March 27, 2012 (Lead Story)
THE Financial Division of the Accra Fast Track High Court on March 26, 2012 subjected state prosecutors to criticism over their handling of criminal proceedings in the controversial payment of GHC51.2 million to a businessman, Alfred Agbesi Woyome.
The court, presided over by Mr Justice John Ajet-Nasam, did not take kindly to the state's claim that investigations had not been completed and gave the prosecutors up to April 30, 2012 to start criminal proceedings or face the consequences.
He said it was not fair for the Attorney-General's Office to use the phrase "still investigating" to curtail the liberties of persons.
Barely 20 minutes after this ultimatum, the Commercial Court, for its part awarded GHC500 cost against the state in favour of Woyome for delaying in its civil proceedings to recover the GHC51.2 million.
The Commercial Court directed the prosecution to start leading evidence on April 3, 2012 in the civil proceedings it instituted against Woyome.
This brings the total sum of costs awarded against the state in the civil matter between the state and Woyome to GHC2,500. Costs of GHC2,000 was awarded against the state in the civil matter on February 29, 2012 for its delay in filing additional issues to introduce issues of fraud in the civil matter.
At the Financial Division's sitting in Accra yesterday, Mr Justice John Ajet-Nasam said he was particularly disappointed with the prosecution after a Chief State Attorney, Ms Cynthia Lamptey, had prayed the court to adjourn the criminal case against Woyome and three others because investigations had not been completed.
“It is frustrating for the Attorney-General’s office to continue asking for time. It is not good for the image of the country,” the trial judge stated.
He continued “it is high time the state woke up to do what is has been mandated to do with respect to prosecuting such serious cases,” adding “I will give adjournment for the last time for the Attorney-General’s office to advise itself on whether or not to speed up with prosecution or to throw in the towel.”
Visibly disappointed with Ms Lamptey’s prayer for an adjournment, Mr Justice Ajet-Nasam dismissed the state’s earlier claim that the accused persons had not been charged.
He said the records showed Woyome and three others were charged on February 6, 2012. He also reminded the state that they pleaded not guilty to charges preferred against them and for that reason, it was out of place for the state to claim the accused persons had not been charged.
Woyome, who was alleged to have put in false claims to retrieve the said GHC51.2 million has pleaded not guilty to three counts of conspiracy, defrauding by false pretences and corrupting a public officer.
The three others, a Chief State Attorney, Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh is facing two counts of conspiracy and corruption of public officer, the Director of Legal Services of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Paul Asimenu, is facing one count of abetment of crime while Gifty, wife of Nerquaye-Tetteh is faced with one count of abetment of crime.
The three have all pleaded not guilty to the charges. Woyome and the three others were present in court.
Despite its disappointment with the prosecution, the court declined to discharge the accused persons as requested by the defence team.
At the court’s sitting in Accra today, Ms Lamptey stated that investigations were ongoing and that the prosecution the prosecution will evaluate the facts to decide whether or not the case was worth prosecuting.
She then stated that the accused persons had not been formally charged.
One of the lawyers for Woyome, Mr Sarfo Buabeng, denied Ms Lamptey’s assertion that the accused persons had not been charged and stated that