No Cheap Money For Sam Jonah’s Lawyer
By Sedi Bansah
The office of The Herald was last week Monday inundated with calls from readers, portraying mixed sentiments to the paper’s reaction to the threats flung at it by Mr. Kwame Boafo Akufo, of Prempeh & Co Chambers, on behalf of Ghana’s contemporary billionaire and multi-titled Mr. Sam Jonah.
The Herald two stories “SAM JONAH IN BIG TROUBLE FOR DEMOLISHING ONE MILLION DOLLAR HOUSE” AND ‘One Million dollar House Demolition: Sam Jonah is Vicious”, were based on court proceedings that captured a struggle for the ownership of a property named No 109 East Cantonments, estimated at $1 Million.
The struggle initiated by Mr. Jonah since 1996, against Mr. Lord Doudu-Kumi, has been dramatic, culminating in Mr. Jonah demolishing the building, using an order which the court claims was fraudulently obtained.
The Herald’s publication of the court proceedings on the matter, according to Mr. Akufo, were defamatory of Mr. Jonah, and hence threatened legal action if the publications are not retracted and an apology rendered.
The Herald rebuffed Mr. Akufo’s threats, drawing public sentiments that the rebuff has not been comprehensive. So, by popular, request, The Herald re-publishes its reaction to Mr. Akufo’s threat, dealing comprehensively, point by point, with the issue he raised.
Here we go again.
The Herald last Thursday, September 14, 2011 received a letter from the Chambers of Akufo-Addo, Prempeh & Co, signed by one lawyer Kwame Boafo Akufo, which asked for a public retraction and apology for a story that The Herald published regarding a court ruling made by Justice Kwasi Dapaah, at an Accra High Court.
The matter concerns the seizure of a building and its subsequent demolition by Mr. Sam Esson Jonah, who is claiming ownership of the property, valued at USD$ 1 million. The Defendant in the matter, Lord Doudu-Kumi, says that he has a claim to the house which was his primary residence and place of work before Mr. Sam Jonah set his sights on it.
The Herald has been threatened by Mr. Sam Jonah, through his lawyers, that unless the story is retracted and the legal fees of Lawyer Kwame Akuffo paid, it will be hauled to court for defamation of Mr. Sam Esson Jonah .
The Herald strenuously refutes, in unequivocal terms, that its publication on the seizure of No 109 East Cantonments House from Duodu-Kumi at the behest of Sam Jonah, the subsequent unlawful demolition of No 109 East Cantonments by Mr. Jonah, and the ruling against Sam Jonah about his Illegal actions by Justice Dapaah, libeled or defamed Mr. Jonah in any way.
The Herald does not owe Sam Jonah an apology and will, absolutely, not retract the story. As to paying Mr. Akuffo’s legal fees, that would be laughable if it wasn’t so absurd.
The Letter from Lawyer Kwame Akufo…..
The Letter from Lawyer Kwame Akufo was addressed to the Managing Editor of The Herald, Mr. Larry-Alans Dogbey, with copies to The National Media Commission and Ghanaweb BV, a prominent news website, and headed: “Defamatory Publication in Respect of Samuel Esson Jonah, KBE, OSG”.
Referring to The Herald’s story of September 5-8 2011, headlined: “Sam Jonah in Big Trouble for Demolishing One Million Dollar House”, the Letter expressed the dissatisfaction of Sam Jonah about The Herald’s apparent allegation that Sam Jonah had procured a Supreme Court judgement, ‘by eliciting the services of the late Chief Justice E.K Wiredu’ against Lord Duodu- Kumi.
The Letter purports that Sam Jonah is offended that The Herald, “…. further described the execution of the order of the High Court, which had been confirmed by the Supreme Court, by our client as a ‘Rambo Style’ mis-adventure”. The letter also referred to The Herald’s publication of September 9, 2011, with the headline: “One Million Dollar House
Demolition:” SAM JONAH IS VICIOUS”. Apparently, The Herald’s ‘….second publication repeated the untidy ‘Rambo style’ that you attributed to our client.”
It is worthy of note that The Herald simply provided an exact and accurate description of the actions of Sam Jonah. If lawyer Kwame Akufo finds the illustration “untidy”, it would be more prudent to inform his client that his actions were untidy, than to threaten The Herald for its consistently accurate reporting of the actions of Sam Jonah.
