Justice K.A. Acquaye, the new Fast-Track High Court judge handling the trial of the former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings and four others in connection with alleged fraudulent divestiture of GIHOC Nsawam Cannery, yesterday expressed disapproval of the noisemaking by Konadu's supporters at the court premises.
The judge, who told Tony Lithur “this type of noisemaking should not be encouraged”, said also that it would be in his client's interest to advise her supporters to stop making noise whenever she came to court.
Mr. Lithur apologized on behalf of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) supporters, who thronged the court to show solidarity with Konadu, their idol, amidst drumming and dancing, and promised to convey the message to them.
Nana Ato Dadzie, one of the lawyers in the matter, also gave the assurance that as an officer of the court he would find out who those supporters were and who was responsible for bringing them to the court.
Later, immediately after the case was adjourned, some of the supporters were seen behind the court premises sharing money believed to have been given to them by those who brought them.
This development nearly resulted in fisticuffs as some of them were dissatisfied with the amounts they were given.
Ms Gertrude Aikins, the Acting Director for Public Prosecution (DPP) who usually represented the state, was not around when the matter was called.
However, all the accused persons, Nana Konadu, Hanny Sherry Ayittey, Emmanuel Agbodo, Kwame Peprah and Thomas Benson Owusu as well as their counsels were all present.
The trial judge, who replaced Justice Baffoe-Bonnie, said there was a motion before him to be moved on the case on November 15, 2007 and subsequently adjourned the matter to the said date.
About 15 charges against the accused persons, including stealing and obtaining public property by false statement to the tune of ¢9.2 billion, had been substituted with the old charges, which were up to 30.
Emmanuel Amuzu Agbodo, former Executive Secretary of the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) and Thomas Benson Owusu, an accountant, who are the first and second accused persons respectively, pleaded not guilty to seven counts of conspiracy to commit crime and stealing.
Mr. Agbodo; Kwame Peprah, former Finance Minister and Chairman of DIC; Hanny Sherry Ayittey, Director of Caridem and Nana Konadu pleaded not guilty to four counts of causing loss to public property to the tune of over ¢9.2 billion and using false statements to obtain public property.
Nana Konadu, Sherry Ayittey and Caridem, charged with conspiracy to alter documents and altering false documents have pleaded not guilty.
The facts of the case as read out in court were that in the late 90s, Government received approval to divest GIHOC Nsawam Cannery to Caridem which had won the bid through the normal process.
Caridem was supposed to have paid a 10% non-refundable commitment fee in the purchase of GIHOC.
In addition, some amount of money should have been submitted with the final Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA), which was ¢2.7billion paid within twelve months, among other conditions.
It was after the Auditor-General, in pursuance of Article 121 of the Constitution decided to conduct a routine audit of organizations that he detected the anomalies in the GIHOC Nsawam Cannery affair.
The prosecution team was of the opinion that it would lead the court to prove that there were a lot of discrepancies in the sale of Nsawam Cannery to Caridem which belonged to the 31st December Women's Movement (DWM). The team said the SPA was not paid on time contrary to the terms of the offer.
It also said on receipt of the non-refundable commitment fee paid by Caridem, Emmanuel Agbodo, without the knowledge of the DIC, allegedly went ahead and opened a bank account and the money disappeared within a few days.
It said Agbodo reportedly lied to the factory manager that Caridem had fulfilled all the terms of the contract, and that the actions of the accused persons have allegedly caused astronomical loss to the state to the tune of ¢9.2 billion.
By Fidelia Achama