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General News Wed, 14 Jul 2010

Hot exchanges at Osei-Adjei's trial

Accra, July 14, GNA - There was hot verbal exchanges between the prosecution and defence at the on-going trial of Akwasi Osei-Adjei, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Daniel Charles Gyimah, Former Managing Director of National Investment Bank (NIB).

The two are on trial in connection with the importation of 15,000 metric tonnes (300,000 bags) of rice from India.

The exchanges began when Colonel Alex Johnson (Rtd), Counsel for Gyimah asked the prosecution to furnish him with the number of witnesses yet to testify in order not to delay the case unduly.

However, this request did not go down well with Mr Anthony Gyambiby, Chief State Attorney who thought the defence should be blamed for any delay in the trial.

He said when Ms Pauline Odarkor Lamptey, Deputy Manager of NIB was in court, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, Counsel for Osei-Adjei was absent to cross-examine her and the case was adjourned to July 14.

Mr Gyambiby said he did not understand why the defence should rather blame him for not bringing another witness when they had not finished cross-examining Ms Lamptey.

He told the court that so far the prosecution had brought 13 witnesses and left with three prosecution witnesses to testify.

"The prosecution would bring witnesses when they are available and would not be forced by defence counsel to do otherwise," he added.

Meanwhile, Ms Lamptey during cross-examination by Mr Odame explained that to enable the bank prepare any Letters of Credit (LC) for a customer to transact business, the customer had to apply for it.

Asked whether she was aware that Osei-Adjei, played a role in the preparation of the LC for the importation, witness answered in the negative.

Witness explained that the LC for the importation was for a deferred payment therefore the notified party in the transaction was also the beneficiary.

The facts are that sometime in February 2008, Former Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Joe Baidoo-Ansah initiated the importation of rice from India.

In a letter dated February 13, 2008, he requested Government of Ghana through the Indian High Commission in Ghana, to buy 100,000 metric tonnes of (25 per cent to 35 per cent broken rice).

The rice was expected to arrive in Ghana by May 2008 "to help curb the severe increase of price of staples in Ghana" and the designated consignee was Ghana National Procurement Agency.

Mr Baidoo-Ansah in another letter dated April 10, 2008 addressed to the Minister of External Affairs of India, referred to an earlier meeting between ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor and Indian Minister of Commerce.

In the said letter Mr Baidoo-Ansah drew attention to "severe food situation looming in Ghana" and sought to procure from the Government of India 300,000 metric tonnes of low grade white 25 per cent broken rice for shipment to Ghana by June 2008.

However, in April 2008, Osei-Adjei took over the efforts of Mr Baidoo-Ansah and nominated NIB as the sole consignee.

Gyimah represented NIB and negotiated terms of the contract with State Trading Corporation of India through Ghana High Commission in India.

Osei-Adjei instructed Ghana High Commissioner in India to sign the contract on behalf of Government of Ghana.

The contract was executed and 15,000 metric tonnes of rice was shipped by Amira Foods Limited of India, a private shipping company.

On February 18, 2009, the consignment arrived at the Tema Harbour.

Initially, exportation of the rice to Ghana was supposed to be a grant but later turned into commercial transaction, and Gyimah approached Citibank to issue Letters of Credit to cover the value of the consignment.

On arrival of the rice, efforts by management of NIB to acquire import tax exemption from Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to clear the rice were turned down, owing to the commercial nature of the contract and in addition, the ministry was not involved in the transaction.

The consignment was kept in Customs Excise and Preventive Service bonded warehouse.

However, after counting the consignment, 2,997 bags were found missing and the remaining were in varying stages of unwholesomeness.

Prosecution said management of NIB was making efforts to sell the rice through tender.

It said investigations conducted by Bureau of National Investigations revealed that provisions of the Public Procurement Act were not followed and the missing 2,997 bags had been diverted for sale elsewhere for huge private profit.

The case was adjourned to October 13.

Source: GNA