Friday, May 30, 2008

Graphic accounts clerk in court for stealing

May 29, 2008

AN accounts clerk of the Graphic Communications Group Limited, Daniel Tsagli, was arraigned before the Accra Circuit Court yesterday for allegedly stealing GH¢140,000 belonging to the company.
Tsagli, who is stationed at the Ho office of the company, was alleged to have failed to lodge in the company’s accounts at the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) money collected from vendors and agents of the company from January, 2007 to March, 2008.
He pleaded not guilty to three counts of forgery of documents, possession of forged documents and stealing.
The court, presided over by Mrs Georgina Mensah-Datsa, granted Tsagli bail in the sum of GH¢140,000 with four sureties.
He is to appear again on June 18, 2008.
Prosecuting, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Mr George Abavelim, told the court that sometime in April, 2008, the company was preparing its accounts for the 2007 financial year when it detected that the accused person had failed to lodge in the company’s accounts with GCB GH¢140,000 which he had collected from vendors and agents of the company.
Instead, Tsagli presented fake pay-in slips to show he had deposited the said amount at the bank, the prosecution stated.
According to the prosecution, investigations revealed that Tsagli secured a stamp similar to that of the Ho branch of the GCB and stamped various pay-in slips amounting to GH¢140,000.
In his attempt to cover up his deeds, Tsagli allegedly forged signatures purported to be those of tellers of the bank and presented them to the head office of the company.
The prosecution further stated that Tsagli, who had been on the run, surrendered to the police on May 19, 2008 but could not offer any tangible explanation for his actions in his caution statement to the police.
According to the prosecution, Tsagli had also failed to co-operate with the police.

JJ's threats forced me out

May 8, 2008 (Second Lead Story)

