Friday, August 31, 2012

Chief remanded - For stealing $150,000 belonging to subjects

AUGUST 30, 2012 (Page 3) FOR allegedly stealing $150,000 belonging to his subjects, the Chief of Banka in the Ashanti Region was today remanded in custody by the Fast Track High Court. Osabarima Twiampomah III was given the money in trust of the people of Banka by a mining company as part of its social responsibility but he allegedly diverted it for his personal use. The court, presided over by Mr. Justice Charles Quist, took the quantum of money involved, refused him bail and remanded him till September 5, 2012. Lawyer for the accused person, Mr Emmanuel Apokoh, prayed the court to grant his client bail because the $150,000 was part payment for a total amount of 530,000 which was expected to be paid to the community. According to counsel, the $150,000 was for his client’s personal use to facilitate his work as well as part of what he termed as “drink money.” However, a Chief State Attorney, Mr Matthew Amponsah opposed the grant of bail and argued that the accused person had no reputation to protect after denying his people means of development. He also pointed out that the chief might not avail himself for trial when granted bail. The facts of the case as presented by the prosecution were that in 2000, a Gulf Coast Resources Company Limited acquired a mining lease for a period of 10 years from the Mineral Commission to operate a gold mine at Banka. The mining lease expired in 2010 and upon expiration, the mining company applied to the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Natural Resources for the renewal of its mining lease. Conversely, the Banka community, spearheaded by the accused person wrote a letter dated June 10, 2010 to the sector ministry challenging the renewal of the lease on grounds that the Gulf Coast Resources Company Ltd had failed to fulfill its corporate and social obligations to the Banka community for the past decade. Following this challenge, the management of the company entered into negotiations with the accused and the people of Banka and as a result, the company pledged to pay the Banka community $ 150,000 for its development activities if the accused person and the people of the Banka withdrew their petition against the renewal of their lease. The chief and his people obliged and accordingly withdrew their petition per letter dated January 13, 2011 authored on their behalf by the accused person and addressed to the Minister of Lands, Forestry and Natural Resources. As a result of the withdrawal of the petition, the mining lease of the company was renewed for another 10 years with effect from 2011. Upon renewal of the lease, the Gulf Coast Resources Company Ltd transferred its rights to another mining company, called Banka Gold Ltd. O and out of the proceeds from the transaction Gulf Coast Resources Company Ltd paid the amount of 150,000 US dollars, to the accused for the people of Banka as promised earlier. According to the prosecution, the Mnanaging Director of the Gulf Coast Resources Company Ltd, Mr Ebenezer Baah Asare-Quansah, stated in his statement to the police that the $150,000 was for the Banka community but not for the accused person’s personal use. The prosecution said the money into the accused person’s bank account on June 14, 2011 and he acknowledged receipt on the same day. It said the contents of the accused person’s receipt indicated that he had received the money on behalf of the elders and people of Banka. Although the accused person had acknowledged receipt of the money, he failed to inform the people of Banka that he had received the $150,000. He also failed to release the money to the people of Banka but the beneficiaries got wind that the money had been paid to accused person. After a long wait and not receiving any form of communication from the accused person on the payment of the said amount, the elders of Banka approached him on several occasions but the accused person told them that the money had not been paid to him. Not satisfied, the elders reported the matter to the police and the accused was subsequently arrested. In his statement to the police, the accused acknowledged receipt of the money but maintained the money was paid to him personally for his personal use to defray legal expenses which he incurred while he was pursuing the matter with Gulf Coast Resources Company Ltd. The prosecution said it will lead evidence to prove the guilt of the accused person beyond reasonable doubt.

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