While Testifying in Court over the matter of fraud involving 2 Spanish national and 1 Gambian Citizen (Jose Ramon Gaztelurrutia Ezpeleta, Ander Abona, and Landing Sanneh), the Accountant of Pearl Hotel, Kabba Kulio, told the court that he knows the accused persons who were on dock for defrauding the Hotel.
He explained that whilst he was on duty to check payment and balances, he discovered that there were invoices given to the accused persons which had not been remitted for payment.
As a result of that, the witness continued that, he provided registration form to the accused persons for them to fill in which shows that they had not honored their bills in the hotel and the registration form was presented in court marked as Exhibit H 12. The registration form is a data that shows the guests that come to stay in the hotel who do not pay their bill, he continued.
The witness also disclosed that the accused persons on 30th September, onto the 4th October, 2021 booked different rooms in the Hotel, stayed there for long period and ordered foods which costed them to pay over USD$3,300. He said that whilst the accused persons were in the Hotel facility, they enjoyed free internet and other facilities that was presented as an exhibit in court.
The defense Counsel for the accused persons, W Gabber, after reviewing the exhibit presented in court cross-examined the witness.
Emmanuel Lansayo Jusu DPS 19215 attached to CID Fraud Unit while explaining in court said he recognized all the three accused persons at the time they were making statement relating to the case in question. He said after the accused persons had obtained statements to the Police, they were taken to crime scene where they admitted that they didn’t pay a dime for their stay and foods being served in the Pearl Hotel.
The presiding Judge of the case, Justice Taylor, before giving verdict told the accused persons to take an oath and relied on their statements. The first and second accused persons told the Judge that he will be in the dock and explain while the third accused said he would take the oath and testify.
Explaining his own side of the story, the first accused told the court that he left Spain to Sierra Leone and arrived in Lungi airport and upon his arrival he declared to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that he wanted to stay for a very long time in Sierra Leone, so he went to Radisson Blu to stay, but someone diverted him to Pearl Hotel.
He said he entered the Pearl Hotel and stayed there for some time and up to the 24th November, 2021 the Hotel Management evicted him and bundled him to immigration and later to the CID on the pretext that he owed the Hotel huge amount of money. He said he was detained for 22 days at the CID and remanded for 52 days in prison.
The second accused Ander also testified in Court he was at the Hotel but was not serving food and had been discriminate with other facility in the hotel.
The third accused told the court that he is a Gambian citizen, and a business ma who came in contact with the first accused in June 2020 as he told him to work with him for language barrier, and he sent his ticket from Banjul to Freetown. He said he come to Freetown through sea coach, and he was straight away taken to Pearl Hotel where he met the two accused persons who told him to seat at the seating room where he spent three night and later taken to room 10 in the hotel. At room 10, he said, the restaurant manager served him food and later asked for the money which he told the first accused but he told the manager to give him some time but was never complied. He said everyday the Hotel Management was harassing him and his colleagues for the food money and the hotel accommodation, but all proved futile until on the 24th November, 2021, he was arrested with his colleagues by the Police. The defense Counsel, W Gabber, having listened to the three accused persons explanation said the first accused was having a contract with the Hotel and argued that there was no invoice tendered in court to justify the amount the accused persons owed the Hotel.
The defense counsel appealed for the matter to be discharge owing to the fact the prosecution had used the wrong approach to prosecute that matter. He said the hotel should have used civil action for recovery of their money since the first accused did not denied payment of the money.
Another defense Counsel, Lawyer Musa Pious Sesay Esq. in his argument, told the court that the evidence before the court clearly shows that the accused persons booked into the hotel, ate food, and made use of the internet. He also reemphasized that the accused persons told the Hotel Management that they intended to stay in the Hotel for a very long time and an invoice were presented to them to show that they had accumulated huge amount of money during their stay in the hotel.
Voice of Salone Newspaper reports that, giving his verdict, Justice Taylor, sentenced the first accused Jason Ramon Gaztelurrutia Ezpelata to 9 months imprisonment while acquitted and discharged the second accused, Ander Abona and the third accused Landing Sanneh.