The prosecution in the GH¢51.2 million criminal case against businessman, Alfred Agbesi Woyome, had a tough time cross-examining the businessman at the Financial Division of the Accra Fast Track High Court in Accra yesterday.
The prosecution was forced by the court to abandon most of its questions, as they were either repetitive or irrelevant.
Aside from that, the witness was incisive with his answers, thereby making it difficult for the prosecution to undo his evidence-in-chief as it sought to do in the cross-examination.
At a point in the questioning, a Chief State Attorney, Mr Matthew Amponsah, paused for a long time, prompting the trial judge, Mr Justice John Ajet-Nasam, to ask, “Is your gas finished?”
Mr Amponsah answered in the negative and explained that the prosecution had intended to end its cross-examination on the issue of whether or not Woyome had paid tax on the judgement debt and continue on another day.
At the beginning of yesterday’s hearing, the prosecution attempted to extract the exact schedule Woyome had when he was Austria’s Honorary Vice-Consul to Ghana but Woyome indicated that until the court ordered him to do so, there was no point stating his duties.
Then came the issue of the existence or otherwise of M-Powapak Company Limited, a company Woyome used to work for as an alternate director.
Mr Amponsah sought to indicate that the company did not exist, after the prosecution had conducted a search at the Registrar-General’s Department, but Woyome disagreed and explained that the company had been in existence several years before the CAN 2008 tournament was held.
In his bid to undo the prosecution’s claim, Woyome said the company was a registered company in Ghana which brought the Red Bull franchise to the African market, paid its workers’ Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) contributions, as well as engaged in other projects with the government.
“You gave a wrong name to the Registrar-General’s Department and got a wrong answer,” he said, and added that he had several registered companies.
According to Woyome, he submitted tender documents for the entire stadium construction project on behalf of M-Powapak Company Ltd and Vamed Engineering, contrary to the prosecution’s position that he had submitted documents for a single stadium project.
Woyome as an Entity
On the issue of Woyome engaging in financial engineering to generate 1.1 billion euros for the government, the prosecutor said it was illegal for Woyome to engage in a business of such magnitude in his personal capacity without a registered company.
But Woyome, who is facing two counts of causing financial loss to the state and defrauding by false pretence, said that was not true because there was no law barring him from raising money for the state.
Mr Amponsah then suggested to the accused person that the government never engaged him to do financial engineering, but Woyome denied and said a letter signed by a former Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, mandated him to raise funds.
He said he acted with many companies and he spent 19 million euros in the process.
Mr Amponsah then repeated the question which accused Woyome of not having the personal capacity to engage in financial engineering, but Woyome once again denied and reminded the prosecution that the court action which he took and eventually led to the award of judgement debt in his favour was done in his personal capacity.
According to him, nowhere did the Commercial Court or then Attorney-General or any government official challenge his capacity.
Mr Amponsah then made several attempts to question his capacity, as well as to pin him to accept that he did not act as an entity in the financial engineering, as was required by law, but the court had to eventually intervene to remind the parties that it would determine whether or not Woyome acted or should have acted as an entity.
Mr Amponsah then said, “You engaged in illegal business because you do not have a registered company,” to which Woyome answered, “Incorrect.”
But the judge interjected and directed, “Don’t answer the question.”
Another issue that came to the fore during the cross-examination was whether or not he had paid tax on the said judgement debt.
Mr Amponsah: Did you pay tax?
Woyome: I have been advised by my lawyers that tax is not paid on judgement debt.
Mr Amponsah attempted to rephrase the question on alleged tax invasion in different ways, all of which the accused person answered consistently.
The trial judge, at a point, moved in and asked, “Did you file tax evasion charges?”
Mr Justice Ajet-Nasam went on to remind Mr Amponsah that his court had the mandate to handle such cases, including money laundering.
He said the government was usually bound to withhold tax before making payments.
Mr Amponsah, at that moment, told the court he would end his cross-examination and continue on the next adjourned date.
Hearing continues on July 24, 2014.
There is justification
Woyome disagreed with the prosecution’s position that there was no justification for the award of the GH¢51.2 million judgement debt to him and stated that he got the money as a result of a judgement awarded in his favour by a court of competent jurisdiction.
He said the then Attorney-General voluntarily paid the money after a pre-trial agreement following the award of the judgement in 2010.
According to him, the judgement by the Commercial Court was “sanctified” and for that reason he found it unfortunate and sad for the state to indicate that he had obtained the judgement through fraud.
The judge said in any case the prosecution witness Mr Amponsah cited as having said Woyome had got the judgement through fraud was not part of the negotiations until it got to the point the state was expected to pay him.
The accused person said in any case the said witness never said he (Woyome) acquired the judgement through fraud.