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General News of Thursday, 11 August 2022

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Labianca owner should be removed as Council of State member – Petitioner demands

Implicated owner of Labianca Company Ltd,  Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh Implicated owner of Labianca Company Ltd, Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh

The petitioner in the evolving Labianca saga, Frank Asare, has stated that the conduct of Madam Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh, owner of the implicated company calls for her removal as Council of State member.

His comment comes on the back of findings by the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, that the Council of State member used her position as well as being on the board of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, for influence peddling leading to evasion of tax by her company.

Commenting on the development in a statement, Frank Asare said Council of State members are supposed to have integrity – a character trait he finds no more in Ms. Asomah-Hinneh per her conduct.

He said the implicated Council of State member does not merit the status to continue being on the advisory body to the president stating that the Special Prosecutor has established grounds for her prosecution.

Frank Asare has thus served notice to petition relevant bodies in furtherance of his move to have Ms Asomah-Hinneh relieved of her role in the Council of State.

“Indeed the Report correctly asserts in point 4.33 that the only basis for which the Customs Division seems to have issued the Advance Custom Ruling which reduced the benchmark value for import taxes by Labianca was that Ms. Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh had used her influence as Board member of GPHA and member of the Council of State to procure same.

“A strong case, therefore, exists for prosecution by the OSP under section 3(1)(a) of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959). Tax evasion is criminal under our various Tax Laws and anyone who abets same must face criminal charges under section 20(1) of the Criminal & Other Offences Act (as variously amended), Act 29. In that respect, all officials of the Customs Division who enabled this rot must also be charged and prosecuted,” part of his statement read.

“In Republic v Philip Assibit & Abuga Pele (Suit No. FTRM 122/14) it was affirmed that by writing letters, recommending and approving payment of over GHc3 million in support of fraudulent claims, the 2nd accused had facilitated the commission of the crime of defrauding by false and was therefore convicted for abetment. The circumstances of this case and the findings of this Report lend themselves to a criminal syndicate who have acted to deprive the State of huge sums of revenue in taxes.

“Members of the Council of State are supposed to exhibit high levels of integrity. By using her influence as a Member of such a prominent State institution for corrupt influences, the indicted member cannot continue being on the Council of State. In the coming days, the petitioner will petition the appropriate bodies for her removal from the Council of State,” the statement added.

The Special Prosecutor in an investigative report dated August 3, 2022, and titled: “Report of Investigation into Alleged Commission of Corruption and Corruption Related Offences involving Labianca Group of Companies and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority” indicated that the frozen foods company owner, Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh, used her position to evade taxes.

According to the report, Ms. Asomah-Hinneh used her position as a member of the Council of State and member of the Board of Directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) to influence a favourable decision from the Customs Divisions of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), leading to a reduction in the tax liabilities of Labianca Company Ltd.

The report further noted that an amount of GH¢1.074 million which represents a deficit in import duties paid to the state has been retrieved.

Read Below The Full Press Release By Frank Asare

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

10/08/22

RE: OSP REPORT ON CORRUPTION AND CORRUPTION RELATED OFFENCES INVOLVING LA BIANCA GROUP OF COMPANIES & THE CUSTOM DIVISION OF THE GHANA REVENUE AUTHORITY- PETITIONER COMMENDS SPECIAL PROSECUTOR, CALLS FOR FULL SCALE CRIMINAL PROSECUTION OF PERSONS INVOLVED


I have studied the 12 page Report of Investigation into Alleged Commission of Corruption and Corruption-Related Offences involving Labianca Group of Companies and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority issued by the Office of the Special Prosecutor on 3rd August, 2022.

I wish to commend the Office of the Special Prosecutor(OSP) for the thorough investigation into my complaint, the findings and recommendations of which does not only indicte the company but contain far-reaching directives for strengthening the administration of revenue mobilization at the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.

The report vindicates my position that Ms. Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh, a known financier of President Akufo-Addo, a Council of State member and an appointee of the President on GPHA Board has been evading taxes from 2017 with the connivance of top Custom officials due to her influence in the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government.

While I commend the OSP for the findings on the dealings of the Labianca company at the Ports, I disagree with aspects of the directives as stated in the report.

The Report in point 5.0 states that the OSP orderered La Bianca to pay to the State an amount of One Million Seventy-Four Thousand cedis Six Hundred and Twenty-Seven cedis Fifteen pesewas (GHC1,074,627.15), representing the short collection or shortfall of revenue arising from the issuance of the unlawful customs advance ruling by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority. It further states in 5.1 that this directive has been complied with since March 31, 2022.

It is my considered view that the refunds ordered are grossly understated. Given the length of time (2017-2022) that these underhand dealings has gone on between the company and the Customs Division of GRA, there’s strong evidence to suggest that the state has lost far more in revenue than the company has been made to refund.

Also, even though a prima facie case has been made against the Chief Executive of the company in respect of her peddling her influence as a Board member of GPHA and a member of the Council of State to rob the State of millions in taxes, the Report in point 4.32 reckons that “the circumstances of the case, as yet, does not warrants an application to the Court for lifting the veil of incorporation of these companies.” With due deference to the OSP, the Petitioner strongly disagrees with this conclusion and believes that a case has been made for piercing the veil of the companies involved and going after their beneficial owner.

While it is commendable that the Report directs a full scale investigation into the issuance of customs advance rulings and markdown of benchmark values between July 2017 and December 2021, petitioner believes that such an investigation only goes to uncovering the full extent of the rot and not whether or not there’s a substantive case for criminal prosecution in respect of the adverse findings made on this Petition.

Indeed the Report correctly asserts in point 4.33 that the only basis for which the Customs Division seems to have issued the Advance Custom Ruling which reduced the benchmark value for import taxes by La Bianca, was that Ms. Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh had used her influence as Board member of GPHA and member of the Council of State to procure same.

A strong case therefore exist for prosecution by the OSP under section 3(1)(a) of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959).

Tax evasion is criminal under our various Tax Laws and anyone who abets same must face criminal charges under section 20(1) of the Criminal & Other Offences Act (as variously amended), Act 29.

In that respect, all officials of the Custom Division who enabled this rot must also be charged and prosecuted.

In Republic v Philip Assibit & Abuga Pele (Suit No. FTRM 122/14) it was affirmed that by writing letters, recommending and approving payment of over GHc3 million in support of fraudulent claims, the 2nd accused had facilitated the commission of the crime of defrauding by false and was therefore convicted for abetment. The circumstances of this case and the findings of this Report lends itself to a criminal syndicate who have acted to deprive the State of huge sums of revenue in taxes.

Members of the Council of State are supposed to exhibit high levels of integrity. By using her influence as a Member of such a prominent State institution for corrupt influences, the indicted member cannot continue being on the Council of State.
In the coming days, the petitioner will petition the appropriate bodies for her removal from the Council of State.

Petitioner concludes by commending and thanking the Office of the Special Prosecutor for giving due attention to his Petition.
The silver linen is that the shady deals between Labianca, a known financeer of Akufo-Addo and Customs, which have occasioned huge revenue losses to the state since 2017, has for now been exposed and halted.

Signed,
Frank Asare


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