The Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of the Commercial Court to allow the state to introduce evidence of fraud in the payment of GH¢51.2 million to a businessman, Alfred Agbesi Woyome.
Woyome had appealed against the Commercial Court’s February 29, 2012 decision to allow the state to introduce evidence of fraud on the grounds that the trial judge erred in law in granting the state the permission almost two years after the state had filed a suit to retrieve the money paid Woyome.
The state, on July 20, 2010, filed an application claiming that an agreement it reached with Woyome regarding the payment of GH¢51.2 million was a mistake. But, according to Woyome, the state “went to sleep until January 16, 2012 when it filed a motion on notice for leave to amend by substitution the amended writ of summons and the accompanying amended statement of claim”.
In a unanimous decision yesterday, the court, presided over by Mr Justice S. E. Kanyoke, said the agreement reached with Woyome over the payment of GHc51.2 million was not sacrosanct and could be set aside.
The other panel members of the court were Mr Justice E.K. Ayebi and Mrs Justice Gertrude Torkonoo.
The court held, among other things, that the amendment could be done once it was not going to bring injustice to the other party.
The Commercial Division of the Fast Track High Court, presided over by Ms Justice Barbara Ackah-Yensu, had, on February 29, 2012, granted permission to the state to introduce allegations of fraud against Woyome and awarded costs of GH¢2,000 against the state for delaying the case.
Dissatisfied with the Commercial Court’s decision, Woyome filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal on March 13, 2012 challenging the decision of the Commercial Court to grant the state its request.
According to Woyome, the state could raise the issue of fraud but argued that it could not raise any other issue or relief which would reopen matters concluded in the consent judgement resulting in the payment of the GH¢51.2 million to him.
He said it was, therefore, wrong in law for the court to allow the state to reopen issues which had already been tackled in the consent judgement.
In his supporting affidavit, Woyome argued that “in an action charging fraud, it would be a clear impropriety for the plaintiff (state) to reopen its case”.
The Attorney-General (A-G) is currently in court seeking an order for the refund of the judgement debt of GH¢51,283,480.59 paid to Woyome because it was procured by fraudulent means.
Among the reliefs contained in the writ filed at the Registry of the Commercial Division of the High Court, Accra, on Monday, January 16, 2012 is a declaration that the terms of settlement filed on June 4, 2010, to the effect that Mr Woyome should be paid the sum in three equal instalments of GH¢17,094,495.53, were procured by mistake on the part of the A-G and due to fraudulent misrepresentation by Mr Woyome.
Additionally, the A-G is seeking a declaration to set aside the consent judgement of the court on the grounds that Woyome had no contract with the government and consequently lacked a cause of action and the capacity to make the said claim in any court of competent jurisdiction.
But in his amended statement of defence and counter-claim, Woyome denied that the negotiation of the judgement obtained by him on May 24, 2010 was arrived at by mistake on the part of the A-G and that after he had obtained the judgement, he was invited by the A-G to a meeting on May 27, 2010.
As a result of the meeting, an agreement was reached that the judgement debt be steeled by the payment of GH¢41,811,480.59 as the judgement debt of five million euros or its cedi equivalent.
Woyome is currently standing trial at the Financial Division of the Fast Track High Court on two counts of willfully causing financial loss to the state and defrauding by false pretence.
He has denied any wrongdoing.