GOVERNMENT Spokesperson on Infrastructure, Mrs. Catherine Afeku and her husband, Seth Afeku, were last Friday ordered to pay back monies they had taken from Mr. and Mrs. Bill Gick, an American couple, to set up an internet café.
The Ghanaian couple, who are the defendants in the case, have as well been ordered to pay for all the equipment sent them by the wealthy American couple for the establishment of the business, with prevailing interest from 2005, the time the business began.
In addition they are to return to the couple a Mitsubishi Diamante vehicle which they (Afekus) registered in their name.
The orders were slammed on the Ghanaian couple in a case where the plaintiffs, who are American investors, said they were lured into financing an internet café, Polymath Ghana Limited, which was the first defendant in the case, with the understanding that they would be made 60 per cent majority shareholders, but interestingly no account was ever rendered to them.
Mrs. Justice Barbara Ackah-Yensu, a Commercial Court judge, in giving judgment, said she found the defendants' contention that they left the 'American dream' with their three children just to come and 'baby-sit' the 32-year-old handicapped son of the investors, David Thomas in Ghana to integrate him into the Ghanaian society, very ingenious but not convincing.
The judge as well observed that the defendants were not credible witnesses at all, especially Mrs. Catherine Afeku, who she said tried to deceive the court throughout its proceedings although she swore an oath to tell the truth.
The judge stated that Mrs. Afeku was an untruthful witness and lied seriously and as such she had wanted to put her in the dock for perjury because she did not uphold the vow to tell the whole truth.
She however rescinded that decision and advised Mrs. Afeku to school herself to be a truthful witness if she ever found herself in a courtroom again.
She mentioned that the Government Spokesperson was nursing political ambitions and advised her to be truthful in the present democratic dispensation, “where integrity is the watchword”.
The judge noted that after going through the defendants' statement of defence, in which they claimed David Thomas was physically handicapped and needed 24-hour attention, she was shocked to see an able-bodied young man who was not physically handicapped as claimed by the Afekus.
The judge indicated that David did not have any deformity and only read every document given to him with the aid of reading glasses as a result of a slight visual impairment.
She said it was amazing that the plaintiffs' son, also known as Kodjo Kumi, was described by the defendants as 99 per cent handicapped and could not be left on his own, which was the reason for his parents setting up Polymath for them to use the proceeds to cater for him.
Justice Ackah-Yensu wondered why the defendants did not let David stay with them in Kumasi or make an attempt to get him a nurse to cater for him if their claim was true.
She indicated that even with that claim the Afekus never looked after David and that it was his mother who remitted him from the United States of America (USA) in addition to his SSI (money received from the US Government by handicapped people.)
According to her, the second plaintiff, Mrs. Patricia Gick, who flew down to testify, tendered every document to support her claims about the money which was $217,000 as well as the shipment of computers and all other equipment sent to the defendants, against earlier claims that the money they (Afekus) received was less than $65,000.
Explaining further, she said there was no doubt that the business was fully financed by the investors, who did so with the hope of being made majority shareholders but Mrs. Gick did not insist on receiving all the documents on an investment she had spent so much on “because she was either too trusting or careless”.
The defendants earlier claimed they told plaintiffs the first defendant company was not viable and that the problems between them started when Mrs. Afeku went to the US to get more grant for the support of the venture and the plaintiffs requested an up-to-date account on their investment.
The judge was of the opinion that the plaintiffs had every right to demand their money back if there was a breach of contract, adding that she found it hard to believe the defendants' claim that the word partnership used in their correspondence with the plaintiffs was just a term and not part of their agreement.
Justice Ackah-Yensu was of the view that when the defendants opened Polymath in Kumasi they should have taken David, who was asked by his mother to come and oversee her business ventures in Africa, along, if indeed they really did not intend to cheat his parents.
She observed that David, who is married to Mr. Afekus' sister, Dora Ama Afeku, without any support from the defendants, tendered in evidence documents on monies sent to him from the USA to cater for Dora and her seven children from a previous marriage.
David, who has no child with his wife Ama, who also testified in the trial, said he had the dream of settling in Africa but was not made to work in the café so he had to reside in Axim in the Western region and never had the opportunity to oversee the business interest of his mother, except the proposals he wrote for the café.
The presiding judge said also that she was at her wits end as to how someone, who had been described as 99 per cent physically handicapped and needed assistance, could write proposals even for Mrs. Afekus' consultancy firm in Axim.
Consequently, the court ordered Mr. and Mrs. Afeku to pay every dime the investors had spent in establishing the café with interest at the prevailing bank rate and as well awarded costs of ¢20million against them.
On allegations by David Thomas that his life was threatened and he had to go into hiding, which the defendants admitted was done by Mrs Afeku's campaign manager, the judge warned them to desist from threatening and intimidating David.
The defendants were represented by Mr. Kyei Baffuor, while Mr. Hubert Sevor of Jan Chambers represented the plaintiffs. The Afekus' lawyer did not escape a lashing from the judge, who was close to referring his alleged conduct to the Ghana Bar council.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Afeku who has indicated that she would appeal against the judgment is accusing some politicians of trying to kill her political ambitions in the Evalue-Gwira constituency of the Nzema East district.
By Fidelia Achama