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General News Wed, 27 Nov 2002

I recommended Okaitey to management - Witness

The star witness in the Ghana Rubber Estates Limited (GREL) divestiture case on Tuesday stated that he recommended Mrs Georgina Okaitey, another prosecution witness yet to testify in the case, to management of the company to be considered for an award of contract.

The witness, Dr Albert Owusu-Barnafo, consultant, who was answering questions under cross-examination in the case told an Accra Fast Track Court (FTC) that even though he did recommend Okaitey alongside other companies to management, he did not know the nature of the contract given to her.

Witness disagreed with a suggestion by David Lamptey, counsel for Hanny Sherry Ayittey, treasurer of the 31st December Women's Movement (DWM), one of the four persons standing trial at the court, that through his influence, Okaitey won contract for the construction of feeder roads.

Ayittey, Emmanuel Amuzu Agbodo, former Executive Secretary of the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC), Ralph Casely-Hayford, businessman and Sati Dorcas Ocran, housewife, are being tried for their alleged involvement in bribery and corruption in connection with the privatisation of GREL.

Through bribery and corrupt means, the four allegedly influenced GREL's divestiture in favour of Societe Industrielle Plantation Hevea (SIPH), a French company. They have all pleaded not guilty to their various charges, and the trial judge, Justice J.C. Amonoo-Monney, an Appeal Court Judge, hearing the case as an additional High Court Judge, has admitted each of them to bail in their own recognisance.

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Dr Owusu-Barnafo, continuing with his evidence under cross-examination, told the court that he did not know whether Okaitey executed those contracts for GREL. Witness denied a suggestion by counsel that Okaitey was his girlfriend.

Asked by counsel why, in his statements to the police he mentioned Okaitey's name several times, Dr Owusu-Barnafo said that it was simply because she led him and SIPH to 31st DWM in connection with the divestiture of GREL.

Witness denied having entered into any discussions with Okaitey about the GREL case, before and after giving statements to the police, adding, "I have met her several times, but we normally talked about other matters."

He denied with a suggestion by counsel that he did not go to Ayittey's house around the premises of the West African Examinations Council with anybody at all. Witness said he went to Ayittey's house in the company of Okaitey.

Dr Owusu-Barnafo, in an answer to a question, said he never recalled stating in one of his statements to the police that Eugene Investments, a company owned by him, acquired 15 per cent shares in GREL in 1998.

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Asked how the payment of his company's shares in GREL was met, witness stated, "it came from my earnings as a consultant of SIPH and other companies, such as Cossanex and ABU." On the question of dividends, witness told the court that since negotiations for GREL's privatisation were completed in 1996, no dividends had so far been declared.

Earlier, Dr Owusu-Barnafo had explained that SIPH paid for the tickets of both Ayittey and Okaitey to fly to Paris because the organisation "wanted to verify various aspects of the GREL transactions for which payments were to be made to DWM and others."

Witness denied that SIPH turned down an offer he made when he suggested to management to bear the airfare of Ayittey from London to Paris and back to London. "She was on a mission to Europe. She met us in London, and SIPH paid her ticket from London to Paris, back to London." The case has been adjourned to Tuesday, December 3 for continuation of cross-examination of witness.

Source: gna