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The Commercial Division of the High Court in Accra has directed five persons accused of causing financial loss of $4 million to the state to open their defence.
The order follows the dismissal of a submission of no case filed by lawyers of the five accused persons.
They are accordingly expected to open their defence on May 30, 2019.
The trial judge, Mr Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, held that the prosecution was able to establish a prima facie case, which requires the accused persons to give some explanations to enable the court get a clearer picture.
Citing various authorities and evidence adduced in court to buttress the court’s decision, the trial judge held that the accused persons, except Oppong, were public officers at the time the alleged offences were committed.
Justice Baffour held that the prosecution led sufficient evidence to warrant the court’s decision to invite them to open their defence.
The accused persons are Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, the former Board Chair of the National Communication Authority (NCA); William Tetteh Tevie, former Director-General of the NCA; Nana Owusu Ensaw, a former board member; Alhaji Salifu Mimina Osman, a former Deputy National Security Co-ordinator; and a businessman, George Derek Oppong.
Ensaw faces only money laundering and stealing charges
However, Ensaw has been discharged on four counts; namely, conspiracy, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, using public office for profit, and intentionally misapplying public property.
Additionally, Ensaw is to open his defence to rebut charges of money laundering and stealing.
Charges against other accused persons
The accused are standing trial for an alleged malfeasance into the purchase of a Cyber Surveillance Equipment.
The various charges against the other accused persons, to wit conspiracy, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, using public office for profit, stealing, money laundering and intentionally misapplying public property, still apply.
They have variously been charged for wilfully causing financial loss to the state, conspiracy to steal and stealing, using public office for private gain, in contravention with the Public Procurement Act, money laundering and intentionally misapplying public property.
All the accused persons have denied the various charges and are on a bail of $1 million each with three sureties each.
The lawyers of the accused persons were silent on whether or not they would appeal the court’s decision.
Lawyers for the accused persons filed their written submissions of no case, and indicated that the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case against their clients.
They accordingly prayed the court to free their clients, but the prosecution disagreed.
The prosecution, in making their case, called six witnesses; namely, Abena Asarfo Adjei, Director of Legal Affairs at NCA; Dr Isaac Yaw Ani, Deputy Director General in-charge of management and Operations; Colonel Michael Kwadwo Poku, Director of Operations at National Security Secretariat; Duncan Opare, Deputy National Security Co-ordinator; and Detective Chief Inspector Michael Nkrumah, the investigator of the case.
In 2015, the accused persons, without authorisation, decided to purchase a cyber surveillance system, which they claimed was to be used for anti-terrorism operations.
The system, which was to be used in the fight against terrorism, reportedly had some of its components missing, thus it could not be utilised.
The accused persons are standing trial for their alleged involvement in the embezzlement of $4 million of state funds during the purchase of listening devices for the National Security, which was sponsored by the NCA.
They have pleaded not guilty to all the charges and are currently on bail in the sum of $1 million each.
According to the facts of the case, Baffoe-Bonnie, Tevie and Osman were allegedly aided by Oppong to engage in the alleged illegal act.
The previous government, the prosecution said, had contracted an Israeli company, NSO Group Technology Limited, to supply listening equipment at a cost of $6 million to enable the authorities to monitor conversations of persons suspected to be engaged in terror activities.
A local agent, Infralocks Development Limited charged $2 million to facilitate the transaction, bringing the total sum to $8 million.
The facts said the National Security did not have the money to fund the transaction, and for that reason the NCA, which had supervisory jurisdiction over the use of the equipment, was asked to fund the project.
It said $4 million was withdrawn from the account of the NCA while $1 million out of the withdrawn amount was deposited into the account of the Israeli company.
According to the state, the remaining $3 million was lodged in the account of Oppong, who acted as a representative of the local agents, Infraloks Development Ltd.
The prosecution said Osman allegedly fronted for the entire deal.
The accused persons are alleged to have later laundered the amount for their private benefit.
On December 22, 2017, three persons, including Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, former NCA Board Chairman, and two others, were arraigned over the alleged fraudulent purchase of the cybersecurity surveillance system for $8 million without approval of the authority’s board.
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