Barton-Odro Makes U-Turn Over Woyome
4/16/2012 4:00:24 PM -
Embattled Deputy Attorney General Ebo Barton-Odro has denied ever stating that the government had no case prosecuting NDC businessman Alfred Agbesi Woyome for allegedly fleecing the country to the tune of over GH¢51.2million in what was cleverly packaged as judgment debt.
Mr Barton-Odro told DAILY GUIDE on the sidelines of a stakeholders' forum of legal reforms in Accra on Friday that his pronouncements on the case had been taken out of context. 'All that I can say about this Woyome case is the fact that I have been quoted out of context,' he said.
'We have two segments of that case; initially, the then Attorney General (Betty Mould Idrissu) settled with Mr. Woyome over terms of payment. Everything was set out and executed, and then the government defaulted in the installment payments, so he went to court, to enforce those instalment payments. People were agitating for the A-G to file a defense. That was the context that I was saying that we had no case,' Mr Barton Odro told DAILY GUIDE .
'At the time, I thought we didn't have a case because we had settled with the man,' he added.
'Having settled with the man and agreed on terms of payment and having defaulted, you don't need a good lawyer to tell you that you don't have a good case there,' he stressed.
When the judgment debt scandal broke last year, the deputy attorney general was widely condemned for having said that Ghana did not have a case against Mr. Woyome but EOCO investigations revealed that there were enough grounds for prosecution.
Alfred Agbesi Woyome
Critics saw the deputy Attorney General's position as conflicting with that of Martin Amidu who succeeded Betty as A-G and initiated measures to retrieve the money from Woyome, and said it had a tendency to influence the commitment of prosecutors working on the case.
With the conflicting position of Mr Barton-Odro, critics called for his head.
In fact, an additional deputy attorney general was last week appointed to support Barton-Odro in his duties, ending expectations that he would be relieved of his position for his stance on the Woyome case.
Mr. Barton-Odro explained that the views he expressed when he said the government did not have a case was grossly misrepresented by the general public.
'I was using the word 'Defence'. Is it every case that the government and the A-G have to defend? If I were referring to the current one, I would have argued that is it every case that should be prosecuted?'
'In the current one, the A-G is the plaintiff, in the earlier one, the AG was the defendant. I think we should be clear in this matter. I have kept quiet because I don't want to go into that arena, but I think people are just misrepresenting facts.
'In the second one, we are plaintiffs so we are prosecuting. In the first one, we were defendants, so we were defending, and it is in that defence that I am saying that we did not file a defence.
'I think people have been unfair to me to a large extent,' he lamented.
Meanwhile, the AG's department has been scolded by several for failing to show enough commitment in prosecuting the culprits in the Woyome judgment debt scandal.
The AG has failed to appear twice for proceedings to begin on the case.
The last time they went to court, they asked for a reschedule of the case because they had failed to gather all the necessary evidence to proceed on the case, an act which angered the trial judge, Justice John Adjet-Nasam.
This has reinforced perceptions that the A-G's department is trying to sweep this landmark case under the carpet.
The deputy attorney general, however, disagrees with this notion, citing resource constraints at the department.
He told DAILY GUIDE that understaffing and the huge workload at the AG's department were the major reasons the department had not been able to effectively prosecute certain key cases.
'Go through the process and look at the kind of cases one attorney handles in a day in court, and you will see that we are seriously understaffed. There is no incentive; the remuneration is not attractive.
'A lot of the time, we are sacrificing. It is not easy. An attorney does not appear in court and the case is adjourned because of the absence, and the media captures the absence, meanwhile, at the same time, he had to appear before the Supreme Court. He has to finish from the Supreme Court, rush down to that court, by the time he gets there, the case is adjourned. We are understaffed, we should be realistic.'
By: Raphael Adeniran