Belgian company denies bribing ex-Gambian minister

Belgian company denies bribing ex-Gambian minister

Sales Manager and Commercial Director of the Semlex Group Mr. Ralph Hajjar, has denied his company giving any bribe in order to retain contracts on national documents for The Gambia.

In an exclusive interview with this reporter, Mr. Hajjar said such information“ is wrong, vicious and very unprofessional journalism. Why would we take 75 percent of the contract when we rightfully own 100 percent,” he asked.

In a trending letter from a “government insider”, it was alleged that the removed GMC party leader and Interior Minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty took bribes from Semlex officials on behalf of President Adama Barrow, which was later discovered by the president, causing Fatty’s removal.

Fatty, on the other hand, vehemently denied receiving any bribes from Semlex.

“The allegations are concocted and they contain no fiber of truth. The alleged meeting and settings were all lies, with no foundation and I challenge them to prove me wrong,” Fatty said.

Fatty accused political rivals of an orchestrated smear campaign of calumny, designed to ruin his reputation.

“I am ready and willing to subject myself to the most expansive thorough independent investigation on this matter. I am confident that I am innocent,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Semlex official said he had the opportunity to meet the Minster of Justice and the Interior just once.

“Since then, I only had communications with the ministry through the permanent secretary,” Hajjar said.

Political in-fights

On reports that Semlex has been allegedly engaged in bribery of government officials to win contracts in DR Congo and investigations in another African country (Botswana), he said they did not even work in Botswana.

“In DR Congo, we had delivered one of the most secure passports in the world. There were some internal political fights as elections were coming. People began using media to attack each other. We have already put a claim in Belgium against those allegations, and we are confident in the result,” he clarified.

On why they wanted to reconnect with Gambia’s new government after their contract was “illegally terminated” by Jammeh in 2016, he said they are partners with main international agencies such as International Civil Aviation Organization, UNDP, and Interpol.

“We are reputable and we operate in more than 20 countries around the world. Our activity is to secure identities and produce added value documents based on the most advanced technology,” the Semlex official said.

He also said that if they can “find a positive solution” and get the chance to work, they would take that rather than going to court. That would be the last action, he added.

Strongly-worded letter

The Semlex Group CEO Albert Karaziwan, also said since a new government has been set, they “have patiently waited” for everything to get stabilized at a national level, before re-initiating this contract and launch one of the first ECOWAS 100 percent compliant ID cards in The Gambia.

In a strongly worded letter signed on October 17, and delivered to the Cabinet, ministries of the Interior, Justice and the President’s office, Semlex maintained they have “a signed contract between the government and Semlex Group secured since June 16, 2016.”

This contract was for the creation and maintenance of the national database to produce secure documents. Since then, Semlex has begun to put in a lot of resources and time in the project to execute it on time, their CEO wrote, arguing they have invested a lot of resources including both financial and labor to make this project a success.

“We have already bought the electronic devices dedicated to Gambia. All holograms are already designed and created for The Gambia. All the various components of the ECOWAS ID card and visa stickers have already been purchased and currently in our factory for assembly,” said CEO Albert Karaziwan.

Build, operate and transfer

Ted McEwan, Semlex local Rep. in Banjul said they have already secured the contract for the ECOWAS ID card that “The Gambia will proudly be issuing”.

“There is a build-operate-transfer agreement with Semlex. Meaning that Semlex will fund the project in full for five years and then train staff at the Police and Immigration to take over and continue. All the other documents such as permits, driving licenses, to name a few, will be of the same high standard,” Mr.NcEwan said.

He also described as ridiculous; the concept of business being given to foreigners, especially considering that there was no capacity to enroll such a project at a high level.

“Hence Gambians partnered with Semlex to ensure that the needs of the country were met at the desired and well-deserved standard,” he added, arguing that they will not share the project with any other companies due to the fact that they design and manufacture in-house.

“The announcements made about sharing are new to us and this will not be considered,” he said.

“We will also not accept a tender process as we already hold a valid and legally binding contract. It is now left to the relevant stakeholders to do what is best for the country and let us at Semlex do what we do best and finance and deliver the best bio-metric solution possible to the Gambia.”

(Reporting and writing by Sanna Camara; Source: The Point Newspaper)

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