The Attorney-General (A-G), Hon. Joe Ghartey, yesterday told former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings that the option is still open for her to return the GIHOC Nsawam Cannery assets or she and her co-accused persons should pay the ¢21billion they have caused the state to lose for which they are standing trial.
According to him, probity and accountability were essential in the constitution, adding that in exercising his powers he had not acted without jurisdiction. He said these at an Accra Fast Track High Court, where Konadu and five others are being tried for their alleged role in the fraudulent divesture of GIHOC Nsawam Cannery leading to the loss of billions of cedis to the state.
This was in response to an application for stay of proceedings pending the final outcome of a civil suit by the former First Lady against the Divesture Implementation Committee (DIC) and the A-G, in a court presided over by Justice Richard Aquaye.The A-G said the charges for which the accused persons – Nana Konadu, Sherry Ayitey, Director of Caridem, Kwame Peprah, former Finance Minister, Emmanuel Amuzu Agbodo of the DIC and Thomas Benson Owusu, an accountant as well as Caridem - were standing trial were not unknown in the criminal laws of Ghana.
Mr Ghartey was of the opinion that for the accused persons to ask for a stay of proceedings in the case was to ask the court to interfere with the A-G’s power to initiate criminal proceedings. Explaining further, he said the court could have done that only if the A-G, in exercising his power under Article 88 of the constitution, had acted without jurisdiction, and that only a criminal offence should act as a barrier to another criminal offence.
The A-G, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Essikado, indicated that claims by the accused persons that they had been charged for the same offence before was not true because they had never been charged for the offences. In addition, he said, the charges were based on a report by the Auditor-General, who in pursuant of Article 187 of the constitution, investigated the 31st December Women’s Movement, which owns Caridem Development Company of which Nana Konadu is the president.
The MP as well stated that he was only performing his duty, and wondered why the accused persons would complain about a lawful act as if they were above the law. He was of the view that the delay in the trial, as complained by Konadu and co., could not be said to have been occasioned by the prosecuting team, and said the trial would start as soon as possible “lest the same people turn round and complain that the trial is being delayed”. According to the MP the accused persons had not come under any statutory provision but wanted the court to review the case, and noted that the accused persons have been given the opportunity to defend themselves. Consequently, he prayed the court to strike out the application since it was misconceived and unmeritorious.
The defence team, led by Mr. Bram Larbi, asked the court to give him two days to respond to the A-G’s submission on a point of law. The case has been adjourned to December 5, 2007.