51.2m judgment debt: Mahama White Paper thrown out as Woyome wins appeal
A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal has set aside the adverse findings captured in the Commission of Enquiries’ report on businessman, Mr Alfred Agbesi Woyome.
The panel, chaired by Justice Victor Ofoi, also ordered that the findings, as captured in the government White Paper, should be expunged from the report with immediate effect.
According to the panel, the Sole Commissioner, Justice Yaw Appau, breached the rules of natural justice because it denied the applicant fair hearing when it solely relied on documents when it could have invited him personally to give evidence.
In 2012, the then President John Dramani Mahama set up the Commission chaired by Justice Appau to probe judgment debt payments and related issues since 1992.
The Commission, in its report to the President, stated that it did not invite Mr Woyome because, at the time of the Commission’s work, the Attorney General had commenced fresh action against Woyome at the Supreme Court and believed inviting the applicant would be sub-judicial.
The Commission stated that it rather relied on copious relevant documents it received from Woyome, the Economic and Organised Crime Office and the registrar of the High Court to make its findings.
It stated that Mr Woyome obtained the GH¢ 51.2 million fraudulently and therefore ought to refund the money with interest.
But Mr Woyome, who was not satisfied with the report, in June 2016, filed an application for the report on him to be set aside and that it be expunged to stop other media houses from running it as stories.
He argued that the Sole Commissioner erred in fact and law in reaching such a conclusion and further accused the commission of breaching the rules of natural justice by failing to offer him a hearing before making findings against him.
The applicant requested an order setting aside findings of the Sole Commissioner against him and further prayed the court to order the Attorney-General to expunge findings and decisions captured in the government’s White Paper based on the Commission’s unfair findings.
Mr Woyome sued the State for breach of contract in relation to the construction of stadia for the CAN 2008 tournament and was awarded the default judgement because the State did not put in a defence.
However, an Auditor General’s report released in 2010 said the amount was paid illegally to Mr Woyome, who was a known National Democratic Congress financier.
He was subsequently arrested on February 3, 2011 after the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), which was commissioned by then President John Evans Atta Mills to investigate the matter, had cited him for wrongdoing.
Mr Woyome was initially charged with conspiracy, defrauding by false pretence and corrupting a public officer. He was later re-arraigned and charged with two counts of causing financial loss to the State and defrauding by false pretence.
The interim report of EOCO, which was presented to the President on February 2, 2012, also indicted Mr Osafo-Maafo, the then-Minister of Education, Youth and Sports and his deputy, Mr O. B. Amoah, but Mr Osafo-Maafo secured a court order which declared that EOCO’s investigation of him was illegal.
On June 5, 2012, Mr Woyome was discharged but re-arrested and charged with two counts of causing financial loss and defrauding by false pretence. The case lingered until March 12, 2015, when the Fast Track High Court trying Mr Woyome again discharged him.
Delivering his judgment, Justice John Ajet-Nasam said the State woefully failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Woyome was guilty. Justice Ajet-Nasam also said there were no contradictions in the documentation evidence on the agreement for compensation claimed by the accused person.
But in 2014, the Supreme Court ordered Mr Woyome to pay back the amount, after former Attorney General and now Special Prosecutor, Mr Martin Amidu, challenged the legality of the judgment debt paid the businessman.
Following delays in retrieving the money, the Supreme Court judges unanimously granted the Attorney-General clearance to execute the court’s judgment ordering Mr Woyome to refund the cash to the State.
But almost four years now, the amount is yet to be retrieved in full.