Monday, April 30, 2012
Osei-Adjei, Gyimah acquitted
April 20, 2012 (Page 3) THE Court of Appeal has acquitted and discharged a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Akwasi Osei-Adjei and another on two counts of conspiracy and contravening the Public Procurement Act in the importation of rice from India. In a unanimous decision, the court freed the former Minister and the former Managing Director of the National Investment Bank (NIB), Mr. Daniel Charles Gyimah on grounds that the prosecution relied on a repealed law to justify why the two former officials must be called upon to open their defence at the High Court. It said the prosecution’s argument were very “sentimental” and further stated that the prosecution failed to establish the essential ingredients set out by Section 14 of the Public Procurement Act to warrant the prosecution of the discharged officials. The two left the courtroom in excitement immediately after the court’s decision while their lawyer, Mr. Godfred Yeboah Dame, granted interviews to reporters. On February 25, 2011, the Financial Division of the Fast Track High Court acquitted and discharged Mr Osei-Adjei and Mr. Gyimah on six counts of conspiracy, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, use of public office for profit and stealing. The court, presided over by Mr Justice Bright Mensah, however, ordered the two to open their defence on charges of conspiracy and contravening the Public Procurement Act in the importation of rice from India. Dissatisfied with the High Court’s decision, counsel for the two appealed and stated that the prosecution relied mostly on a repealed law to oppose his client’s appeal. Ruling on the appeal at its sitting in Accra today, the court, presided over by Ms. Mariama Owusu, with Mr. Justice Yaw Appau and Mr. Justice Senyo Dzamefe, as members held that the prosecution was wrong in holding that the NIB was a public entity. It said the NIB was a private entity which ordered for rice and paid for and for that reason it was wrong for the prosecution to hold the accused persons culpable for any crime. On the issue that the NIB board was not consulted by Mr. Gyimah, the court held that that evidence was debunked by one of the managers of the bank who in evidence said the board of NIB was consulted and it duly approved the transaction. It further held that assuming without admitting that the NIB Board was not consulted, Mr. Gyimah was answerable to the board and nobody else. The court further submitted that the trial judge misunderstood and misapplied the principles governing when a submission of no case ought to be upheld as well as what constitutes a prima facie. According to the court, the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against the two officials to warrant the court to order them to open their defence. It said accused persons are only ordered to open their defence when the prosecution’s case was not contradictory and capable of grounding a conviction. In this particular case, the court held that the prosecution had woefully failed to prove a prima facie case because none of the prosecution witnesses led evidence to prove that the transaction was financed by public funds. It said the transaction was private one engaged in between NIB and Amira Foods of India and for that matter the prosecution failed to justify why the two officials should be called upon to open their defence. The court said the trial judge failed to specify what the essential ingredients of offence were and thus failed to determine whether the evidence of the prosecution fulfilled the requirements under the law. It said there was no decision in the court of Ghana on what constitutes the violation of the Public Procurement Act adding that this case was the first but nonetheless the ingredients of offence had clearly been spelt out in the Public Procurement Act. It further ruled that there was no evidence the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered the purchase of the rice and neither was the prosecution able to prove that Mr. Osei-Adjei was the person who ordered the rice. It accordingly upheld the defence team’s appeal and acquitted and discharged the two officials.