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General News Mon, 17 May 2010

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Defence counsels in GIA trial appeal for certified documents

Accra, May 17, GNA - Lawyers of five public officials in the Ghana International Airline Saga, on Monday took turns to address an Accra Fast=

Track High Court (AFTHC) on why prosecution should be ordered to furnish them with certified documents to be used in the trial.

They said if given the necessary documents, the accused persons woul= d be able to study them and quiz witnesses properly to ensure fair trial. The defence counsels said they would not like their clients to under= go any "ambush litigation" whereby prosecution would hide their witnesses, documents and produce them in court only to ask the accused person to conduct cross examination on them.

The accused persons are, Richard Winfred Anane, former Minister of Transport, Samuel Crabbe, former Greater Accra Regional Chairman of NPP, Anthony Akoto-Osei, former Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance a= nd Economic Planning, Kwadwo Okyere Mpiani, former Chief of Staff, and Georg= e Gyan-Baffour, former Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning. Four other accused persons Ralf Atkins, Kirk Heaton, Albert Vitali a= nd Brain Brisby, all former directors of GIAL, were not in court. All the accused persons have been charged with stealing, causing financial loss to the State, fraud and deceit of public officer, regardin= g the roles they played in the formation of GIAL and the subsequent liquidation of Ghana Airways. Crabbe, who is also President of Unger Oaks Limited, minority shareholders of GIAL, and Anane have been additionally charged with wilfu= lly causing financial loss to the State to the tune of about 4.9 million dollars. Crabbe is being held solely for opening an offshore account, without=

authority from the Bank of Ghana, conspiracy to steal and stealing. Akoto-Osei has six additional charges of wilfully causing financial loss to the State, fraud and deceit of public officer and misapplication of public funds. They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges and were admitted to=

self recognisance bail of GH¢300,000 each by the court presided over Mr= .. Justice Bright Mensah.

Mr. Jacob Acquah-Sampson, counsel for Anane, noted that the applicat= ion raised some constitutional issues, which needed to be interpreted by the Supreme Court. Counsel said on April 20, this year, he wrote to the Attorney-Genera= l (A-G) on the issue but "to this day, we have not received any response so=

far."

Mr. Acquah-Sampson said that in the rendition of the Director for Public Prosecution (DPP), she had made references to technical evaluation= , letters, reports, business plans, press releases, memos letter of intent,=

tenancy agreement, and licences among others as some of the documents to be used in the trial. Counsel said Article 19 of the 1992 constitution, compelled the Attorney-General to provide appropriate facilities to accused persons and=

defence and that included the disclosure of documents to be used in the trial. According to him, under the law, accused persons in a trial by indictmen= t or summary, were entitled to the disclosure of copies of statements of witnesses of the Police who may or will be called. "The fact that the A-G had not been questioned in the past over the issu= e did not mean that she cannot be questioned today," he added. Mr. Acquah-Sampson disagreed with the position of the DPP that the accus= ed persons would be given enough time to cross-examine witnesses. Mr. Samuel Atta-Akyea, counsel for Akoto-Osei, prayed the court to give the constitution significant meaning by referring the issue to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Sam Okudjeto, counsel for Gyan-Baffour, submitted that the concept o= f the trial should not jeopardise liberties of the accused persons, adding,=

the matter before the court was not small for them to be playing around. He was of the opinion that every document of the prosecution should be provided to the accused persons to enable them prepare for their defence. Mr. Okudjeto noted that the accused persons were past public officials, who had worked on the documents in question and to facilitate a fair trial, those documents should be given to them. "If those documents had been tampered with or falsified, they could be a= ble to tell us," he said. The court adjourned the matter to Monday, May 31 for Ms Gertrude Aikins, DPP to respond to the submissions. It ordered the defence to furnish the DPP with law authorities they had cited.

Ms. Gertrude Aikins, told the court that Anane misrepresented facts on GIAL, which was then not in existence, to the Cabinet of Former President=

John Agyekum Kufuor and misled the then Government to pay shares into a fraudulent company. She said Anane's action subsequently led to the liquidation of Ghana=

Airways.

The DPP said Anane declared that four companies had expressed intere= st in Ghana Airways and later presented a letter of intent, which was signed=

between Government of Ghana and GIAL to form a new company called New Gha= na Airways (NGA), although GIAL was at that time not in existence. She said the memorandum Anane presented to Cabinet for signing, was dated September 9, 2004 but GIA was not in existence at that date. Ms. Aikins said that although PriceWaterhouse Coopers had rated NGA,=

which had signed an agreement with government to form GIAL, third after K= LM and Ghanair, two other companies, which had submitted their bids to take over Ghana Airways, however, NGA won the bid.

She said Mpiani, on June 2, 2005, wrote to the Chairman of Governmen= t Taskforce on Ghana Airways Limited authorising the taskforce to take all necessary steps to put the airline into formal liquidation. The DPP said Akoto-Osei signed a loan agreement, committing governme= nt to a financial obligation of paying GH¢15 million from the Social Secur= ity and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) to GIAL. She said Akoto-Osei gave the amount from SSNIT to GIAL as a loan, without Parliamentary approval and at a time when the minority shareholde= rs of the airline had abandoned the company by withdrawing 1.9 million dolla= rs from GIAL account without the consent of the majority shareholder, Government of Ghana. Ms Aikins said Mpiani authorised the release of six million dollars to GIAL in September 2008, without Parliamentary approval. According to the prosecution, Crabbe, who represented the minority shareholders in the company, on June 27, 2005 withdrew 1.9 million dollar= s from the Government of Ghana's account, without approval from the Governm= ent (Majority Shareholder).

Source: GNA

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