Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bawku MP jailed 2 yrs

July 28, 2012 (Lead Story) The Fast Track High Court has sentenced the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Adamu Daramani Sakande, to two years' imprisonment for falsely holding himself as a Ghanaian in order to be elected MP. The MP, who was found guilty and convicted on three counts of false declaration of office or voting, perjury and deceiving a public officer, was whisked away at exactly 4:20 p.m. “It is the people of Bawku that I am thinking of,” he said in a shaky voice when he was being led away by armed policemen. The MP, who wore a dark suit, removed the jacket some few minutes after the court had convicted him. He had, during the reading of the judgement, looked fixedly at the judge and occasionally wiped his face with a white face towel, as if to ward off some stress, as the import of the court’s decision dawned on him. The trial judge, Mr Justice Charles Quist, also recommended that Stanley Opoku, a man who held himself as a lawyer in the United Kingdom and procured the fictitious documents for the MP in the MP’s bid to renounce his British citizenship, should also be prosecuted by the Attorney-General. In a five-hour, 20-minute judgement, Mr Justice Quist said, “I strongly suggest that the Defence Witness Two (DW2) be charged for the following: Abetment, forgery and perjury.” According to the court, Opoku, who testified on behalf of the MP in his own words to the court, stated that he was not a lawyer but had held himself as such in the United Kingdom and, in the process, prepared fictitious documents for the MP. The court described Opoku as “unworthy of credit” because although he had not been called to the Bar, he held himself as a lawyer. Sakande was, on July 31, 2009, arraigned before the court, charged with nine counts relating to his nationality, perjury, forgery of passport, election fraud and deceiving public officers to be elected as an MP, but was exonerated on six of those charges on July 8, 2010. Citing more than 10 legal authorities and numerous books, including the Bible, to reinforce its decision, the court held that the prosecution had led enough evidence to prove the guilt of the MP beyond reasonable doubt. It said the prosecution established beyond reasonable doubt that at the time the MP filed his nomination to contest the parliamentary election, he had not renounced his British citizenship. “His statement that he owes his allegiance to Ghana was false. In totality, the prosecution proved all ingredients,” the court held and further pointed out that the convict never renounced his British citizenship because the documents he tendered in evidence were not authentic. According to the court, the British High Commission had, in a letter dated July 30, 2009, stated that the MP was the holder of British passport number 094442659 which was issued on November 18, 2004 and was due to expire on November 18, 2014. It said the evidence available indicated that the MP was issued travel certificates by the British authorities in Burkina Faso because he (MP) had claimed he was a political refugee in the late 1980s but had failed to tell the court his immigration status for 12 years before being issued British travel documents in 1999. “For 12 years, while he was outside Ghana, there was no record on him on his immigration status. As of 1999, Ghana was practising democracy and if he was fleeing political strife, the country he fled should have been Ghana and not Burkina Faso, as stated in the travel documents,” it said. “By his own conduct, the accused person violated the International Convention by which he sought protection. If he claims he is escaping political persecution, the place he fled should be Ghana and not Burkina Faso,” it said, adding, “The accused person never renounced his British citizenship.” The court said there was evidence on record to prove that the MP used his British passport after acquiring a Ghanaian passport, a practice which, according to the court, was in violation of the Constitution. It stated that Article 92 of the 1992 Constitution, which barred certain public office holders, including MPs, ambassadors, service commanders, the Inspector-General of Police, the Director of Immigration and other high-ranking public office holders, from holding dual citizenship was “sacrosanct”. Consequently, it held that there was evidence beyond reasonable doubt that the MP swore an oath to the Bawku District Magistrate on October 14, 2008 that he was a Ghanaian citizen when he knew that to be false and, therefore, had deceived a public officer. It further pointed out that the convict obtained and submitted a statutory declaration that he owed allegiance to no other country but Ghana, signed it and published it in order to be elected into office, adding, “Those claims by the MP turned out to be false.” “The accused person made a false statement and failed to disprove evidence led against him by the prosecution,” the court held, and also questioned why the MP failed to bring a relative to prove his claim that he was, indeed, a Ghanaian. Lead counsel for the MP, Mr Yonny Kulendi, intervened after the court had found the MP guilty on all three counts and averted the court’s mind to the ailing health of the MP who had been on admission on heart-related complications a week earlier. He said the issue was not a matter that lent itself to easy resolution because from the court’s ruling, it was abundantly clear that Opoku had misled the MP and, therefore, prayed the court not to imprison the MP based on technical lapses. Mr Kulendi pleaded with the court to fine his client, but a Principal State Attorney, Mr Anthony Rexford Wiredu, drew the court’s attention to the fact that the charge of deceiving a public officer was a second degree felony which carried a maximum sentence of 25 years. The trial judge rose to his chambers at exactly 3:59 p.m. and returned in less than five minutes to hand down the sentence. Friends and sympathisers of the MP who were taken aback by the court’s judgement grouped around the MP and consoled him. Scores of armed policemen began trooping into the courtroom getting to the tail end of the court’s judgement. They whisked the MP away some few minutes after the judgement. The prosecution called four witnesses, while the MP called a witness to testify on his behalf. He also testified and denied any wrongdoing and produced documents to prove his claim that he had denounced his British citizenship, but the court found those documents fictitious and not credible. The Supreme Court, on May 23, 2012, dismissed the MP’s submission of ‘no case’ in a civil matter brought against him by a cattle farmer and ordered him to open his defence. The complainant in the case and cattle farmer, Mr Sumaila Biebel, in March 2009 filed a suit at the High Court challenging the eligibility of the MP on the grounds that the MP held both British and Burkinabe passports and the High Court, in a default judgement on July 15, 2009, ordered the MP to vacate his seat. Dissatisfied with the High Court’s decision, counsel for the MP appealed against it, resulting in the Court of Appeal, in a unanimous decision, declaring that Mr Biebel should have gone by an electoral petition, since the matter bordered on electoral dispute. Aggrieved by the Court of Appeal’s decision, Mr Biebel went to the Supreme Court, which decided to take evidence from him.

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