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19.06.2008 General News

Tsikata appeals against conviction

Tsikata appeals against conviction
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Accra, June 18, GNA - Tsatsu Tsikata, Former Chief Executive of Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC), who was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for wilfully causing financial loss to the State and misapplying public property, has filed an appeal against his conviction saying “the verdict is unreasonable and cannot be supported by the evidence”.
He is therefore seeking an order to set aside the judgement of the court and the sentence imposed on him.
In a notice of appeal on Wednesday signed by Tsikata himself, as his lawyer Professor E. V. O. Dankwa, is out of the country, he contended that the trial judge erred in law in deciding that financial loss had been caused simply because payment of monies had been made by GNPC.
According to him, the trial judge erred in law in deciding that there was no provision for indemnity from Valley Farms for the guarantee when the express terms of the guarantee agreement gave GNPC a right of subrogation over the assets of Valley Farms.
It said the trial judge erred in law in deciding that because the said investment in Valley Farms was outside the objects of GNPC, on her interpretation of the statute setting up GNPC, financial loss had thereby been caused to the state.
“The trial judge showed manifest bias against the accused/appellant in the conduct of the trial and particularly in relation to her decision this morning (Wednesday) that she would proceed to give judgement when no notice had been served on the accused to the effect that judgement would be given today.”
According to Tsikata, the trial judge manifested her determination to give a biased judgement by striking out an application by his counsel to introduce further evidence from admissions made by the Attorney-General during the recent Supreme Court proceedings that there was no dispute about the viability of the evidence when his counsel had written to the court to explain his absence and requested a date for the hearing date of the application.
He said the trial judge also erred in disregarding evidence from the prosecution itself that made it clear that the project in relation to which the charges had been brought was a profitable investment which would have yielded benefits to the nation and the GNPC.
Tsikata said the trial judge again erred in claiming that an investment in a cocoa project was unrelated to the business of government when there was uncontested evidence that funding from the export of cocoa was critical to the responsibility of GNPC to import crude oil for the country.
He noted that the trial judge again erred in holding that the accused had admitted in a caution statement that he authorized the GNPC Head of Finance to effect the payment in the charge sheet.
“The trial judge erred in failing to appreciate the role that Merchant Bank played as the trustee of GNPC resources placed in the accounts and the significance of this role.”
An Accra Fast Track High Court on Wednesday sentenced Tsikata 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 Farms 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.
Top officials and supporters of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) including the Founder, Former President Jerry John Rawlings, the Flag bearer Professor John Evans Atta Mills, the running mate, John Dramani Mahama, Dr Kwabena Adjei, National Chairman, Mr Johnson Aseidu-Nketia, General Secretary, Madam Shirley Ayittey, an aide to former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, Esther, wife of Tsikata and General Arnold Quainoo, Former Chief of Defence Staff came to the court to sympathise with Tsikata.
Ms Ama Benyiwa-Doe, NDC National Women's Organiser, wept uncontrollably and was consoled by a member of the Party.