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Petitioner who dragged Labianca Group to OSP calls for criminal prosecution of custom officials

By Eric Nana Yaw Kwafo
Headlines Ms. Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh, owner of Labianca Company Limited
AUG 10, 2022 LISTEN
Ms. Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh, owner of Labianca Company Limited

Frank Asare, the Ghanaian who petitioned the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) to look into Labianca Company Limited over tax evasion allegations has welcomed the report of the investigations.

On Monday, the OSP announced that it has found owner of the company and Member of the Council of State, Ms. Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh guilty of using her influence to reduce the amount her company pays as import duties.

The OSP also confirmed that it has succeeded in recovering over GHS1 million in unpaid import duties from the company.

Having read the report of the OSP, petitioner Frank Asare says he is elated he has been vindicated of the allegations he made against Ms. Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh and her company.

“I wish to commend the Office of the Special Prosecutor(OSP) for the thorough investigation into my complaint, the findings and recommendations of which does not only indicate the company but contain far-reaching directives for strengthening the administration of revenue mobilization at the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority,” part of a release from Frank Asare has said.

Despite expressing satisfaction with the investigations of the OSP, the petitioner wants the owner of Labianca Company Limited removed from her position as Council of State member.

He also wants the prosecution of all custom officials who connived with the underfire Council of State member to dupe the state of huge sums of money.

“Tax evasion is criminal under our various Tax Laws and anyone who abets same must face criminal charges under section 20(1) of the Criminal & Other Offences Act (as variously amended), Act 29.

“In that respect, all officials of the Custom Division who enabled this rot must also be charged and prosecuted,” Frank Asare insists in his release.

Below is a copy of the release from the petitioner:

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

10/08/22

RE: OSP REPORT ON CORRUPTION AND CORRUPTION RELATED OFFENCES INVOLVING LA BIANCA GROUP OF COMPANIES & THE CUSTOM DIVISION OF THE GHANA REVENUE AUTHORITY- PETITIONER COMMENDS SPECIAL PROSECUTOR, CALLS FOR FULL SCALE CRIMINAL PROSECUTION OF PERSONS INVOLVED.

I have studied the 12 page Report of Investigation into Alleged Commission of Corruption and Corruption-Related Offences involving Labianca Group of Companies and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority issued by the Office of the Special Prosecutor on 3rd August, 2022.

I wish to commend the Office of the Special Prosecutor(OSP) for the thorough investigation into my complaint, the findings and recommendations of which does not only indicte the company but contain far-reaching directives for strengthening the administration of revenue mobilization at the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.

The report vindicates my position that Ms. Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh, a known financier of President Akufo-Addo, a Council of State member and an appointee of the President on GPHA Board has been evading taxes from 2017 with the connivance of top Custom officials due to her influence in the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government.

While I commend the OSP for the findings on the dealings of the Labianca company at the Ports, I disagree with aspects of the directives as stated in the report.

The Report in point 5.0 states that the OSP orderered La Bianca to pay to the State an amount of One Million Seventy-Four Thousand cedis Six Hundred and Twenty-Seven cedis Fifteen pesewas (GHC1,074,627.15), representing the short collection or shortfall of revenue arising from the issuance of the unlawful customs advance ruling by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority. It further states in 5.1 that this directive has been complied with since March 31, 2022.

It is my considered view that the refunds ordered are grossly understated. Given the length of time (2017-2022) that these underhand dealings has gone on between the company and the Customs Division of GRA, there’s strong evidence to suggest that the state has lost far more in revenue than the company has been made to refund.

Also, even though a prima facie case has been made against the Chief Executive of the company in respect of her peddling her influence as a Board member of GPHA and a member of the Council of State to rob the State of millions in taxes, the Report in point 4.32 reckons that “the circumstances of the case, as yet, does not warrants an application to the Court for lifting the veil of incorporation of these companies.” With due deference to the OSP, the Petitioner strongly disagrees with this conclusion and believes that a case has been made for piercing the veil of the companies involved and going after their beneficial owner.

While it is commendable that the Report directs a full scale investigation into the issuance of customs advance rulings and markdown of benchmark values between July 2017 and December 2021, petitioner believes that such an investigation only goes to uncovering the full extent of the rot and not whether or not there’s a substantive case for criminal prosecution in respect of the adverse findings made on this Petition.

Indeed the Report correctly asserts in point 4.33 that the only basis for which the Customs Division seems to have issued the Advance Custom Ruling which reduced the benchmark value for import taxes by La Bianca, was that Ms. Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh had used her influence as Board member of GPHA and member of the Council of State to procure same.

A strong case therefore exist for prosecution by the OSP under section 3(1)(a) of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959).

Tax evasion is criminal under our various Tax Laws and anyone who abets same must face criminal charges under section 20(1) of the Criminal & Other Offences Act (as variously amended), Act 29.

In that respect, all officials of the Custom Division who enabled this rot must also be charged and prosecuted.

In Republic v Philip Assibit & Abuga Pele (Suit No. FTRM 122/14) it was affirmed that by writing letters, recommending and approving payment of over GHc3 million in support of fraudulent claims, the 2nd accused had facilitated the commission of the crime of defrauding by false and was therefore convicted for abetment. The circumstances of this case and the findings of this Report lends itself to a criminal syndicate who have acted to deprive the State of huge sums of revenue in taxes.

Members of the Council of State are supposed to exhibit high levels of integrity. By using her influence as a Member of such a prominent State institution for corrupt influences, the indicted member cannot continue being on the Council of State.

In the coming days, the petitioner will petition the appropriate bodies for her removal from the Council of State.

Petitioner concludes by commending and thanking the Office of the Special Prosecutor for giving due attention to his Petition.

The silver linen is that the shady deals between Labianca, a known financeer of Akufo-Addo and Customs, which have occasioned huge revenue losses to the state since 2017, has for now been exposed and halted.

Signed,

Frank Asare

Eric Nana Yaw Kwafo
Eric Nana Yaw Kwafo

Journalist

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