A VIDEO recording of former President J.J. Rawlings’s attack on the personality of Mr Richmond Aggrey, a businessman who has sued Scancom Ghana Limited, operators of MTN, over a shareholding dispute, was played at the Commercial Court in Accra yesterday.
In the recording, former President Rawlings had accused Mr Aggrey of ripping Nigerians off their money and had returned home to Ghana with the same intention.
Addressing members of the Diplomatic Corps, chiefs, Africans and African-Americans in the Diaspora, foreign dignitaries and members of the public on state television on Emancipation Day in the first week of August 1999, Mr Rawlings had said Mr Aggrey was a corrupt man who had returned with economic power and “currently had 20 per cent shares in a telecommunications enterprise”.
The video was shown at the instance of Mr Aggrey, who has sued over unlawful take-over of his 20 per cent shares in Scancom Ghana Limited.
Also joined in the suit are Investment Consortium Holdings, SA (Investcom), the majority shareholders of MTN, and Grandview Management.
Mr Aggrey showed the video to the fully packed courtroom to buttress his claim that he had been forced to pull out of the company because of former President Rawlings’s interference and threats which had the potential of collapsing the company.
According to Mr Aggrey, who was then the Vice-Chairman of Scancom, following the continuous threats, he was advised by the other shareholders to pull out and instead nominate someone to represent him.
He said following those developments, he nominated his cousin to hold his shares because his continued stay in the company at the time was seen as a risk to the company’s growth.
In the video recording, Mr Rawlings had specifically referred to Mr Aggrey as being corrupt and had expressed the hope that he (Mr Aggrey) was not related to the late statesman, Dr Kwegyir Aggrey.
He had accused Mr Aggrey of investing virtually nothing in Scancom and yet succeeding in amassing wealth.
Dressed in African attire and guarded by the late WOI Tetteh, former President Rawlings had informed the fully packed auditorium that Mr Aggrey had gone round informing people that he (former President Rawlings) had only two years to leave office and that he (Mr Aggrey) knew the Inspector-General of Police and other top government officials.
He also accused Mr Aggrey of maligning him and the then First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, with the hope of achieving political goals elsewhere.
The case had to be adjourned to May 15, 2008 as a result of poor sound quality which was experienced midway through the viewing.
Mr Aggrey, who is currently being led by his counsel, Mr Yonny Kulendi, to give his evidence-in-chief, is expected to present another recording with a better sound quality on the next adjourned date.
He told the court that he usually taped state functions because of the cultural displays which accompanied them and said it was during one of such recordings that former President Rawlings openly expressed his disdain and hatred towards him (Mr Aggrey).
He said he was shocked to see himself being put on the negative spotlight on a live programme which was being covered by both local and international media.
According to Mr Aggrey, he was overly shocked because it had been rumoured all along that former President Rawlings wanted him out of Scancom and “for the first time in the public domain I was the subject of discussion”.
He said in 1998 he was the Chairman of the board of directors which appointed Mr Ahmed Farouk, who was then the Financial Controller of Scancom, as the Managing Director of the company.
According to him, Scancom had 7,000 initial subscribers when it started operations in 1996.
Counsel for Investcom, Mr Felix Ntrakwa, had objected to the screening of the video recording, explaining that it was of no essence, but Mr Kulendi had objected and said it was of extreme essence to Mr Aggrey because he (Mr Aggrey) sought to establish that he had pulled out of Scancom because of former President Rawlings.
Mr Aggrey continues with his evidence-in-chief on May 15, 2008.
Mr Aggrey began giving evidence on April 28, 2008, following the non-attainment of a settlement between himself and the three defendants at a pre-trial conference under commercial court rules, resulting in the matter being referred for trial.
He and the defendants went into pre-trial conference following another court’s ruling on Thursday, December 6, 2007 which restrained Investcom from seeking arbitration in the matter.
Investcom was seeking arbitration in the London Court of Arbitration but Mr Kulendi, on behalf of Mr Aggrey, filed an application for interlocutory injunction restraining Investcom from further proceeding with the arbitration.
After the collapse of the talks at the pre-trial conference, Investcom filed another application to stay execution of the court’s decision to stop it from going ahead with arbitration in London but that application was also thrown out on April 4, 2008.
In November 2006, Scancom filed an appeal challenging the Commercial Court’s dismissal of its application to strike out Mr Aggrey’s suit.
The applicant had prayed the Court of Appeal to set aside the lower court’s ruling and accordingly strike out the plaintiff’s writ of summons for non-compliance with a section of the new High Court procedure rules but the Court of Appeal dismissed the application and accordingly upheld the Commercial Court’s decision.
Scancom filed another application praying the Commercial Court to stay proceedings in the substantive matter, pending the outcome of the appeal but that application was also dismissed.
The Commercial Court in Accra, on October 20, 2006, dismissed a motion filed by Scancom which prayed the court to strike out a writ of summons filed by Mr Aggrey against Scancom and the two other defendants for non-compliance with the High Court’s rules.
The plaintiff sued Investcom, the majority shareholder in Scancom, and Grandview Management Limited when Scancom decided to engage in a merger deal with MTN Incorporated of South Africa.
The deal has, however, been concluded, following the transfer of all shares in Scancom to MTN.
That was after a High Court order on July 14, 2006 which restrained Scancom and other respondents from "continuing, progressing and or concluding the merger with and/or acquisition of Investment Consortium Holdings by MTN Company of South Africa without taking into account and/or providing for the plaintiff's 20 per cent shares in Scancom Limited".
The closure of the acquisition, according to Mr Aggrey, would occasion the loss of his shareholding in the company by reason of the accrual of the rights of the MTN Group as a third party.
Mr Aggrey's contention was that his name had been removed from the shareholders’ list of Scancom without any explanation, adding that the particulars of the directors and shareholders of Scancom obtained from the Registrar General's Department, dated June 2, 2006, and signed by Mr K.A. Ohene-Obeng, a Chief State Attorney, for the Registrar of Companies, showed that Mr Aggrey's name was not included in the shareholders’ list.
It said the onus was on the company to explain how Mr Aggrey ceased to be a shareholder.
In his substantive writ, Mr Aggrey was claiming against the defendants, jointly and severally, an order directed to Scancom to pay him his true dividends declared from the 2000 to 2005 financial years.
He also sought the rectification of the membership of Scancom Ltd to include his name and restore him to his position as a shareholder and director of the company.

GCB issues ultimatum - Pay us GHCedi 550,000 - to secure re-opening of Greenland Hotel

May 3, 2008 (Lead Story)

