3 times Special Prosecutor has come under fire for ‘doing his work’

Kissi Agyebeng Fresh.jpeg Special Prosecutor Kissi Agyebeng

Mon, 15 Aug 2022 Source: www.ghanaweb.com

The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) was created in 2018 by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to investigate and prosecute matters of corruption, particularly among public officials, recover monies stolen from the state or illegally acquired and also take steps to help curb the menace of corruption in the country.

After being intensely criticised for failing to perform its mandate, the OSP, under the leadership of the current Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, has for the past few months started prosecuting corruption cases in the country and has even recovered some funds that are due the state.

But not every Ghanaian or institution is happy with the actions Kissi Agyebeng and his office have taken to fight corruption in Ghana, with even the law court and members of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) criticising the OSP. GhanaWeb takes a look at three instances where the OSP has been berated for doing its job.

High Court dismisses Special Prosecutor’s request to keep Sir John’s assets frozen

The Special Prosecutor in July 2022, announced that the assets of the former Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, also known as Sir John, have been frozen pending investigations into allegations of unlawful acquisition of state lands.

The OSP stated that it was investigating suspected corruption and corruption-related offences including the alleged improper and unlawful acquisition of state lands at the Achimota Forest enclave and the Ramsar catchment at Sakumono in Accra, as stated in late Sir John’s will.

It then applied to the High Court for the court to confirm its freezing order which the court denied on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, stating that the procedure used by the OSP was wrong.

The court’s ruling did not sit well with the Special Prosecutor who is a statement berated the high court judge who presided over the case.

According to the OSP, the ruling of the High Court is wrong since it was only asking the court to confirm the temporal freezing of Sir John’s estate and not to permanently freeze his assets.

It added that Ghana will lose the fight against corruption in unimaginable ways if the court’s ruling stands.

“The judge, with respect, totally misapprehended the application for confirmation of the freezing order and misdirected herself by characterizing the application as that of a confiscation order, which regimes are governed by different considerations.

“If this decision is left to stand, the Republic will lose the fight against corruption in unimaginable ways. The investigations into the estate of Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie alias Sir John will still proceed,” parts of the statement released by the OSP read.

Labianca Company did not violate the law - Chamber of Freight & Trade The OSP on August 3, 2022, released a report on its investigations into alleged corruption and corruption-related offences involving Labianca Group of Companies and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.

The report by the OSP among other things implicated officials of Labianca and the Customs Division of GRA for their various roles which saw the company that deals in the importation of frozen foods benefiting a reduction in the company’s tax liabilities.

Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh, the owner of Labianca Company Limited and a Council of State member was implicated in the report for influence peddling. She was accused of using her position to get a favourable decision from the GRA leading to a reduction in her company’s tax liabilities.

The investigative report from the OSP which was 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 used her position to evade taxes.

The OSP also disclosed that an amount of ¢1.074 million was recovered from Labianca Company Limited.

But the Chamber of Freight and Trade rejected the report issued by the OSP.

In a statement issued by the chamber on Wednesday, it said the CEO of Labianca, Eunice Jacqueline Asomah-Hinneh did not violate the law in any way.

“The Office of the Special Prosecutor got it all wrong. This is a clear case of giving a dog a bad name and hanging it. The chamber strongly believes that both Labianca and the Customs division of GRA acted in accordance with the Laws of Ghana, specifically the Customs Act 2015 (Act 891).

“It is never out of place or illegal for any importer for this matter Labianca company limited to engage Customs after the first three years of operations for “customs advance ruling” under section 12 of the customs Act (Act 891). The company or their Agents may not have known that there is a provision in the customs Act that allow for an engagement with Customs for value acceptance within their first three years of operations,” parts of the statement issued by the chamber read.

The Customs Staff Association (CSA), in a statement, indicated that the report was misconceived and “and same is borne out of the misconception.”

According to the CSA, the Benchmark Values used by the OSP as a method of valuation rather than a risk management tool are inconsistent with the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Rules on Customs Valuation and Section 67 of the Customs Act.

The group said it was confident that the findings of the OSP in the Labianca case are technically flawed.

“There’s therefore nothing wrong with the approvals made by the Commissioner since such approvals accord with the Customs Laws and established procedures in force,” parts of the statement read.

Special Prosecutor 'slaps' former PPA boss with 17 charges

The Special Prosecutor, in May 2022, charged the former Chief Executive Officer of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), Adjenim Boateng Adjei, in relation to his role in the “Contracts for Sale” scandal uncovered in an investigative piece by Manasseh Azure Awuni.

According to a statement issued by OSP, a brother-in-law of Adjenim Adjei, Francis Kwaku Arhin, is also facing one count for his role in the scandal.

The charges pressed against the two include “using public office for profit, contrary to section 179C(a) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) and “Directly and indirectly influencing the procurement process to obtain an unfair advantage in the award of a procurement contract, contrary to section 92(2)(b) of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663).

These charges did not sit well with every Ghanaian because the PPA Boss had earlier managed to withdraw all funds in his various bank accounts which were declared frozen by the OSP in 2019.

Boateng Adjei withdrew over GH¢41 million in his cedi, dollar and euro accounts which were frozen by the former Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu because the current OSP failed to renew the freeze order.

The investigation by Manasseh Azure Awuni found that the CEO formed a company, named Talent Discovery Limited, with his brother-in-law after he was appointed the CEO of the PPA.

This company is said to have won a number of government contracts which were approved by the PPA board of which Mr Adjei was a member through the restrictive tendering method.

Manasseh’s investigation found that the company did not have the capacity to execute the contracts and that, Talent Discovery Limited went on to sell the contracts to individuals and companies without the knowledge or approval of the awarding entities.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo following the premier of Manasseh’s Contract for Sale video, suspended AB Adjei in August 2019.

The president further referred Mr Adjei to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) to investigate his conduct.

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Source: www.ghanaweb.com
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