The Barrow Government has banned Lebanese businessman, Ali Youssef Sharara, from entering The Gambia.

The businessman was found to have colluded with former president Yahya Jammeh to defraud the Gambian state of millions of dalasi.

Mr Sharara, who has links with the Lebanese Hizbullah movement, was banned last year from entering the United States after the U.S Treasury Department declared him a “global terrorist”.

The Gambia government said it has declared Ali Youssef Sharara a “persona non grata and banned him from entering the Gambian territorial jurisdiction”.

The decision was made in the White Paper issued by the Gambia Government in reaction to the findings and recommendations of the Janneh Commission which was set up to investigate the financial improprieties of former president Yahya Jammeh.

The White Paper states:

“Ali Youssef Sharara is a Lebanese national who was introduced to The Gambia and to former President Jammeh by Mohammed Bazzi. He was declared a close associate of former President Jammeh.

“The Commission found, inter alia, Mr Ali Sharara was the main owner of SPECTRUM and that former President Jammeh directed the Government of The Gambia to sell 50% of GAMTEL/GAMCEL. SPECTRUM was given full management and operation of the company thereafter. SPECTRUM bought the shares of GAMTEL/GAMCEL before their valuation was completed and paid the sum of $32.4 million for 50% of the shares of both companies instead of the stated sale price of $35 million. the valuation of each company come back as between $77.5 million and $85.4 million for 50% GAMTEL shares, and between $69.4 million and $75.7 million for 50% GAMCEL shares, making SPECTRUM’s payment significantly less than the market value at the time.

“The Commission further found that SPECTRUM managed GAMTEL and GAMCEL for 15 months (from August 2007 to November 2008) when the former President Jammeh terminated the Management Agreement and directed the Government to re-purchase the GAMTEL/GAMCEL shares. Government bought back 50% shares for $35 million. However, due to former President Jammeh misappropriating the funds meant for repayment, only $5 million could be returned to SPECTRUM out of the agreed $35 million.

“The Commission found that about two years after the SPECTRUM management contract was terminated, Ali Sharara returned as Tell International Inc. to once again manage the International Gateway. TELL unilaterally deducted $2 million from the proceeds of the Gateway from May 2011 to April 2012 during their tenure as gateway managers, making a total of $24 million in addition to their gateway fees. The Commission found that the said deductions were not based on any provision of the contract and were therefore illegal.

“The Commission also found that between June 2011 and January 2013, TELL/Mr Sharara paid bribes to former President Jammeh to his Trust Bank account in the amounts of D240,280,000, and $2,550,000 to the JFP account, as well as luxury cars such as Range Rovers as incentive to keep the Gateway contract.

“The Government accepts the findings of the Commission in so far as they relate to Mr Ali Youssef Sharara.

“Recalling the Commission’s recommendation elsewhere in its Report, the Government accepts that former President Jammeh, or alternatively, Mr Ali Youssef Sharara and others are jointly and severally liable for bribes paid to former President Jammeh. The Government is of the considered view that while former President Jammeh, Mr Ali Youssef Sharara and others are criminally liable for these acts of bribery, the said bribes should be recovered from the assets of former President Jammeh because it would amount to double-jeopardy to ask Mr Ali Youssef Sharara and others to pay the same monies that they have already paid out to former President Jammeh, even as a bribe.

“The Government takes particular note of the Commission’s observation that Mr Ali Youssef Sharara, among others, was a non-citizen and non-resident of The Gambia who was painfully exploitative and contributed nothing or very little to the economy or welfare of The Gambia. He had no respect for Gambians or Gambian institutions. In his quest for wealth, he focused only on profits mostly unlawfully obtained through bribes abd other illegitimate means including collusion with former President Jammeh. He greatly contributed to the near ruin of The Gambia.

“Consequently, the Government accepts the Commission’s recommendation that Mr Ali Youssef Sharara be declared persona non grata, and Mr Ali Youssef Sharara is hereby declared persona non grata by the Government of The Gambia and specifically banned from entering Gambian territorial jurisdiction. This recommendation is particularly reinforced by the fact that Mr Sharara was, on 17th May 2018, designated Specially a Global Terrorist by the U.S. Department of the Treasury pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.”

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