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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Enquirer For Contempt

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Raymond Archer, Editor of the Enquirer newspaperGodfred Yeboah Dame, counsel for former Minister for Foreign Affairs Hon. Osei Adjei, yesterday indicated to an Accra Fast Track High Court Financial Division that he had initiated contempt proceedings against the Enquirer newspaper for the scurrilous attack on the reputation of his client and prejudicial publications on the on-going criminal trial against the former Foreign Minister.

Holding a copy of the newspaper, he told the trial judge, Justice Bright Mensah that the newspaper, about a week ago, reported that the former minister who is standing trial with the former boss of National Investment Bank (NIB), Daniel Charles Gyimah for causing financial loss to the state, had bribed witnesses to give evidence in his favour.   

He prayed the court to stay the case till the hearing of the contempt case, which he indicated was being filed as they could not tell whether the new witness was one of the witnesses the Enquirer newspaper was alleging his client was attempting to bribe. Counsel added that these could have serious implications on the outcome of the trial.

Anthony Gyambiby, Chief State Attorney in the case, said he did not see how a contempt case which was not before the court could halt the trial and noted that such a decision required formal writing to the court.

The prosecuting attorney was however quick to disassociate himself from the story, adding that the state was neither part of that media outfit nor co-editors of the paper.

The court ruled that the case should continue till the contempt case was placed before him.

Taking the witness stand, a lawyer with the Ministry of Finance, Legal Department, Mark Anthony Madde, yesterday admitted during the trial that no public funds was disbursed in the importation of the 15,000 metric tonnes of rice from India.

He also admitted that he had seen nothing which enjoined the Government of Ghana to pay for the rice as far as the documents he had were concerned, noting that the price for the sale of the rice was not determined by Hon. Akwasi Osei Adjei.

The witness conceded to this under cross -examination by Mr. Godfred Yeboah Dame, counsel for the former minister.

The lawyer to the Ministry of Finance, when asked whether the Government of Ghana was the one that issued the letters of credit, replied in the negative.

When asked if at the time the rice arrived the two accused persons were still at post, Mr. Madde said they were not, but said the ministry of Finance was not in the know about the importation and that the Ministry should have been notified of same.

Consequently, counsel for the former minister asked if he knew who initiated the rice importation, to which he said there was evidence from some documents before him that former President John Agyekum Kufuor was part of it.

When asked if the then President, as the head of cabinet, of which the Finance Ministry was part, should have sought permission from the Ministry of Finance before making such any  decision to import the rice, he said that was not what he meant. He however did not elaborate further when asked to.

In addition, the witness said he was not aware that there was a law on tax exemption on the importation of rice at the time the Ministry of Finance refused to grant the NIB tax exemption.

Consequently, Mr. Dame showed to the witness the law on the said import tax exemption. Counsel then told the witness that it was improper for any import tax to have been paid by NIB before taking delivery of the rice.  

The witness said he did not agree with Mr. Dame that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs only played a facilitating role in the importation of the rice because they asked the NIB to open letters of credit.

He also said after the rice arrived, Citibank wrote a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which they reminded NIB to pay the money but when asked if the Ministry of Finance was by that letter required to pay for the rice, the witness replied in the negative.

In his examination in chief, led by Mr. Gyambiby, Mr. Maade said in Febraury 2009, the Ministry of Finance received a letter from the NIB in which their attention was drawn to the importation of rice from India, which was facilitated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He said the letter also sought tax exemptions on the rice but they were privy to the initiative on the goods so they informed the Finance Minister, and they wrote a letter on March 31, 2009 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Maade said they wanted seek further clarification on the goods and the grounds on which NIB was requesting tax exemptions, among other things and said they received a reply indicating that the government initiated the lifting of the ban of rice from India and the role the Foreign Affairs Ministry played, leading to the importation of the rice.

According to Mr. Maade, they had a letter which sought to give instructions on the percentage each of the participating banks should get and said it was agreed that NIB should get 40%, Prudential Bank 30% and Agric Development Bank, 30% of the consignment.

In addition, he said, the Foreign Affairs Ministry had given Power of Attorney to Ghana’s High Commission to India to act on its behalf, which it did.

He said a meeting was later held between the Ministry Of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the NIB, in which certain recommendations were made that the NIB should sell the rice.The rice was kept in a warehouse to avoid deterioration so that the government would not incur any debt.

They later recommended that a proper investigation be conducted, as the Finance Ministry was kept in the dark about the importation. He noted that an inventory was afterwards taken on the rice in the in the presence of the general public.
The case continues today.   

By Fidelia Achama

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