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18.06.2008 Crime & Punishment

Tsikata jailed five years

Tsikata jailed five years
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Accra, June 18, GNA - An Accra Fast Track High Court on Wednesday sentenced Tsatsu Tsikata, former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), to five years' imprisonment for wilfully causing financial loss to the State and misapplying public property.
The court, presided over by Mrs Justice Henrrieta Abban found Tsikata guilty on three counts of causing financial loss to the State and one count of misapplying public property and jailed him for five years on each count. The sentences will run concurrently.
Tsikata was charged with three counts of wilfully causing financial loss of GH¢ 230,000 (2.3 billion old Ghana cedis) to the State through a loan he, on behalf of GNPC, guaranteed for Valley Farms, a private company, and another count of misapplying public property.
He is said to have intentionally misapplied GH¢ 2,000 (20 million old cedis) to acquire shares in Valley Farms.
Valley Farm contracted the loan from Caisse Centrale, now Agence Française de Développement (ADF), but defaulted in the payment, compelling GNPC as the guarantors, to pay the loan in 1996.
He pleaded not guilty and was on a self-recognisance bail.
Tsikata was in court on Wednesday for the hearing of a motion he had filed at the court but the court struck it out earlier.
This was after Mr Joe Ghartey, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, told the court that in the absence of the motion not being moved, the motion should be struck out and the court obliged.
The Judge further declared that she was going to read out the judgement.
Tsikata, who had filed another motion before the Supreme Court fixed for June 25 for hearing, stood throughout the judgement, which took almost two hours.
Mr John Dramani Mahama, National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for Bole/Bamboi and NDC Running Mate in Election 2008, was among those who were in court.
During the six-year trial the Prosecution called six witnesses to make their case, the Fast Track High Court called two. Mr Ghartey led the team of lawyers from the Attorney-General's Department.
When the court decided to pronounce its sentence, it asked Tsikata whether he had something to say. This brought about exchanges between him and Justice Abban.
Delivering the judgement, the court said the Prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.
According to the court, the State was able to prove that there was financial loss, which occurred as a result of the action or omission of Tsikata.
The court said Tsikata authorised the payments of the money, adding that, by this the GNPC suffered some losses.
It was the view of the court that no legal steps were taken to indemnify or counter guarantees the loan.
"A loss to GNPC, a public entity, means the loss to the State," she declared.
The court recounted how GNPC made investment in Valley Farms, saying the GNPC was not set up as a finance company.
"I wonder how proceeds of a cocoa farm could be used in financing petroleum," it said, noting that the coffers of the Corporation were depleted.
On the defence of Tsikata, who said the loss could be retrieved, the court pointed out that his defence was unreasonable.
It noted that Tsikata, who denied the offence, shifted blame on to the head of Finance and Administration of the Corporation.
Referring to Mr Tsikata's statement, the court noted that he had admitted authorising Mr Jude Arthur, a prosecution witness, to acquire shares in Valley Farms.
Meanwhile, the Court has rejected an application for bail made by Tsikata to enable him to file the necessary papers for an appeal.
Tsatsu, who made the application himself by reading from notes he made while judgement was being delivered, said the bail would have also enabled him to contact his Lawyer, who had travelled out of the country.
He said if the Fast Track High Court had waited for the decision on the motion he had filed, it would have had an impact on the court's judgement.
"The application for bail is refused." Mrs Justice Abban said. "You have the right to appeal against the decision of the court," she added.
Mrs Yvonne Attakora Obuobisa, Principal State Attorney, in the company of Mr Ghartey opposed the bail application.
She said there was no notice of appeal before the court, adding that he could not "put something on nothing".
Mrs Obuobisa said even if there was an appeal, that should apply in a special or unusual circumstances including the likelihood of success. However, she said, the appeal was likely to fail.