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13.12.2002 General News

Court of Appeal dismisses Abodakpi's application

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The Court of Appeal has unanimously, dismissed an application filed on behalf of Daniel Kwasi Abodakpi, former Minister for Trade and Industry on whether he should be tried summarily or by indictment.

The Court, which comprised Justice Omari Sasu, presiding, Justice Bawa Akamba and Justice S.K. Asiamah described the application as unnecessary and uncalled for.

On 4 November Kwabla Senanu, representing Abodakpi asked an Accra Fast Track Court to try his client by indictment, since he might not have fair trial when tried summarily.

Justice Stephen T. Farkye, an Appeal Court Judge, who sat on the case as an additional High Court Judge, dismissed the application and ruled that the court was not empowered to try the offenders by indictment.

Abodakpi and Victor Selormey, former Deputy Finance Minister, are being tried on seven counts of conspiracy to commit crime, defrauding by false pretences and wilfully causing a total loss of 2.73bn cedis to the State.

They have denied all the charges and are currently on self-recognisance bail in the sum of 3bn cedis each. In dismissing the application, the judges were of the view that a case could be tried on indictment if the offence was punishable by death or life imprisonment or when the offence fell under a first degree felony.

"Offences which do not fall under the trial on indictment shall be tried summarily." They said in the case where the statute was silent on the mode of trial the Attorney-General (AG) has the right to choose the mode of trial but whereas the statute defined the mode of trial then the AG was bound to go by it.

The offences under which the appellant has been charged with fell on second degree felony which stipulated that accused could be fined five 3m cedis or go to jail for a term not exceeding 10 years or to both.

The judges said the fact that there has been an enhancement of punishment that did not change the category of offence. Arguing his points at the Court of Appeal earlier, Senanu said the trial judge at the Fast Track Court erred in law when he ruled that his client should be tried summarily.

Counsel said that since the trial would involve calling several witnesses, it would take a long time to complete. He stated that offences under which his client has been charged are complicated and there is a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment on the charge of defrauding by false pretences.

Senanu further argued that when his client is tried summarily documents and other related material would not be made available to his client, but under trial of indictment the appellant could be given documents in advance.

"If my client is tried summarily the respondent could spring surprises on us" he added. Replying, Anthony Gyambiby, a Principal State Attorney, said the decision of the Fast Track Court was right saying the punishment for the offence of causing financial loss and defrauding by false pretences would run concurrently.

Gyambiby said to ensure a fair trial, facts have been read in court, appellant has been given the opportunity to select counsel and has access to documents in respect of the case, adding he can subpoena any of the prosecution witnesses when the need arose.

He further stated that the Attorney-General has the right to exercise the power of choice as to try the appellant summarily or not. The case for the prosecution is that between May and December 2000, the accused persons allegedly transferred 4,000 dollars into the local bank account of Dr Fred Owusu-Boadu, a consultant, through ECOBANK (Ghana) Limited.

The money's transfer were authorized by Selormey, was to be used as fees for feasibility studies towards the establishment of the project.

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