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11.07.2006 General News

Don’t Interrupt, AG Tells Tsikata

By Grapic
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The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Mr Joe Ghartey, lost his calm at the Accra Fast Track High Court when making his submission in the trial of the former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC).

In the course of the Attorney-General's submission, counsel for Tsatsu Tsikata was not in court because he had been held up in another court and the accused tried to stop Mr Ghartey from “misleading” the court by making reference to certain statements purported to have come from a Supreme Court decision.

On about two occasions, Tsikata, who had agreed to the Attorney-General making his submission, even in the absence of his (Tsikata's) lawyer, intervened and drew the court's attention to those statements.

The trial judge, Mrs Justice Henrietta Abban, an Appeal Court judge with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, asked the accused to exercise restraint because she would allow his counsel to react to those allusions and that if it became necessary to expunge them from the proceedings, she would do so.

But Mr Ghartey replied that for five days when the defence submitted its address, the prosecution never intervened and, therefore, he expected the accused to remain quiet.

He said the accused had been tolerated for too long, submitting that he was not going to countenance any interference. He, therefore, demanded that the accused be seated while he made his submission.

In the argument that ensued, the court sent for counsel for the accused, but when it became apparent that he could not show up, the case was adjourned to Wednesday.

Mr Ghartey said the action by the GNPC of investing in Valley Farms was ultra vires because if that was not the case then the judiciary, for instance, could also establish a nightclub as a way of raising resources.

Tsikata has been charged with three counts of causing financial loss of about 2.3 billion cedis to the state through a loan he, on behalf of the GNPC, guaranteed for Valley Farms, a private cocoa growing company, and another count of misapplying 20 million cedis in public property.

Valley Farms contracted the loan from Caisse Francais de Development, a French financial organization, in 1991 but defaulted in the payment, compelling GNPC, which acted as the guarantor, to pay the loan in 1996.

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