The Herald is said to have, “…..insinuated in the second publication that our client is envious of successful people, and that at all material times, he had ‘paid’ journalists to libel the said Lord Duodu-Kumi”.
The best defence to libel being truth, is Lawyer Kwame Akufo inviting The Herald to prove an alleged insinuation beyond a reasonable doubt? Is he asking The Herald to prove that there is a pattern to his client Sam Jonah’s various law suits all centered on property, and all against prominent professionals and businessmen?
Does he know the fortunes of these professionals and businessmen after they have had the SAM JONAH EXPERIENCE? Does Lawyer Kwame Akufo know how many different law suits there are and the subject matter of those law suits?
The letter also said that The Herald “Claimed in a rather absurd manner that our client had taken over the ‘house’ of Lord Doudu-Kumi and razed same to the ground”. It noted that, “……a cursory search at the Lands Commission would have shown you that our client is the owner of the property”.
The cursory search recommended by Lawyer Akufo is not necessary because The Herald is aware of ANOTHER pending law suit against Sam Jonah’s purported ownership of the property which claims that Sam Jonah obtained his judgment by fraud, together with an ongoing criminal investigation of Sam Jonah by the police, pertaining to Sam Jonah’s alleged ownership documents at the Lands Commission.
Since the court ruling and police investigation are pending, and both will impact on the Lands Commission record of ownership, The Herald wisely preferred to refer to what is already in Court and in the public domain. The law suit and police investigation of Sam Jonah are all matters of public record, which, appears that Kwame Akufo Esquire, lawyer for Mr. Sam Jonah, is not even aware of.
If Lawyer Akufo is not aware of the SEVERAL law suits against Sam Jonah, all relating to the property in question, how can he know what is libelous or defamatory in this matter?
The letter pointed out that Sam Jonah’s entry onto the property “….as well as the execution of the judgement, was carried out by officials of the Judicial Service in extreme good faith and on the basis of the judgement of the High Court………Needless to say, due process was followed. There was no order of the court restraining our client from executing the judgment of the Court”.
The Herald is aware that the Court order that Mr. Akufo refers to was obtained 15 years ago as a result of a summary judgment. Can Lawyer Akufo advise The Herald whether the Court Order that Sam Jonah used to destroy one million dollars worth of property that he does not own, is still valid 15 years later? The Herald is also aware that Lord Duodu- Kumi appealed against the Court Order.
Even as lay persons, everyone knows that an appeal operates as a stay of execution until the matter is decided by the Court of Appeal. As of today’s date that appeal by Lord Duodu-Kumi is pending at the Court of Appeal.
On June 4,, 2011, Sam Jonah was served with a WRIT OF FRAUD IN EXECUTION. It is worthy of note that on the same day that Sam Jonah received the writ for fraud, he filed appearance, acknowledging his awareness of the suit and intention to respond to the Court. Sam Jonah then by- passed the law and completely demolished the property on June 4, 2011 (the same day), in spite of the pending Court of Appeal hearing and the writ against him.
As a matter of public interest, The Herald would like to know whether Sam Jonah felt that the law did not apply to him, or that he could disregard and ignore the court, and simply demolish a USD$ 1 million property which he is yet to prove his ownership of.
Also referred to was the ruling of Justice Dapaah that the Letter claims The Herald to have strenuously quoted. It noted that Sam Jonah has appealed the ruling of Justice Dapaah, adding “….Perhaps if you were not so much imbued with malice, our client’s side of the story would have been sought”.
Why would The Herald need to seek Sam Jonah’s opinion or “side of the story”, when his story is already on public record? The court heard Sam Jonah’s side of the story and rejected it outright by setting it aside in its entirety.
“In the circumstances”, Mr. Akuffo’s letter asserted, “Our client requires from you, as a matter of urgency, a full and unequivocal public retraction and apology in terms to be approved by us, and an undertaking not to repeat these allegations”.
“…..we have also advised him”, the letter continued, “that he is entitled to substantial compensation for the injury to his reputation and feelings, as to which we invite your proposals”
“Our client will also require payment by you of all the legal costs he has incurred in this matter”, said the letter, concluding that a reply was expected from The Herald, within a week from the date of receipt, or as instructed, issue a writ against The Herald.
