Yahya Jammeh’s Rule Created a Safe Haven for Muhammed Bazzi’s Terrorism Financing Agenda
Written by Ebou Ngum in Everett Washington
Whether it was happening behind closed doors or out in the open, Yahya Jammeh created a safe haven for terrorism financing. By harboring Muhammed Bazzi for a very considerable period of time, he found home in the Gambia and an avenue for money laundering and financing of Hizbollah’s terrorist activities. Muhammed Bazzi’s relationship with Iran is not a secret. As per the dossier of the United States government, Bazzi together with Abdallah Safi-Al-Din who represents Hizballah’s to Iran and cousin of Hassan Nasrallah, renegotiated diplomatic ties between Iran and the then Jammeh government. Bazzi also played a key role in bringing Syrian Doctors to the Gambia. This clearly shows that he was a power broker in the region. I am really curious to ask whether those Syrian Doctors were legitimate or just an avenue to take money out of the Gambia for the benefit of Hizbollah? Bringing Syrian Doctors to the Gambia should be questionable and we must not lose sight of the fact that Hizbollah is actively fighting in Syria to help Bashar Al Assad quell a predominantly Sunni rebellion led by ISIS.
Hizbollah gets a lot of financial help from Iran. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah clearly stated that “Hizbollah gets its money and arms from Iran, and as long as Iran has money, so does Hizbollah” (Levitt, M. 2016, July 08). Hizbollah by all account benefited from Muhammed Bazzi’s generosity through funds he illegally made in the Gambia under the auspices of Euro African Group and Global Trading Group. Funnily, these two companies survived in the Gambia curtsey of overdrawn checking accounts to the tune of millions of Dalasis. Where is the sanity in the Gambia’s banking sector if Muhammed Bazzi could walk in a local bank with his check and gets a senior banking personnel just draw or scribble what looks like the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean on the check and he walks away nice and easy with the Gambian people’s money.
Poor leadership, unethical banking practices and naivety all contributed to making Bazzi a patron of Hizbollah in the Gambia. Banks should be seen to be playing a vital role in combating organized crime such as money laundering and financing of terrorism. In a paper on banks governance and public-private partnership in preventing and confronting organized crime, corruption and terrorism financing, Hardouin (2009) found that the private sector is committed to limit the reputation risk by taking the appropriate measures and supporting the related costs. Yet, at the bank level the cost of establishing, maintaining and demonstration compliance with and enforcement of anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist provision is important. In the case of the Gambia, this was not the happening with Muhammed Bazzi because he had a blank check at his disposal to rob some particular banks without question.
The Gambia financial system under Yahya Jammeh was weak to the extent that Muhammed Bazzi had the liberty to encouraged financial instability in the Gambia. Instability in financial systems encourages money laundering which damages the reputation of a country. In an article on international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing, Burbidge (2004) argued that money laundering and terrorist financing do nothing for the reputation of the host country. The loss of investor confidence that follow revelations of large-scale involvement in such activities can sharply diminish opportunities for growth. Once a country’s reputation is tarnished, it can take years to repair. Muhammed Bazzi did nothing to develop the Gambian economy under Yahya Jammeh; he instead depleted the economy because it was legal for him to do that under the watch of Jammeh.
Corrupt leaders like the then Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh helped to make the world unsafe and difficult to control money laundering and financing of terrorism. African and Asian counties in general have been found wanting in providing safe haven for terrorism financiers and or criminal groups linked to financing of terrorism. In a paper on the effect of corruption factor in harnessing global anti-money laundering regimes, Mugarura (2010) stated that given rampant corruption in Africa, it has facilitated an environment for criminals groups of all shapes and sizes to establish their stronghold in many countries. Muhammed Bazzi was not running legitimate businesses in the Gambia. It is now clear as per the U.S dossier that he operated businesses reminiscent of criminal activity due to their strong ties to terrorism financing and drug dealing.
While I am not sure of the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I am of the conviction that those that aided Muhammed Bazzi in the process of prolonging dictatorship in the Gambia and thereby helping Yahya Jammeh kill as many Gambians as possible should be made to answer questions. Muhammed Bazzi muzzled much of the Gambia’s finances through illicit banking practices and huge government contracts in the energy sector. Muhammed Bazzi was thus financially sound to extend his generosity to Hizabollah with Gambia’s money and also bankroll Yahya Jammeh to remain in power for so long.
Burbidge, N. W. R. (2004). International anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing: The
work of the office of the superintendent of financial institutions in Canada. Journal of Money Laundering Control, 7(4), 320-332. Retrieved from http://proxy.cityu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy.cityu.edu/docview/235851486?accountid=1230
Hardouin, P. (2009). Banks governance and public-private partnership in preventing and
confronting organized crime, corruption and terrorism financing. Journal of Financial Crime, 16(3), 199-209. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.cityu.edu/10.1108/13590790910971757
Levitt, M. (2016, July 08). Iran’s Support for Terrorism Under the JCPOA . Retrieved
Mugarura, N. (2010). The effect of corruption factor in harnessing global anti-money laundering
regimes. Journal of Money Laundering Control, 13(3), 272-281. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.cityu.edu/10.1108/13685201011057145
From: Freedom Newspaper