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02.11.2007 General News

Embezzlement: 61 To Face Prosecution

The Court of Appeal yesterday refused to grant bail to Dan Abodakpi, a former Minister of Trade and Industry, who has been sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for causing financial loss of $400,000 to the state.

Abodakpi had applied for bail pending the outcome of the appeal which he filed on the grounds that his conviction was wrong and therefore amounted to miscarriage of justice.

The court, presided over by Mr Justice B. T. Aryeetey with Mr Justice Marful Sau and Ms Mariama Owusu as panel members, in a unanimous decision, said the record of proceedings at the lower courts were not available to ascertain whether or not there had been miscarriage of justice against Abodakpi.

It, however, ordered the registrar of the court to ensure that the record of proceedings were ready for listening to enable the appeal to be heard in no time.

Citing authorities to buttress its decision, the court held that it would be appropriate for it to wait for the record of proceedings at the lower courts in order to look at the issues dispassionately.

The court explained that granting of bail to a person who had been convicted was considered unusual unless there were exceptional conditions.

It cited some of the exceptional conditions as the likelihood of delay in the hearing of a case, especially when the conviction was short and there was the likelihood of the appeal succeeding.

In Abodakpi's case, the court held that his jail term was long while the absence of record of proceedings at the lower courts had handicapped the court to ascertain whether or not the appeal had chances of succeeding.

The court held that serious legal issues had been raised by counsel for Abodakpi and could be looked at only when the record of proceedings at the lower court was available.

The packed courtroom became dead still when the bail application was refused. Abodakpi, who had been flocked by his family and well-wishers, was whisked away by prison officers after the ruling.

His counsel is considering the possibility of filing an appeal at the Supreme Court against the court's ruling.
A new date would be fixed for the hearing of the substantive appeal after the record of proceedings are ready.

On October 11, 2007, counsel for Abodakpi, Mr Tony Lithur, prayed the court to grant his client bail because the conviction of his client was flawed and had no basis.

However, on October 17, 2007, a Chief State Attorney, Ms Gertrude Aikins, informed the court that Abodakpi's conviction did not occasion any miscarriage of justice.

Opposing the bail application, Ms Aikins, who is also the acting Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), argued that Abodakpi was being detained by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction, adding that the order holding Abodakpi was valid until set aside by a higher court.

She said unless it could be demonstrated that the judgement was indefensible, the court could not grant the accused person bail.

The acting DPP said the trial judge took into account the evidence of prosecution witnesses and that of Abodakpi before concluding that Abodakpi's version was not credible.

Mr Lithur had informed the court on the last adjourned date that the $400,000 was still in a frozen ECOBANK account and untouched by anyone.

Counsel submitted that the prosecution failed to lead evidence to the effect that Abodakpi and the late Victor Selormey, who was charged alongside Abodakpi, had benefited directly from the money.

He said the trial judge, Mr Justice S.T. Farkye, an Appeal Court judge who sat with additional responsibility as a High Court Judge, convicted Abodakpi based on charges and the mere narration of the prosecution, without taking into account the evidence led by the appellant.

He said the trial judge failed to take into account Abodakpi's credible evidence which cast doubt on the evidence led by the prosecution.

According to counsel, the trial judge was duty-bound, as part of the judicial process, to consider the evidence led by the appellant and three defence witnesses which clearly exonerated the appellant.##M:[Read more]##

On August 7, 2007, the court had to adjourn sine die for the reconstitution of the panel following an accusation by Mr Lithur, who alleged that the trial judge, Mr Justice Farkye, had risen from the courtroom on the day of judgement to hold discussions with a panel member on Abodakpi's case, Mrs Justice Abban, thereby acting in a manner that gave rise to real likelihood of bias.

Story by Mabel Aku Baneseh