for the irregular migrants of 1,500 Gambians who will be repatriated from Libya, where many live in squalor and grim conditions and whose lives are under constant threat from human traffickers and bandits. 

According to local reports, the head of IOM said the project is designed to strengthen migration in The Gambia and also to raise awareness of 250 communities.  Awareness programs are also envisaged for the potential 2,500 migrants expected to return on migration options and alternatives which must include training programs to prepare them for reentry into an under performing economy. 

The IOM head emphasized the lengthy and complex nature of reintegrating migrants that must focus beyond economic integration but social, psychological and other aspects as well.  As part of the assistance to the initial batch of irregular migrants coming from Libya, the project provides € 65 (approx. D 3,600) to each of the returnees upon arrival in Banjul to cover their transportation fares to their respective towns and villages and also to take care of incidentals.  The figure has already raised a few eyebrows.

Returnees needs are subsequently assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine the type of assistance accorded to each.  The challenges facing government and returning migrants are huge.  It therefore requires careful and a realistic implementation schedule.  The European Union also must be prepared to make adjustments to the project design to accommodate concerns expressed by local and international development practitioners. 

The Oxfam is reportedly calling for more clarity in the design of these types of emergency projects to avoid them being repackaged as border security projects with no development goals.  The Oxfam EU migration policy adviser, recognizing the quick disbursement nature of emergency projects of the sort being envisaged, is calling for more transparency and accountability.   There are no "quick fixes" to the long and tedious process of reintegrating a group of migrants who have little or no skills to speak of to be successfully integrated into society.

Gambia's reentry program for returnee migrants will require, in addition to the Ministries of Interior, Trade and Youth and Sports, the robust and proactive involvement of  civic society organizations in the monitoring of its implementation by civil society organization specializing in such programs.  Because the stakes are high, the program must be properly implemented with some changes to the original design as suggested by Oxfam and others. 

Public awareness campaign utilizing both the public and private media must be mounted by the implementing agencies, as well as the government, to publicize project objectives.  Government must develop a communication strategy around the reentry program will help the general population understand the process and help, as part of community support mechanism, in easing the reentry pains that returnees are likely to encounter.
--------------------

* This is the first in a series of blog posts that will examine certain aspects of the EU - Africa emergency trust fund including the implementation of this and similar projects in the pipeline.