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16.01.2004 General News

Casely-Hayford opens defence

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Accra, Jan 16, GNA - Ralph Casely-Hayford, Businessman, on trial at an Accra Fast Track High Court in the Ghana Rubber Estates Limited (GREL) divestiture case, on Friday denied ever discussing any issue with three of the prosecution witnesses, who visited him at his office in connection with the company's privatisation.

Casely-Hayford made the denial when he opened his defence. Casely-Hayford is being tried together with two others for their alleged involvement in corrupt practices in the course of GREL's divestiture.

The two are Hanny Sherry Ayittey, Treasurer of the 31st December Women's Movement (DWM) and Emmanuel Amuzu Agbodo, former Executive Secretary of the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC).

The accused persons were alleged to have used their various positions to influence the DIC Board to divest GREL in favour of a French company called Societe Industrrielle Plantation Hevea (SIPH). They have all denied their charges, and the trial judge, Mr Justice J. C. Amonoo-Monney, Appeal Court Judge with an additional responsibility on the matter as a High Court Judge, has admitted each of them to a self-recognisance bail.

Continuing with his evidence under cross-examination by Mr Osafo Sampong, Director of Public Prosecutions, Casely-Hayford told the court that two of the three prosecution witnesses, visited him at his office at Pig Farm on two occasions to deliver invitation cards for parties. He said on those occasions the two, Dr Albert Owusu-Banarfo, Consultant of SIPH and Madam Georgina Okaiteye, Member of the 31st DWM, never discussed any issues with him because according to them they were in a hurry to go to some place.

Casely-Hayford said on their third visit, the two people came in the company of the third prosecution witness, Mr Etienne Marie Popeler, former Managing Director of GREL.

He told the Court that during all these visits, Madam Okaiteye, who he knew because they had both grown up from their infancy, never introduced any of the two to him.

Casely-Hayford stated that when he honoured an invitation for a party for old folks from Madam Okaiteye, he met the three people at the entrance, but could not make Mr Popeler out.

He said he never met the three people again until May 2001 when he was arrested and detained at the CID Headquarters.

Led in evidence by his counsel, Casely-Hayford earlier denied ever receiving an amount of 70 million cedis from the three people, and further denied ever having any connections with Mr Dan Abodakpi, then member of the DIC Board, who Casely-Hayford allegedly influenced with the money. The case has been adjourned to Wednesday, January 21.

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