The Public Relations Department of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has brought to the notice of the Press and the general public some issues pertaining to the work of the Serious Fraud Office and its procedures for informing persons or public institutions affected by the investigations, of the results of the investigations.
A press release dated 11 July 2003 and signed by Ms Eevelyn Bekoe, Head of Public Relations on behalf of the Acting Executive Director of the SFO, explained that it had become necessary for the SFO to clarify the situation in view of recent press reports which had alleged the existence and or completion of certain “reports” or “memos” of Serious Fraud Office investigations in both the electronic and print media.
“Among the functions of the Serious Fraud Office, is the investigation of suspected white collar crimes in which the State has interest. Invariably persons affected by the investigation are interested in knowing the results of the investigations.
However, it is unlawful to publish findings of investigations, which make criminals and convicts of persons who have not been found guilty by a court of law. The findings of the Serious Fraud Office are still the SFO’s view of the facts and they must be confirmed by a court of law”, Ms Bekoe underscored.
Thus the practice of the press in publishing alleged “reports” of cases investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and attribute the sources of their information to the SFO is highly objectionable and unlawful, she stressed. The only lawful source of information from the Serious Fraud Office on investigations conducted is the Ag. Executive Director or the Head of Public Relations, the duly authorised persons to release any findings, to the press where and when it becomes necessary to do so, she added.
“Currently making the rounds in both the electronic and print media and attributed to the SFO are alleged “reports” from investigation of three cases, namely Ghana Free Zones Board (GFZB), Tema Municipal Assembly (TMA) and SSNIT’s acquisition of shares in Obotan Developers Limited. We state as a fact that, we have investigated these matters but categorically deny that we have issued and released “reports” and or “memos” to any journalists or media houses to publish same.
We accordingly challenge any media houses or journalists to prove the authenticity of the “reports”, she challenged. The SFO stated emphatically that it does not release “reports” to the press as is being trumpeted or stated both in the electronic and print media.”
“The SFO after investigations build dockets and prefers charges and forwards the dockets to the Attorney General’s office for advice and the authority to prosecute”, Ms Bekoe observed.
“Indeed whilst appreciating the interest shown by the press in the work of the SFO, the SFO appeals to the public and press in particular to verify information on cases being investigated from the SFO through Head of Public Relations before using it in their articles, etc”, she concluded.