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Crime & Punishment of Monday, 27 June 2005

Source: Graphic

Judge Inerdicted In ?115m Case

Mr Justice E. M. Boateng, a High Court judge who allegedly connived with two others to steal ?115 million, being interest which accrued on fines paid to the Denu High Court between 2000 and 2002, has been interdicted by the Judicial Council.

Mr Justice Boateng, until his interdiction the Cape Coast High Court judge, and Mr Justice M. K. Woanya, the former High Court judge of Denu but currently on retirement, condoned and connived with the Registrar of the Denu High Court, Mr J. D. Owusu, who is also on interdiction, to steal the money.

They have, accordingly, been charged with conspiracy and stealing and are expected to be arraigned before a High Court soon.

Sources close to the Judicial Service told the Graphic that the council interdicted the two to facilitate their trial and that a final decision would be taken on all those involved in the deal after the trial.

According to the source, the council?s decision followed findings made by the Disciplinary Committee of the Judicial Council as part of moves to clamp down on corruption within the judiciary.

The source explained that the committee found the judges culpable after a thorough investigation and, accordingly, forwarded its findings and recommendations to the Attorney-General?s Department.

Mr Justice Boateng was alleged to have initiated the whole deal of sharing the interest with the registrar when he was the High Court judge at Denu. But he was later transferred to Sefwi Wiawso, then to Cape Coast, where the interdiction took place. However, when Mr Justice Woanya took over at the Denu High Court, he allegedly continued with his predecessor?s deals.

Mr Justice Boateng has, however, appealed to the Judicial Council to review its decision against him and not prosecute him, in a letter dated April 12, 2005 and headed ?Petition for a review of the Judicial Council?s decision to prosecute me and two others?.

The letter, which was addressed to the Chairman of the Judicial Council, said, ?I am on my knees begging the council to revisit my case with a lot more compassion and call off the said prosecution.?

?I have served my nation well for 24 years with just this one blemish on my record. That, just this one blemish, should not be used to destroy me completely,? the letter said.

The letter, which was also copied to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), pleaded with the council to rescind its decision, since it would have adverse effects on him and his family.

Mr Justice Boateng admitted in the letter that the registrar of the Denu High Court invested the money paid into the court?s account at the bank and it yielded interest of ?115 million.

?Out of this amount, I took ?13 million, while Justice Woanya took ?25 million, with the registrar pocketing the rest,? the letter said.

Mr Justice Boateng said following the charges that had been preferred against him and the likelihood that he would be dragged to Accra to face trial anytime from now, he and Justice Woanya met and decided that it would be in their interest to refund the money, since the registrar had failed to contribute towards the refund, although he had the lion?s share of ?77 million.

According to the letter, Justice Boateng agreed to part with his robing and book allowance of ?45.5 million, while Justice Woanya agreed to pay off the rest.

The letter said Justice Boateng and Justice Woanya had rendered apology to the owners of the money which was invested and they had accepted it in good faith.

Justice Boateng further stated that he had not been fairly treated in the matter because, ?in the first place, even though I took ?13 million, my allowances of more than three times that figure were withheld, while my colleagues were never asked to pay even a pesewa by way of refund?.

To buttress his point, he stated in the letter that Justice Woanya was on retirement, enjoying his benefits, adding that ?even if he is convicted and imprisoned, he and his children will not suffer, as he has his entitlements to fall on?.