Tony Lithur, counsel for former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings yesterday prayed an Accra Fast Track High Court to strike out the charges against her and four others or stay proceedings until the final determination of a civil suit she has brought against the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) and the Attorney-General (A-G), Hon. Joe Ghartey.
According to him, the A-G abused his discretionary powers by instituting the criminal proceedings against the former first lady because of the suit she had instituted against them with the support of a report by the Auditor-General, Edward Dua-Agyeman, who accused them of procedural impropriety.
This was in a court presided over by Justice K.K. Acquaye, when he moved an application for stay of permanent proceedings against the accused persons, who were being tried for their role in the alleged fraudulent divestiture of GIHOC Nsawam Cannery to Caridem Development Company.
The application was thrown out by Justice Baffoe-Bonnie last year when the matter was before him, on grounds that it did not find favour with the court.
Giving the facts of the matter, Mr. Lithur said in 1994, Caridem, which is a Limited Liability Company belonging to the 31st December Women's Movement (DWM), won the bid to purchase GIHOC Nsawam Cannery and went through the processes as directed by the DIC.
He observed that when the Auditor-General took office a few years ago, one of the first things he said was that he wanted to investigate all Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) but finally ended up investigating only the 31st DWM, of which Nana Konadu was president.
According to Mr. Lithur, Caridem commenced a civil suit against the A-G after the Auditor-General concluded his report, which they were not happy about.
He further indicated that the initial charges against the accused persons - Hanny Sherry Ayitey, Director of Caridem, Kwame Peprah, Former Minister of Finance, Emmanuel Amuzu Agbodo, Former Chairman of DIC, Thomas Benson Owusu, an accountant, and Caridem - were up to 29 charges, which they all pleaded not guilty to.
He told the court that just as the trial was about to start, Ms Gertrude Aikins, the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) informed the court that the state intended to amend the charges, only to say on the adjourned date that she had changed her mind because of the negative publicity on the issue.
Also, Konadu's counsel indicated that his client had filed an appeal last year after their initial application for stay of proceedings was thrown out.
Explaining further, Mr. Lithur said the Acting DPP went ahead and substituted charges and said she was ready for the trial to start on the same day the charges were read, making nonsense of their intended appeal on the old charges.
Mr. Lithur was of the opinion that the state quickly changed the charges to 15 without adding any of the old charges to the new one, noting that the state knew it would lose at the Appeals Court and that was why it substituted the initial charges, which included stealing and altering false documents.
Mr. Lithur further stated that the AG afterwards wanted the civil proceedings stopped to enable the criminal matter, in which the former first lady and others were accused of causing financial loss to the state to the tune of ¢9.2 billion, to start.
Counsel for Konadu was of opinion that it was because Caridem had initiated court action against the A-G that he instituted the criminal proceedings to gain an upper hand in the case, as both he and the DIC filed the same statement of defence.
Also, he told the court that issues for determination in the civil suit included whether plaintiff had breached the Sales and Purchase Agreement and whether the A-G and DIC had the power to abrogate the contract.
Mr. Lithur alleged that workers of Caridem were harassed by policemen whenever they went to work and as a result they were not comfortable.
He therefore prayed the court to stay proceedings because the state would have nothing to lose and could always commence the trial in the criminal matter after the civil suit is determined.
The matter has been adjourned to December 3, 2007.
By Fidelia Achama