GHANA Commercial Bank (GCB) is demanding GH¢550,000 from the management of Greenland Hotel Limited by May 9, 2008 as a condition for the re-opening of the hotel.
The hotel was closed down as a result of the inability of its management to repay the remaining GH¢1.1 million which is the accrued interest on a GH¢200,000 loan it took from the bank.
The latest decision of the bank was communicated to the Commercial Court in Accra yesterday in the case in which the management of the hotel is praying for an order to set aside the execution of a court decision that culminated in the closure of the hotel.
That followed a call by the court, presided over by Mr Justice S. Marful-Sau, on both parties in the matter to negotiate and come to agreeable terms in order for the hotel to be re-opened.
However, the management of the hotel said it could only pay the amount, which represents 50 per cent of the outstanding amount, by the end of June this year and pay the balance by December 31.
Mrs Abena Ntrakwa-Mensah, counsel for GCB, told the court at its sitting yesterday that the management of the bank had agreed to open the hotel at exactly 2.00 p.m. on May 9, 2008 if the hotel was able to pay the proposed amount.
But counsel for the hotel, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, disagreed with the request and prayed the court to order the immediate re-opening of the hotel.
The court, however, declined the request, with the reason that justice must be seen to be done to both sides.
Mrs Ntrakwa-Mensah then informed the court that she would confer with the bank for it to decide whether or not to open the hotel as suggested by the court.
The court was of the view that parties in the matter should negotiate, instead of relying on technicalities, following a motion by the management of the hotel praying the court to order its re-opening.
Mr Dame said the bank’s decision was severe, considering the fact that the hotel was making huge losses following its continued closure.
He said it would be difficult for his client to come up with GH¢550,000 within a week and gave the assurance that the hotel was seriously making efforts to pay back the loan.
Buttressing his point, counsel said the owner of the hotel, the late Nana Kwame Eyiah, had a property at the Airport Residential Area in Accra which should have been sold to pay off the loan but there had been a delay because the sale price of the property was being contested at another High Court.
He said the hotel was making huge losses as a result of the closure and gave the assurance that it would make efforts to pay its debt.
For her part, Mrs Ntrakwa-Mensah stated that the bank was willing to re-open the hotel provided it made efforts to pay a substantial amount to the bank.
She said the matter had gone beyond management level and was currently before the Board of Directors of the bank.
The court urged the hotel to demonstrate that it was willing and capable of paying back the loan.
It said it had taken cognisance of the hotel’s plight but emphasised that justice must be seen to be done to both parties in the matter.
The case was adjourned to Wednesday, May 7, 2008 to enable Mrs Ntrakwa-Mensah to confer with the bank.
The GCB took action against the hotel on October 8, 2007 and a judgement dated October 31, 2007 was entered against the hotel in default of appearance.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Court orders CEPS to restore licences

May 1, 2008 (Back Page)

THE Commercial Court in Accra has ordered the Commissioner of the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) to restore the licences of three shipping companies.
The court also declared as unlawful the blockage of the shipping companies’ access to the GCNet system because “it has the effect of revoking their licences”.
According to the court, the Commissioner of CEPS acted ultra vires of the powers vested in him by LI 1178 by revoking the licences of Quality Shipping Limited, Globe Ventures Limited and Prime Freight Limited.
Counsel for the three companies, Mr Stanley R. K. Ahorlu, applied for judicial review on behalf of his clients following the decision of the Commissioner of CEPS to block the shipping companies’ access to the GCNet system on the grounds that the three had made false declaration as Customs House Clearing Agents.
The court, presided over by Mr Justice S. Marful-Sau, an Appeal Court judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, held that the Commissioner of CEPS did not follow laid down principles of law such as rules of natural justice before blocking the shipping companies from accessing the GCNet system.
He said “I consequently order the respondent to restore the licence of the applicants. I do not think the respondent (Commissioner of CEPS) can be stopped from conducting investigation into the activities of the applicants”.
“In fact, that is what the respondent is supposed to do under Sections 15 and 16 of LI 1978. The investigation is to go on but the applicants’ licences ought to be restored,” the court continued.
The matter was adjourned to May 5, 2008 for assessment of damages against CEPS.
An affidavit in support of the shipping companies’ motion alleged that the shipping companies’ access to the GCNet system was blocked without notice or legitimate reason on November 11, 2007.
That action, the shipping companies stated, amounted to the revoking of their licences as Customs House agents.
It said officers of the affected companies were arrested on the same day for allegedly making false declarations but they were released after they had written statements refuting the allegations and were accordingly granted bail.
“That, in effect, the respondent has arbitrarily revoked the licences of the applicants as Customs House Clearing Agents without first conducting a conclusive investigation into the said allegation against them, without written notification of proof of those allegations, as well as not offering them the opportunity to defend themselves, and, therefore, the opportunity to appeal any adverse findings against them,” the affidavit averred.
According to the shipping companies, the action of the Commissioner of CEPS had resulted in the loss of a monthly revenue of GH¢1,500 for each of the shipping companies with effect from November 11, 2007, as well as the collapse of their freight forwarding businesses and damage to their reputation as freight forwarders.
However, the CEPS denied assertions by the shipping companies and stated that investigations were ongoing into the shipping companies’ alleged falsification of Final Classification and Valuation Report (FCVR) to the CEPS.
CEPS further argued that although investigations had not been completed it had emerged that the shipping companies had made false declaration thereby causing financial loss to the state.
It argued that there was the need for the licences of the shipping companies to be revoked in order to stop them from further engaging in alleged fraudulent activities.