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20.01.2011 General News

Tsikata finally wins at Supreme Court

By Ivy Benson - Ghanaian Chronicle
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By: Ivy Benson
A-five-year-conviction secured by the State in June 2008 against the former Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) boss, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, for causing financial loss to the state, may be re-opened for further evidence to be adduced by the legal mogul.

This development followed a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court yesterday, that the International Financial Corporation (IFC), which the former GNPC boss was requesting to come before the Fast Track Court (FTC) to give evidence in his case, was not immune from legal processes.

However, the court, presided over by Justice William Attugubah, by a -3:2-majority decision, dismissed the application filed by Mr. Tsikata to compel the Country Director of IFC to give evidence in the case that had been leveled against him before the FTC.

Other members of the panel included Justices Sophia Akuffo, Mrs. Sophia Adinyrah, Julius Ansah and Mrs. Vida Akoto Bamfoe.

The application before the court was an appeal filed by the former GNPC boss against the Court of Appeal's earlier affirmation of the decision of the trial High Court, dismissing an application to compel the IFC, an affiliate of the World Bank, to testify in his trial.

In its majority decision read by Justice (Mrs.) Sophia Adinyrah and supported by Justices Sophia Akuffo and Julius Ansah, the immunity of the Country Director of the IFC and other officers at the World Bank Affilliate, is upheld by the Vienna Convention, which Ghana is a signatory to, adding that the intention of the Country Director of the IFC, of not waiving his immunity must be respected.

According to the majority decision, the request of Mr. Tsikata to call any witness to give evidence is not absolute, stressing that the immunity of the IFC country Director is inline with Diplomatic relations and, therefore, not a compellable witness.

However, the majority decision agreed with the decision of the Minority, read by Justice Attugabah and supported by Justice Akoto Bamfoe that the IFC as an entity is not immune from legal processes.

According to the Minority decision, both the IFC and the Country Director of the IFC are not immune to legal process, as the individual interest of fair trial over rides the IFC's immunity.

Mr. Tsikata, who is currently enjoying a presidential pardon after he was sentenced by the FTC, halted the Supreme Court from pronouncing its ruling on the application filed before it, explaining that the trial high Court had already sentenced him.

He had, at the time, noted that he was contesting his imprisonment, which did not consider a pending application filed at the Supreme Court, regarding the request to compel the IFC/ Country Director of the IFC to give evidence in the case.

Mr. Tsikata was requesting the IFC to give evidence in his trial at the FTC, following the role it played in the Valley Farms affair, a cocoa production venture, over two decades ago.

The conviction of the former GNPC boss, after six years of trial, on three counts of causing financial loss to the state and one count of intentionally misapplying public property by guaranteeing a loan of 5.5 million French Francs from Caisse Francaise de Developement, a French company, to Valley Farms, a limited liability company.

He was further accused of using a total amount of ¢20 million, belonging to the GNPC, to acquire shares in the French company, when he was in office.

It was the case of the prosecution that Valley Farms, subsequently defaulted in the payment of the loan, as a result of which the GNPC settled the debt, when it was requested to do so.

In a post-court interview with the journalists, Mr. Tsikata indicated that if the Supreme Court had ruled that the IFC had no immunity from legal processes, then the FTC's subpoena issued against the IFC still holds.

He was further of the view that the Supreme Court ruling renders his conviction invalid, since the case against him had not yet ended for judgment to be pronounced.

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