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General News of Thursday, 31 July 2003

Source: GNA

Court of Appeal dismisses appeal by Peprah, others

Accra, July 31, GNA - The Court of Appeal on Thursday unanimously dismissed applications for bail pending an appeal filed by two former jailed government officials.
Kwame Peprah, Former Minster of Finance, was sentenced to four years' imprisonment and George Yankey, a Former Director of Legal Sector, Private and Financial Institutions of the Ministry of Finance was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.
The Court of Appeal had Mr Justice Julius Ansah, presiding, Mrs Justice S.O. Adiniyira and Mr Justice J. Akamba as members.
An application filed on behalf of Ibrahim Adam, Former Minister of Food and Agriculture, who is serving a two-year jail term, was, however, adjourned sine die as one of the judges on the panel hearing the appeal, had opted out.
On April 28, this year, the three government officials were convicted by an Accra Fast Track Court presided over Mr Justice Dixon Kwame Afreh, a Supreme Court Judge sitting as an additional High Court judge, for conspiring and causing 20 million dollars loss to the state in connection with the Quality Grain Project at Aveyime in the Volta Region.
Dismissing the appeal, the Judges contended that the applicants could not demonstrate to the court the special circumstances under which bail should be granted pending an appeal.
They further stated that the applicants could not also show how the Judge did not show sympathy when judgment was pronounced.
Referring to the judgment of the trial, the Court of Appeal said the trial Judge had stated that, he was going to be as lenient as possible, adding; "this does not show that he (trial judge) had no sympathy". The Court of Appeal noted that the delay in the preparation of records could not be one of the basis by which bail should be granted adding that the records were ready and, therefore, the delays pointed out by the applicants was a thing of the past.
Earlier, in an affidavit by Yankey in support of the application for bail pending appeal, Nana Adjei Ampofo, his Counsel, stated that the Trial Judge in his judgment was influenced outside the courtroom saying; "this undermined the integrity of the courts".
Nana Ampofo said the Trial Judge had stated: "There had been arguments that because of the amount involved, accused person deserved longer sentences.
"Who are those faceless persons who had argued?"
He noted that the Prosecution on the day of judgement, when the Trial Judge asked whether the Prosecution and Defence had anything to say before judgment could be delivered, the Prosecution stated that "it had left everything entirely to the court" while the Defence had pleaded for leniency".
He asked these were the only statements that were made and asked who were those, who had said the accused persons deserved longer sentences. Nana Ampofo said the Trial Judge listened to people outside the court, which he was not supposed to do.
Nana Ampofo said the Trial Judge slipped in his judgment, adding that the Judge while delivering his judgment, had stated: "Whether the law on causing financial loss to the State is good or bad, I leave it to Parliament to decide, but one day, when I am free I could talk on the matter".
This, Counsel said, indicated that the Trial Judge was "not free" adding: "Who is tying his hand behind him? Although he had sworn to dispense justice without fear or favour."
Nana Ampofo said the Trial Judge also slipped when he said, "the accused failed to lead evidence to their superior who was authorising them".
Nana Ampofo stated further that the Trial Judge said he wondered how a woman with no background in rice cultivation could outwit government officials adding, "somebody up there liked the woman". Nana Ampofo said the Judge slipped out of his normal course, when he made those statements.
On the Trial Judge's pronouncement that applicants could have resigned when they were in disagreement with the project, Nana Ampofo said that the applicants only performed an executive act done for the President. He said the various pronouncements made by the Trial Judge, destroyed his judgment and prayed the court to consider his application. When the second application in respect of Peprah was called, Nana Ampofo said Mr Kweku Baah, who represented Peprah, was adopting the submissions made earlier on Yankey.
Colonel Alex Johnson (Rtd), the respondent from the Attorney's General's Department, submitted that he was not in opposition to the facts presented but prayed the court to scrutinise the grounds for the application.
He said the Trial Judge references did not constitute grounds that the substantive appeal had any success.
Col Johnson said that an application for bail pending an appeal could be granted if there was unusual or exceptional ground, when the applicant needed to confer with counsel and when there was delay in the preparation of records.
He stated that the applicant had not been able to show any of them, adding that the records were ready.
Col. Johnson said Judges, who are part of the society, are entitled to make comments but could do better when they are on retirement. "Judges are free to speak their mind, since they also live in the society," he said.