Counsel for Tsatsu Tsikata, a former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), who is standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss to the state, has said that there is no basis for his client to be accused of that offence.
Prof E.V.O. Dankwa said evidence from prosecution witnesses during the trial totally exonerated Tsikata from any wrongdoing, adding that the prosecution had failed to lead evidence to incriminate Tsikata.
Addressing the court at its sitting in Accra yesterday, he said the prosecution failed to inform Tsikata of the nature of the offence he had allegedly committed until the defence made a submission of no case.
He said the first time the prosecution made reference to PNDC Law 78 (the section under which the accused person was alleged to have committed the offence) was when it replied to a submission of no case by the accused person.
Prof. Dankwa said when an accused person learnt of the nature of the offence he had been charged with after a submission of no case, it clearly meant that he had been denied the basic right provided for in Article 19 (2) (d) of the Constitution which states that : “A person charged with a criminal offence shall be informed immediately in a language he understands, and in detail, of the nature of the offence charged”.
Tsikata has been charged with three counts of wilfully causing financial loss of about ¢2.3 billion to the state through a loan he, on behalf of the GNPC, guaranteed for Valley Farms and another count of misapplying public property.
Valley Farms contracted the loan from Caisse Francaise de Developement in 1991 but defaulted in the payment, compelling GNPC, which acted as the guarantor, to pay it in 1996.
Continuing with his submission, Prof Dankwa questioned, “How could an accused person defend himself against a charge he has heard about for the first time after his submission of no case, when the prosecution say that a repealed law contained a “similar” charge to what he has been charged with, and, therefore, his complaint about criminal legislation being used retroactively against him is invalid?”
Prof. Dankwa said it was destructive for the prosecution to fail to set out the details of the offence, adding that “failure to do so is fatal and cannot be cured by the evidence”.
Counsel informed the court that the defects in the charges against Tsikata, which involve the failure of the prosecution to meet basic constitutional requirements for a criminal charge, were enough grounds for the acquittal of the accused person.
He further submitted that the prosecution failed to establish that his client had illegally authorised the payments as indicated in the charge sheet in that the statement of offence, as well as the particulars of the offence in respect of the first three counts, fell short of the requirements of the Constitution, as well as the Criminal Procedure Code, Act 30.
He said evidence by the Managing Director of Valley Farms, Mr J. W. Wilson, revealed that the loan was used for the intended purposes, and that Mr Wilson confirmed that GNPC was a creditor to Valley Farms by virtue of the fact that GNPC had paid the loan contracted by Valley Farms from Caisse Francaise de Development.
Prof. Dankwa submitted that evidence led by Mr Wilson proved that Mr Jude Arthur, a former Managing Director of the Merchant Bank, lied when he (Mr Arthur) said that Investments Holdings Limited (IHL), a subsidiary of Merchant Bank, had nothing to do with Valley Farms except that it represented the GNPC on the board of Valley Farms.
“The account of Mr Wilson made it clear that Jude Arthur was a director from an early stage of Valley Farms and also that IHL was one of the original shareholders without any reference to GNPC or the accused,” he said.
Reading out extracts from court transcripts, Prof Dankwa submitted that Mr Arthur had proven that he was not a credible witness, because “Merchant Bank's dealings with Valley Farms at its earliest stages, following the meetings between Mr Wilson and Mr Arthur in 1987, were without any reference whatsoever to the accused or GNPC”.
He said evidence by Mr Arthur, which was relied on by the prosecution, was full of lies and contradictions and therefore undermined the whole case of the prosecution.
Story by Mabel Aku Baneseh