Accra, July 12, GNA - Mr. Joe Ghartey, Attorney General and Minister for Justice, on Thursday withdrew the 30 counts of multiple charges preferred against Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, a former First Lady and five others, and substituted them with 15 charges for their alleged involvement in wilfully causing financial loss to the State in respect of the divestiture of the GIHOC Cannery at Nsawam. "The Prosecution has withdrawn case Number CR 126 against the accused persons and replaced them with fresh charges," Mr Ghartey told the Fast Track High Court (FTC) in Accra presided over by Mr Justice P. Baffoe Bonnie.
As a result, the trial judge freed them, but in what seemed to be "discharge for want of prosecution", the 15 charges were shortly afterwards read out again.
The other five accused persons are Emmanuel Amuzu Agbodo, a former Executive Secretary of the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC), Thomas Benson Owusu, a former Accountant of the DIC, Kwame Peprah, a former Minister of Finance and former Chairman of the DIC, Sherry Ayittey, Managing Director of Caridem Development Company Limited, and Caridem as an entity.
They are variously charged with 15 counts of conspiracy, causing financial loss to public property, conspiracy to obtain public property by false statement, obtaining public property by false statement and uttering document.
They have all denied the offences and have been admitted to self-recognisance bail.
The accused persons were alleged to have caused loss to public property running into billions of cedis, following the acquisition of GIHOC Cannery at Nsawam, a government cannery, by Caridem Development Company Limited in 1995 when the cannery was divested. Caridem is owned by the 31st December Women's Movement (DWM).
The court was expected on Thursday to hear an application filed by Peprah praying the FTC to dismiss the charges levelled against him. Mr. Ghartey and Mrs. Gertrude Aikins, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), are representing the State in the case.
The facts as Mrs. Gertrude Aikins told the court were that in 2002 the Attorney-General in pursuance to Article 187 (2) of the 1992 Constitution and Section 11 of the Audit Service Act 200 (Act 584) conducted a routine audit of the DIC.
"My Lord we will lead evidence to prove that in the course of the audit he discovered a lot of discrepancies in connection with the divestiture of the GIHOC Nsawam Cannery Limited and so started an investigation of the divestiture," she said.
Mrs Aikins said the DIC in 1994 received presidential approval to divest the GIHOC Cannery Company Ltd., which had won the bid through the normal process. They were therefore issued with an offer letter with distinctive terms and a price of 2,789,846,000 cedis.
According to her, in their purported acceptance, Caridem varied the payment schedule of the offer by a forged letter. She said Caridem did not honour their part of the bargain and that they did not pay any instalment on time.
The DPP said certain monies paid did not pass through the books of the DIC, adding: "We will lead evidence to show that those initial payments were completely lost to the DIC."
She said investigations revealed that Agbodo and Owusu on receipt of the money opened a completely new account at Ecobank in the name of DIC without the knowledge or authority of the DIC Board and paid the money into it, withdrawing same some eight days later. Mrs Aikins stated that 10 million cedis and 190 million cedis paid by Caridem to Agbodo and Owusu could also not be traced at all in the DIC books.
"That is also a complete loss to DIC."
The DPP said it was discovered that instead of Agbodo seeking the interest of his organisation, the DIC, he rather teamed up with Caridem and its officers and put them in possession of the factory by lying to the factory manager that Caridem had fulfilled all its obligations under the contract.
She said when another foreign investor expressed interest to purchase the cannery the accused, despite Caridem's obvious inability to perform the sale agreement, again wrote to the investor that Caridem had become the rightful owner of the cannery, since divestiture was completed in March 1995.
She said this was the time when Caridem had paid only about 10 per cent commitment fee.
The DPP noted that Caridem completely ignored the terms of the offer, adding: "It then paid according to their own whims and caprices." The case was adjourned to July 31 for continuation