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General News of Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Source: Daily Graphic/Ghana

Appeal court adjourns Osei Adjei's case

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday adjourned sine die the appeal by a former Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Akwasi Osei-Adjei, and a former Managing Director of the National Investment Bank (NIB), Mr Daniel Charles Gyimah, against the Fast Track High Court’s order directing them to open their defence on the charges of conspiracy and contravening the Public Procurement Act (PPA) in the importation of rice from India.

The three-member panel, chaired by Mr Justice Yaw Appau, gave the appellants 14 days to file their submission and serve the Attorney General’s Department.

The Attorney-General’s Department will also be expected to respond to the written submissions of the appellants within 14 days and also serve the appellants.

The Registrar of the court will, on receipt of the written submissions and responses, fix a date for the case to be listed.

Other members of the panel were Justices Isaac Duose and Senyo Dzamefe.

The appellants were represented by Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, while a Chief State Attorney, MF Anthony Gyambiby, represented the state.

Although counsel for the appellants and the state were ready to make oral submissions, Mr Justice Appau advised that it was better the submissions were put into writing, in the absence of a recording system at the court.

He explained that it was possible that the judges would not be able to write down every point or issue raised especially crucial arguments by counsel.

He said the written submissions would, therefore, enable the panel to look at the arguments more thoroughly to pronounce its ruling.

Mr Osei-Adjei and Mr Gyimah, who are each facing two counts of conspiracy and contravening the PPA, were in court.

They have pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against them and have been admitted to bail in the sum of GH¢200,000, with two sureties each to be justified.

In the substantive appeal, the two are appealing to the Court of Appeal to reverse or set aside part of the lower court's ruling that they had a case to answer on two counts of conspiracy and contravening the PPA.

On February 25, 2011, the Financial Division of the Fast Track High Court acquitted and discharged the two on six counts of conspiracy, willfully causing financial loss to the state, use of public office for profit and stealing.

The court, presided over by Mr Justice Bright Mensah, however, ordered the two to open their defence on charges of conspiracy and contravening the PPA in the importation of rice from India.

The two are praying the court to set aside the ruling of the lower court and give consequential orders acquitting and discharging them on the two counts.

The grounds of appeal state, among others, that the trial judge placed weight on irrelevant evidence, as well as disregarded the overwhelming evidence of all the prosecution witnesses that there was no use of public funds as defined by the PPA.

According to the appellants, the trial judge also disregarded the evidence of the prosecution that the NIB was not a procurement entity which was required to apply the PPA.

In its ruling on a “submission of no case” filed on behalf of the accused persons, the lower court was of the view that the prosecution had failed to lead evidence to prove that Mr Osei Adjei and Mr Gyimah willfully caused financial loss to the state by allegedly acting together to steal 2,997 bags of rice valued at US$1,408,590.

It also upheld the defence team's argument that the prosecution also failed to prove that the accused persons used public office for profit, as well as conspired to steal, but directed the two to open their defence on two counts of conspiracy and contravening the PPA.

The prosecution called 17 witnesses and closed its case on November 30, 2010. The trial began in October 2009.