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General News Tue, 22 Aug 2006

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Controversy Over "Cocaine Tape"

Emmanuel Agyarko, Executive Director of the Food and Drugs Board, told the Justice Georgina Wood Committee yesterday that he could not confirm whether the secret tape recording of a meeting between ACP Kofi Boakye and the alleged drug dealers he had passed on to President Kufuor, is the same as the one in the possession of the committee.

"I do not know whether this is the tape or there is another tape," he told the committee investigating the disappearance of cocaine from a fishing vessel, the MV Benjamin, at the Tema port in April last year.

Mr. Agyarko, who was furious that a section of the media announced his second appearance before the committee, had told the committee in his first appearance on August 9 that he listened for only five minutes to the tape recording on the compact diskette (CD), which was given to him by Ben Ndego, the former Director of Operations of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB).

But the tape in the possession of the committee, said to be that of the proceedings of the meeting in ACP Boakye’s house, ran for about one and half hours.

The committee invited Mr. Agyarko again to tell it the actual tape he received and which he gave to a security operative to be given to the President.

This was after ACP Boakye, Director-General of Police Operations now on leave, had on August 17, challenged the validity of the tape, saying that it had been doctored.

“Is this the same tape that you listened to and passed on to the President?” Justice Wood asked him.

“I have stated clearly that I got a complete CD of the recording and after listening to it for about five minutes I became uncomfortable and decided to send it to the higher authorities. It is not for me to confirm whether what I had is what you have,” he answered.

ACP Boakye’s counsel was absent from yeserday’s hearing and the committee members did not have any question for him, so he was subsequently discharged by Justice Wood.

Before leaving the room, the FDB boss again raised the issue of the media announcing his appearance yesterday, saying it was as though he had done something wrong.

“I believe I have done my duty,” he said.

But Justice Wood stopped him from using her committee to address the media, adding that he could address the media outside.

“You should not look so visibly worried about this,” Justice Wood advised him.

But that did not resolve matters as Mr. Agyarko passed some disparaging remarks about journalists as he made his exit. “You people should find better things to report about,” he said.

Earlier, Gina Ama Blay, Managing Editor of the Daily Guide newspaper appeared before the committee to answer questions as to how the paper had access to information from the in-camera hearing when the Inspector-General of Police, Patrick Acheampong gave his evidence on the matter.

She declined to mention the source of the information, but said the leakage of proceedings did not come from the committee.

She said that apart from Justice Wood and Ransford Tetteh, President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), she did not know any other member of the committee who could have possibly given information from the in-camera hearing.

According to her the paper picked up some of the information which was already on the airwaves of some radio stations and “we did some cross-checking.”

“Unfortunately, we cannot tell you the source of our information, and we did not also bug this room,” she stated. Justice Wood asked her whether the ethics of the journalism profession, allow is confidential issues, “for intents and purposes,” to be published, knowing the harm such a publication could cause.

“It depends on the public interest,” Mrs. Blay answered.

Mr Tetteh reminded media practitioners of the need to abide by the ethics of the profession in their reportage of the committee’s work so that the committee is not put in a bad light.

Joe Aboagye Debra, lead counsel for ACP Boakye said he did not have any questions for Mrs. Blay when he was given the opportunity to cross examine her but remarked, “We are very grateful that the committee has taken our concern seriously.”

Source: Ghanaian Times

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