February 17, 2012 (Page 3 Lead)
THE bail terms for Alfred Agbesi Woyome, the businessman who is standing trial for defrauding the state of GH¢51.2 million, have been reviewed, following the intervention of two lawyers.
Woyome, who has been in custody since February 3, 2012, is standing trial alongside Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh, a Chief State Attorney; Paul Asimenu, the Director of Legal Services at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, and Mrs Gifty Nerquaye-Tetteh, the wife of Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh.
Mr Addo Atuah and Mr Yonny Kulendi, lawyers for Nerquaye-Tetteh and his wife and Asimenu, put up lucid and compelling arguments which convinced the trial judge, Mr Justice John Ajet-Nasam, to reduce the GH¢54 million with two sureties to be justified to GH¢20 million with three sureties to be justified.
Earlier attempts by counsel for Woyome, Mr Robertson Kpatsa, to convince the trial judge to reduce his client’s bail condition appeared to be falling on deaf ears, as the judge kept reminding him (counsel) that he (counsel) had earlier in the week informed the court that the defence team was prepared to satisfy “any” bail condition the court might impose.
Mr Atuah and Mr Kulendi had to step in and argue their hearts out in their bid to convince the trial judge.
The judge picked up the court’s records and quoted what could be termed as the “bragging rights” of Mr Kpatsa.
Mr Atuah told the court that Woyome’s bank accounts, as well as his assets, had been frozen by the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO).
According to counsel, who caught the court’s rapid attention with that revelation, Woyome would not abscond should the bail conditions be made flexible because all that he had worked for in all his life had been frozen and, for that reason, he would stay on and rightfully claim what he had toiled for.
Mr Atuah informed the court that Woyome had a fixed place of abode, was gainfully employed, as well as pursuing other matters at the Commercial Court to prove his innocence in the matter.
Associating himself with submissions by Mr Atuah and Kpatsa, Mr Kulendi reminded the court that Woyome did not break into the Bank of Ghana (BoG) to take the GH¢51.2 million.
He said Woyome had gone to a court of competent jurisdiction to claim what he believed to be rightfully his, adding that it was unfortunate that the Republic had misconstrued his action in court as fraud.
Mr Kulendi further argued that it was only someone who owned a company as big as Trassacco Valley who could stand surety for Woyome, adding that the grant of bail was meant to render the liberty of an accused person pending and during a trial.
Counsel submitted that Woyome had the most visible face in Ghana now and for that reason it was impossible for him to abscond.
Mr Kpatsa, who had a tough time convincing the judge, had earlier submitted that the bail term was so harsh and that his client had not been able to meet the requirements.
Mr Justice Ajet-Nasam then moved in and questioned him on whether or not he was the same person who had earlier in the week stood before his court and claimed Woyome had substantial sureties who were prepared to stand in.
Although Mr Kpatsa found it difficult to answer the judge’s questions, he made an attempt and prayed the court to review its bail condition.
A Chief State Attorney, Ms Cynthia Lamptey, opposed the defence team’s application for bail and said the bail should be commensurate with the GH¢51.2 million.
She argued that it would be paltry if the court granted Woyome bail in an amount less than GH¢51.2 million.
Ms Lamptey also submitted that Woyome’s bank accounts, and not his assets, that had been frozen, adding that Woyome could deposit his passport and yet find a way to abscond.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Ajet-Nasam said the defence and the prosecution had argued persuasively and maintained that bail should not be used as a punitive measure.
He queried what essence it would serve if the accused person was granted bail and yet could not go out to meet his lawyers to prepare his defence.
He, accordingly, reviewed the bail and directed Woyome to report himself twice a week to the police.
Hearing continues on Monday, February 20, 2012.