Court orders witness to produce English translated documents

Thu, 18 Aug 2005 Source: GNA

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Accra, Aug. 18, GNA - An Accra Fast Track High Court on Thursday ordered a witness in the case in which Tsatsu Tsikata, former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation is charged with causing financial loss to the state, to produce translations of documents he had tended to the court on Friday.

The documents were in French and the Court said it wanted the English versions on Friday, August 19.

The court presided over by Mrs Justice Henrietta Abban, ordered the witness, Mr Jean Francois Arnal, Resident Manager of Caisse Fran=E7aise de Developement (AFD) to translate the documents, because the Court did not use French language in its proceedings.

The documents were in respect of three exhibits from the defence team and one exhibit from the State Attorney.

The court also asked Mr Arnal to send along a report on the visit to Ghana by the Head of his establishment in November 1990. Tsikata is charged with four counts of causing financial loss and intentionally misapplying funds totalling 2.345 billion cedis to the state through a loan he guaranteed on behalf of the GNPC for Valley Farms Company, a private cocoa buying company.

The company contracted the loan from Caisse Fran=E7aise de Developement in 1991 but defaulted in the payment. GNPC, which acted as the guarantor, therefore, paid it in 1996.

The offence, according to the prosecution, was contrary to Section 1(2) of the Public Property Protection Decree 1977 (SMCD140). Tsatsu has pleaded not guilty to the charges and the court has granted him a 700 million-cedi self-recognisance bail.

Mr Arnal was giving evidence on certain documents that the court had earlier subpoenaed him to bring. The defence needed the documents to enable it to go through the sequence of what had transpired. The documents are Appraisal report on Valley Farm Limited - Working document dated April 1990; Correspondence on Tan Oil Project; Certificate of shares on Valley Farms Ltd. dated March 13, 1991 and PROPARCO Equity Participation dated March 11, 1991.

The rest are Decision Number 38/1990, November 13, 1990 (Valley Farms Ltd. Ghana); Undated Press Release and a letter of February 8, 1991 by Tsikata to Mr F. Gadat of Caisse Centrale de Cooperation Economique, Paris, France, which was the predecessor of Caisse Fran=E7aise de Developpement.

In his examination in chief led by Professor Emmanuel Victor Oware Dankwah, witness said the High Value Horticulture was the British Consulting Firm that was asked to design the project (fruits and vegetables for export).

Mr Arnal stated that the GNPC guaranteed the loan, but in 1992, the Valley Farms Limited defaulted because the investment of the loan was delayed.

He emphasised that the farm was suspended as a result of non-productivity, but between 1998-99, the original plan of the project was revised several times, and that "in 1999 the British Consulting Firm redesigned the project".

He said the African Project Development Funds (APDF) conducted a study on the Valley Farms Limited.

Witness explained that the significance of the study on the project was the appraisal of the farm, but he did not know if anything did happen as a result of the study.

According to him, between 1991 to 1998 there were two managers for Caisse Centrale and listed them as Mr Joel Daligaure, the first Manager who left in July, 1990, while the second Manager, Mr Philippe Benedic took over sometime in July 1990.

When Mr Arnal was questioned on Exhibit 13, also marked ID5, he told the court that the document was a Certificate of Shares, Valley Farms Ltd. and was incorporated under the Companies Code, 1963 (Act 179) in Ghana, adding "With 126.670 Shares of no par value). He said "this is to certify that the Promotion Et De Participation Pour La Cooperation Economique (PROPARCO) of 35-37, Rue Boissy D'Anglas, Paris, France is the registered holder of 23,630 ordinary shares of no par value in respect of which 23.63 million cedis was paid and numbered 103.041 to 126.670 both inclusive in the above-named company". He said this was subject to the regulations of the company, dated March 13, 1991.

Witness also explained to the court, the content of a Press Release without date, and said the Caisse Centrale De Cooperation Economique and PROPARCO prepared to finance Valley Farms Ltd. investment programme.

He said PROPARCO, the Caisse Centrale subsidiary devoted to the financing of the private sector, decided to take on equity participation of 28 million cedis in the Valley Farms Ltd., to assist the company to launch its ambitions development programme.

The Resident Manager stressed that following the decision of the government to privatise some of the 52 cocoa plantations belonging to the Ghana Cocoa Board, a group of local investors led by Mr J.W. Wilson established Valley Farms Ltd. in 1987 for the express purpose of acquiring certain most promising plantations. He said they contacted PROPARCO for financial assistance to co-invest in the project, taking over 25 per cent of the company's equity shares.

In addition, he said, the Caisse Centrale de Cooperation Economique, the French Development aid agency, was granting the Valley Farms Ltd. a medium term loan of 5.5 million FF (1.1 million Dollars) to secure the financing of the investment programme.

Mr Arnal said: "The major development of the company will consist in establishing a new multi-crop plantation over a total area of 1,793 hectares.

"The principal product in terms of cropped area will be cocoa, oil palm, voacanga and pepper. Plantain and cocoyam will be intercropped with each new cocoa planting and cultivated for three years." According to him, production was expected to rise to about 2,200 tonnes of dried cocoa beans, 1,600 tonnes of palm and 172 tonnes of voacanga.

He said because of its low acidity and consistent quality, chocolate manufacturers preferred Ghanaian cocoa. "This has been confirmed by the French firm, VALHRONA, one of the most famous manufacturers of first class chocolate. "VALHRONA has expressed its readiness in entering into long term cocoa purchase contracts with Valley Farms Ltd. with a substantial premium for the required quality".

In addition, Mr Arnal stressed, voacanga would be planted on the farms. Voacanga is a small-sized tree, which grows widely in all parts of West Africa and of which current demand in Europe cannot be satisfied, he said. Witness stressed tha t the development of voacanga on a plantation basis was the first experience of the kind.

The Resident Manager noted that the Valley Farms Project was to be the first privately owned cocoa plantation on a large scale in the country.

He stated that mainly oriented to export, it was to generate foreign currency for the country and if successful, it was to encourage other investors to venture in that field and contribute to the re-launching of high quality cocoa production.

Tsikata filed an appeal at the Appeals Court in November 2004, but it was dismissed on the grounds that it lacked merit and he was, therefore, ordered go back to the FTC to open his defence. He filed an appeal to challenge the Appeals Court's ruling at the Supreme Court and this was also overruled.

The accused then proceeded to the Supreme Court for a review, but it again asked him to go and open his defence.

Source: GNA
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