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Osei-Adjei, Gyimah Acquitted

The court, presided over by Justice Mariama Owusu, also dismissed any conspiracy between the two to contravene the PPA in the importation of the 15,000 metric tonnes of rice from India.

In a judgment read by Justice Yaw Appau, the justices stated that for the trial judge at the Fast Track High Court Financial Division to call accused persons to open their defence, the prosecution must have proved beyond reasonable doubt that they indeed committed the offences.

He said for the charges against the accused persons, the necessary ingredients of the said offences should have been prepared by the prosecution- something they failed to do.

According to him, the importation of the rice was not done under the PPA because it was not purchased with public funds but with money from the NIB which “is not a public entity” adding that “even one of the witnesses by the prosecution when under cross-examination, defined public funds as money from consolidated funds and contingency funds among others”.

The Court of Appeal judge noted that the bank was not listed as a public company, adding that the investigator in the case, during his evidence, did not emphatically say that it was a public procurement but only said that the purchase was intended to be so.

In addition, the justices explained that there was no evidence suggesting that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered the importation of the rice as it was procured by the bank’s resources.

The justice said the then Kufuor government initiated the deal following rice shortage in the country and the Indian government lifted the ban on rice exportation to allow Ghana to import their rice.

Justice Appau noted there was the impression that there was some grant given to the state but that was not true because no such evidence existed.

He also stated that what some of the prosecution witnesses stated about the rice importation was that it was a commercial transaction, with one of them admitting that Ghana wanted to buy the rice through the PPA.

According to him, the witness said that the deal failed so later the NIB, after the government negotiated and the ban was lifted, opted to use its own resources to pay for it.

He said the NIB used to be fully owned by government, but with the passage of Act 461 (Statutory Corporations Conversion to Companies Act) 2001, the government did not have monopoly over the bank and was just like any other shareholder.

Consequently, the judge observed that the assertion by the prosecution that the NIB board was not consulted before the purchase also failed because one of the managers of the bank had testified that the board was aware.

According to him, assuming without admitting that the board was not consulted, once the NIB was not a public entity, the former MD was accountable to the board only.

Justices Owusu, Appau and Senyo Dzamefe proceeded to uphold the appeal of the two accused persons and set aside the order by Justice Bright Mensah for them to open their defence and consequently acquitted and discharged them.

Members of the New Patriotic Party who were in court to lend moral support to Kennedy Agyapong, the Member of Parliament for Assin North, quickly joined their colleagues in celebrating as the elated former minister was all smiles.

Godfred Yeboah-Dame was counsel for the minister while Rtd. Col. Alex Johnson was counsel for the former NIB boss. The state was represented by Anthony Gyambiby, a deputy Minister for Justice.

It would be recalled that Justice Bright Mensah, the trial judge in the substantive case, ordered them to enter the box to give evidence in connection with the contravention of the PPA when they facilitated the importation of 15,000 metric tonnes of rice from India.

He however dropped the charges of conspiracy to commit crime, willfully causing financial loss to the state and conspiracy to use public office for profit, using public office for profit, conspiracy to steal and stealing some bags of the 15,000 metric tonnes of rice fromIndia.

By Fidelia Achama

Source: Daily Guide/Ghana



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