The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD has summoned the Italian Ambassador in Accra to intervene in a looming diplomatic row between his country and Ghana.
His summon followed a ruling by an Italian court that part of an amount of £36, 000 recovered from a Ghanaian employee, who stole the money at Ghana's Embassy in Rome, be confiscated to Italy.
Being dissatisfied with the court's ruling, the Ministry has therefore summoned the ambassador “to forcibly impress upon him to intervene with his home authorities to set up meetings with the embassy staff, to resolve all outstanding issues, including the return to Ghana of all the full amount of monies seized from the culprit,” Leeford Stanley Laryea.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Akwasi Osei-Adjei made this known on the floor of Parliament yesterday when answering questions on how far the issue had gone.
Narrating the facts of the matter, Mr. Osei-Adjei said the consular section of Ghana's Embassy in Rome was burgled and set ablaze on March 23, 2007.
The Embassy sought the assistance of the Italian Fire Service to put out the fire, which, in their estimation, was the result of arson.
The incident was subsequently brought to the attention of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Italian Police authorities, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD in Ghana.
Investigations into the incident revealed that some of the property of Ghana in Rome had been both destroyed and stolen. The items included £33,000, being consular fees covering March 19-22, 2007, 375 blank passports, 69 dual citizenship application forms, and a stolen amount of £3,000 recovered from a partially burnt cabinet.
The incident, according to the Minister, took place while Ghana's ambassador to Italy had left Rome for Northern Italy on official assignment.
The committee of enquiry set up mounted a surveillance operation leading to the arrest of one Leeford Stanley Laryea, a former employee, as suspect.
A search conducted on him when picked up by the Italian police revealed that he had fraudulently issued two blank passport booklets which he was about to sell for £700.
Police search at Laryea's residence found items including 248 blank passport booklets, Embassy of Ghana stamps, an amount of €9,000, £1,550, 8 new cell phones and 11 Ghanaian passport booklets fraudulently issued.
On Tuesday, December 11, 2007, the embassy learnt that a court in Rome had convicted Laryea, issued him with 16 months suspended sentence, and released him on December 7, 2007.
“The Embassy also learnt that the court had ruled that part of the £36,000 recovered from Laryea would be confiscated to the host state,” said the Minister.
According to the Minister, the Embassy on December 14, 2007, sent a note to the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry protesting against the court's handling of the case and calling for a review as well.
“Despite repeated reminders, the Italian Foreign Ministry has, to date, not replied to the note nor granted the audience,” said Mr. Osei-Adjei.
It was based on the incessant refusal of the Italian authorities to heed Ghana's call that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had summoned that country's representative here in Ghana to intervene in the matter before the matter got out of hand.
As expected, most of the parliamentarians who had the opportunity to comment on the issue were shocked by the revelation that the Italian court had decided to give part of the money to Italy.
The MP for Upper West Akyem, Samuel Sallas-Mensah, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee of the House and the Minority Leader, Alban Bagbin, told the Minister that there were inconsistencies in the account he gave Parliament and what his Ministry gave the same committee when it sat for public hearing in the latter part of last year.
Hon. Osei-Adjei said the “inconsistencies” might have arisen from the fact that the committee was not properly briefed.
When the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Freddie Blay, asked why Laryea was not extradited to Ghana to be tried under the country's laws, the Minister said the matter was being handled diplomatically.
Hon. Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, MP for New Juabeng North, and Edward Doe-Adjaho, Deputy Minority Leader, both prevailed on the Minister of Foreign Affairs to ensure that the right thing was done as the money Italy wanted to take was Ghana's.
Earlier in the day, a Minister of State at the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports, Ms. Elizabeth Ohene was in the House to answer some questions relating to her outfit.
By Sylvanus Nana Kumi