General News of Fri, 27 Feb 20048
Cocaine Case: Trial Judge Transferred To Bolga
Mr Justice P. K. Aggrey, the Chairman of the Greater Accra Regional Tribunal handling the case involving six persons accused of bringing 675 kilogrammes of cocaine into the country, has been served with a letter to proceed on immediate transfer to Bolgatanga.
He is to take over from Mr Justice Joseph Abanga, who has been transferred from Tamale to Accra as Chairman of the Greater Accra Regional Tribunal. A letter dated February 13, 2004, to this effect, which was signed by the Judicial Secretary, Mr E.A. Owusu-Ansah, a copy of which is available to the Graphic, said the transfer took immediate effect and asked Mr Justice Aggrey to assume duty ?with the minimum of delay?.
Information available to the Graphic indicates that Mr Justice Aggrey received the transfer letter at 8.30 a.m. on Tuesday, February 24, 2004, the day the cocaine case was to be heard. On that day, the court clerks announced to the crowded court that Mr Justice Aggrey was indisposed and the case was, therefore, adjourned to March 11, 2004.
However, in a reply dated February 26, 2004, a copy of which is also available to the Graphic, Mr Justice Aggrey called the attention of the Judicial Secretary to the fact that ?there is no Regional Tribunal at Bolgatanga,? said that in effect he was being transferred to a ?non-existent station.?
Mr Justice Aggrey said he had no objection whatsoever to his being transferred pointing out, however, that ?I am inclined to believe that the transfer to Bolgatanga is a patent mistake.? He, therefore, expressed the hope that immediate steps would be taken to correct ?the obvious error in posting.?
On his part, Mr Owusu-Ansah explained that there was nothing abnormal about the transfer and that transfers are normal administrative procedures. He said currently a number of judges have been transferred and suggested that the best thing Mr Justice Aggrey should do is to visit his new station and find out the situation on the ground.
According to Mr Owusu-Ansah, the judge can only complain after he had appraised himself with the situation on the ground. On the timing, the Judicial Secretary stated that ?we do not have any particular time for the transfer of judges?, adding that ?the exigency of the time determines the transfer.?
He expressed regret at the complaint of Mr Aggrey saying that ?when all judges are moved about they do not complain.? Asked whether Mr Aggrey was being transferred because of his handling of the cocaine case, he said he was not aware of that. He, however, made it clear that every judge is entitled to his opinion and that anybody who is dissatisfied with this opinion is also entitled to go on appeal saying that ?this is exactly what the state has done.?
Mr Owusu-Ansah also dismissed the impression being created that the judge was being transferred as a result of the dissatisfaction of the Judicial Service about his handling of the cocaine case and indicated that ?impression is different from reality.? He said it is also not true that the judge could not be transferred because he had started hearing the cocaine case.
He explained that it was only the interlocutory application for bail for the suspects that was heard arguing that even when evidence was being given in a case, the law allows that another judge takes over and starts the hearing.Mr Owusu-Ansah expressed surprise at the purported letter written by Mr Justice Aggrey, expressing concern about the manner of the transfer, saying ?I have not received any letter from him.?
On February 3, this year, Mr Justice Aggrey granted bail to Kevin D. Gorman, a 59-year-old American, Mohammed Ibrahim Kamil, a car dealer, David J. Logan, 43, Frank D. Laverick, 43, Alan Hodgson, 45, all Britons and Sven Herb, 45, a German.Each of the accused persons was granted bail in the sum of ?300 million with two sureties to be justified.
The tribunal also ordered the accused persons to hand over their passports and other travelling documents to the Registrar of the Regional Tribunal. They were also ordered to report to the police once a week.All the accused persons have pleaded not guilty to two counts of engaging in criminal conspiracy to commit an offence relating to narcotic drugs and possessing narcotic drugs without authority.
Gorman has been charged with an additional count of using his property for keeping narcotic drugs.
Giving reasons for granting the bail, Mr Justice Aggrey said among other things that there is no law in Ghana which refuses bail for persons accused of narcotic offences.
He, therefore, said the tribunal did not err in granting bail to the accused persons since it worked within the confines of the law and at a time when the police had completed their investigations. Mr Justice Aggrey further submitted that while the tribunal admitted the gravity of the offence, there was no law which declined bail for such an offence.
Citing authorities, he said the tribunal?s hand would have been tied behind its back in the granting of bail in offences such as treason, rape, hijacking and robbery, among others.The state has, however, appealed against the decision of the tribunal.It has accordingly applied for a stay of execution until the final determination of the appeal.Hearing of the appeal continues at the Appeal Court today.