The Herald has completely relied on what has been on public record for the past 15 years. Would it not be more prudent for Lawyer Kwame Akufo to read the record of court proceedings for this same period and advice his client on appealing the ruling of Justice Dapaah, rather than chasing a non-existent defamation and demanding legal fees that he has not earned?
If Lawyer Akuffo had done his homework as thoroughly as The Herald has conscientiously done, he would discover that there is no record of Sam Jonah appealing the ruling of Justice Dapaah. Lawyer Kwame Akuffo would also realize that
The Herald, for various reasons, has even been very charitable in its reporting of the so-called defamatory and libelous language, which is contained in court transcripts and documents covering the 15 years of this law suit.
Our enquiries indicate that for all these years that the matter has been dragged, Mr. Jonah has been to court under five times. Perhaps on that basis he can be excused for not being aware of the various uncomplimentary descriptions of him and his behaviour contained in the public records of this case.
It is Sam Jonah who initiated the court action against Mr. Doudu-Kumi to claim the property in contention, way back in 1996. Having decided to put his personal business in the public domain, for all to observe and comment on for the past 15 years, you cannot now go crying to your lawyers because you don’t like the public commentary, and then demand that your lawyers should be paid by the conscientious newspaper that reports a matter of public record for the public interest.
A court action transpires before the eyes and ears of the public, annulling any libelous or defamatory comments that might be hurled at each other by the combatants.
Lawyer Akufo’s letter also made the observation that The Herald, in “amplifying its malice”, referred to a law suit in which a claim was made that Mr. Jonah litigated over UTC property with one Dr. Nii Narku Quainor, when the fact was rather that Dr Quainor was thrown out of the facility for not paying rent by UTC Ghana Limited.
“Our client was not a party to this suit, and yet, the impression is created that he orchestrated the take-over of the property”, Mr. Akufo’s letter said, underscoring that, “it was UTC that evicted him (Dr. Quainor) on the basis of a court judgement and not Sam Jonah”.
Lawyer Akufo’s statements about Dr. Quainor are palpably defamatory. Did Lawyer Kwame Akuffo do any due diligence before making this statement to The Herald about Dr. Quainor? The Herald does not believe that Lawyer Akufo has done his homework; if he had, he would not be so quick to make comments on a matter that he obviously knows nothing about or apportion a malicious intention to The Herald’s publication.
Is Lawyer Akuffo aware that Sam Jonah was on the board of UTC at the time Dr. Quainor’s property was taken over? Who decided that Dr. Quainor had not paid his rent and should be evicted. Was it not the board of UTC?
Is it true that Sam Jonah, who has worked hard to be seen as an icon in the eyes of many Ghanaians and beyond, took over a property that does not belong to him, carted away the possessions of Mr. Duodu-Kumi to an unknown destination, and razed a house worth USD$ 1 million down to the ground, collecting all the debris as if nothing had stood there previously? That in doing so, he knowingly used a court order that he was not entitled to and that was not lawfully obtained?
The High Court says that it is true. What is ‘untidy’ about the word ‘Rambo’ as compared with the cruel and vicious operation Mr. Jonah carried out with respect to No. 109 East Cantonments House? Is it true that Sam Jonah did the same thing to Dr. Quainor?
The Herald finds it very interesting that Sam Jonah has at the very least, two court actions initiated by him, relating to the property. There may be more, and The Herald will continue its diligent search for truth and find out whether it is people taking over Sam Jonah’s property with impunity or Sam Jonah taking over people’s property with impunity.
Lawyer Kwame Akufo Esquire, appears to be very ignorant of the facts of this matter. This level of ignorance of the several cases relating to the matter against his client is very baffling to The Herald.
Perhaps this is because the matter started before he left law school or entered it. It would be prudent for Lawyer Akufo to apply himself to some level of study on the facts of these cases before making declarations and demands on it.
We hope Mr. Akuffo is not just rushing into job hunting or angling to be a solicitor for a very lucrative client. Considering the number of law suits filed by Sam Jonah, many lawyers would desperately yearn to have him as a client. In the words of a wise man, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”.