Gambia scrambles to pay $52M in court fines over illegal contract termination

Gambia scrambles to pay $52M in court fines over illegal contract termination

Gambia has nearly US$52 million (D2 billion) to pay in restitutions, mostly of the illegal termination of contracts and wrongful takeover of companies, Attorney General Aboubacarr Baa Tambadou said on Thursday.

“The Ministry of Justice is currently exploring various options for a quick resolution of these cases so that we can put them behind us and focus on the important task of rebuilding and strengthening our justice system,” he said.

The West African nation is scrambling for lawyers to prepare, draft and review international commercial agreements with help from the International Senior Lawyers Project.

The Attorney General said the justice department will contract private law firms for a quick resolution of the cases while his office focuses on the important task of building the country’s broken justice system.

In 2015, Gambia lost to a mineral sands mining company Astron Corp. Ltd. in a case at International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes after the company sued the country for an illegal termination of a contract.

The award was about US$23 million (D920 million) favoring the company in a spat over its revoked license and expropriated mining assets.

Astron held a mining license in the Gambia through its subsidiary Carnegie Minerals (Gambia) Ltd., and Gambia has since moved to annul the award at the ICSID.

Gambia’s Finance Minister Amadou Sanneh told journalists that the small nation is still paying for the services of lawyers retained for the legal case with Carnegie with retailer fees totaling D59.28 million.

Ex-President Yahya Jammeh at the time accused the company of illegal mining but Carnegie argued that the illegal mining claims were wrong because titanium and iron oxide were components of ilmenite and uranium a trace element inseparable from zircon — the mineral covered by its mining license.

It sought recovery of damages for lost profits from its operations, according to its counsel Brick Court Chambers.

The tribunal ultimately ruled in Carnegie’s favor in July, finding that the Gambia had no basis to cancel its mining license.

The final award covered $18.6 million in damages for breach of the mining license, an interest of slightly more than $993,000, arbitration costs of roughly $445,000 and about $3.3 million for legal costs, Astron said.

Gambia has three mining areas in Kartong, Bato Kunku and Sanyang but Gambians don’t know what are being mined nor do they know the amount the mining put into the state coffers.

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