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08.12.2009 Business & Finance

NIB Requested For Pre-Imbursement

By Daily Graphic
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The Director of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP) yesterday informed the court hearing the trial of a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and a former Managing Director of the National Investment Bank (NIB), that the NIB requested for re-imbursement of moneys paid for the importation of 300,000 bags of rice.

Mr Mark Anthony Madde told the Financial Division of the Fast Track High Court that the February 2009 request letter from the NIB to the ministry also urged the ministry to exempt the bank from paying taxes on the warehousing of the imported rice.

Giving his evidence-in-chief in the case in which Akwasi Osei-Adjei and Daniel Charles Gyimah have been accused of wilfully causing financial loss to the state, Mr Madde told the court that the MoFEP decided to follow up and seek detailed information on the transaction because the ministry was not privy to events that led to the importation of the rice.

Osei-Adjei and Gyimah were alleged to have acted together to steal 2,997 bags of rice, valued at US$1,408,590, but lawyers for the accused persons have argued that diplomatic efforts embarked upon by the accused persons to solve the food shortage in the country had been “criminalised”.

The two have been charged with eight counts of conspiracy, contravention of provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663), using public office for profit, stealing and wilfully causing financial loss to the state.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges and were each admitted to bail in the sum of GH¢200,000 with two sureties each to be justified.

Continuing with his evidence-in-chief, Mr Madde stated that the MoFEP’s checks revealed that events leading to the importation of the rice had received the backing of the previous government.

He said after the checks, the ministry recommended that the rice be sold to prevent any losses and in the event of any liability, the NIB was to bear it.

According to the witness, because the ministry was kept “in the dark” in the transaction and subsequent importation of the rice from India, the ministry recommended a forensic audit into the transactions.

Mr Madde told the court that an inventory of the imported rice was carried out in the presence of the media.

During cross-examination from counsel for Osei-Adjei, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, the witness told the court that the letter requesting for tax exemption on the imported rice was signed by the acting Managing Director of the NIB and the two accused persons.

He said the government was not obliged to pay for any transaction entered into by the NIB and further stated that he did not recall the response when it was enquired at a meeting whether or not the board of NIB approved the transaction.

The witness told the court that he was also aware that former President J. A. Kufuor initiated and approved the rice importation, adding that he was also not aware whether or not public funds were disbursed during the transaction.

Asked whether or not he was aware that it was unlawful for anyone to put taxes on the importation of rice as at the time the NIB applied for tax exemption, Mr Madde said he was not aware. Mr Dame then gave him a copy of Act 758 (2008) and requested him to read out to the court, the portions which gave the tax exemptions.

He also told the court that the NIB was currently taking charge of the sale of the rice. Counsel for Gyimah, Colonel Alex Johnson (retd) is expected to cross-examine the witness today.

Earlier, the trial judge, Mr Justice Bright Mensah, had overruled an application from Mr Dame praying the court to stay proceedings until a contempt motion filed against the Enquirer newspaper was heard.

Counsel had argued that the newspaper had published stories imputing that the accused persons had influenced prosecution witnesses to testify in their favour.

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