GRA workers must be prosecuted over ‘bounced’ Mahama cheques – Bentil

The Vice President of IMANI-Ghana says workers of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) who took 44 dishonoured cheques from businessman Ibrahim Mahama need to be prosecuted.

Kofi Bentil said the workers neglected their duty when they allowed former President John Mahama’s brother to run a huge bill to the tune of GHC12.7 million.

Speaking to Samson Lardy Anyenini on Joy FM/MultiTV’s news analysis programme Newsfile Saturday, the private legal practitioner said the GRA staff failed the state.

“Honestly, I don’t think Mr Mahama is the problem here. I think he took advantage of a situation,” he said.

Chief Executive Officer of Engineers and Planners, Ibrahim Mahama

The Chief Executive Officer of Engineers and Planners has been ordered by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to pay the sum of GHC12 million owed the state by May 8, 2017.

The amount represents duty for some heavy equipment he cleared at the Tema Port in 2015. Reports say he had issued 44 cheques to offset the debt but they were dishonoured.

Mr Mahama was picked up by EOCO and interrogated over the dishonoured cheques for eight hours. He was later directed to pay the money with an interest.

The GRA has since calculated the interest on the amount.

The development has angered some members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) who say the businessman is being politically hunted.

Assin Central MP, Kennedy Agyepong was first to suggest the arrest of Mr Mahama over the issue and said he will be disappointed if he is not prosecuted.

Some NDC supporters massed up at EOCO premises to demand the release of Mr Mahama. They said the Organistion is being manipulated by government.

But Mr Bentil said the intervention of EOCO should not be misconstrued as being politically motivated because Mr Agyepong was first to raise the alarm.

“We should look at the whole system that allowed it,” he said, adding he does not believe it was Mr Agyepong who asked EOCO to act.

Mr Bentil explained the action by the former President’s brother breaches the Bills of Exchange Act 1961 (Act 55) that says anyone who writes a cheque that is not honoured commits an offense.

“If you write a cheque it is a liquidated sum that is a prima facie case against you,” he added.

But former North Dayi MP, George Loh said the handling of the issue by EOCO smacks of political victimisation.

“The way the matter has been handled is uncomfortable…he was interrogated for 8 hours,” he said.

The former legislator said the issue is ideally a simple matter of business transaction that should not be seen as illegal.

“Making an arrangement to pay your tax has never been a crime,” he said, adding the government needs to find out for how long such an arrangement has gone on between the businessman and GRA.