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23.03.2004 General News

Court urged to exercise discretionary powers judiciously - Counsel

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Accra, March 23, GNA - Mr David O. Lamptey, Counsel for Hanny Sherry Ayittey, Treasurer of the 31st December Women's Movement, has urged an Appeal Court in Accra to exercise its discretionary powers judiciously in a stay of proceeding motion brought before it on behalf of his client.

"Because stay of proceedings is all discretional", he said. Mr Lamptey stated that there had been an error in the application of the law and that the Lower Court erred in not considering Ayittey's submission of no case to answer, but asked her to open her defence in the trial at a Fast Track Court in Accra, in the Ghana Rubber Estates Limited (GRSL) privatisation case.

Counsel was making submissions on behalf of his client at the Court, presided over by Mr Justice J. B. Akamba in Accra on Tuesday. The two other panel members were Mr Justice Emmanuel A. Addo and Mrs Justice Henrietta Abban.

Ayittey together with Emmanuel Amuzu Agbodo, former Executive Secretary of the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC), Ralph Casely-Hayford, Businessman, and Sati Dorcas Ocran, a Housewife, were all alleged to have influenced the DIC Board to divest GREL in favour of Societe Industrielle Plantation Hevea (SIPH).

An Accra Fast Track Court, presided over by Mr Justice J.C. Amonoo-Monney had earlier ruled that Ayittey, Agbodo and Casely-Hayford have a case to answer on various corruption charges, while Ocran was freed for lack of evidence.

The Court, however, acquitted Ayittey on three counts out of six - receiving various sums of money made up of 20,000 dollars; 250,000 dollars and 25 million cedis - from Dr Albert Owusu Barnafo, a Consultant of GREL, to allegedly influence her in the divestiture of the company in favour of SIPH.

Ayittey and Agbodo filed their motions at the Appeal Court for stay of proceedings and submission of no case to answer. Casely-Hayford, however, decided to open his defence.

Mr Lamptey argued that the Trial Judge should have carefully assessed the evidence of the case whether it was weak or not, but failed to do so.

"But in much the same way, the Prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against my client in view of lack of evidence", he said.

He described the trial as being unfair to Ayittey.

The Counsel said there was no evidence to prove that his client committed the crime in her capacity as a member of the DIC and by law, could not have been called upon to open her defence on those charges. He submitted that the Lower Court erred in counts three, four and five.

He argued that in 1996 there was no divestiture to warrant Ayittey to collect any money to influence anybody.

Counsel stated that there was no evidence adduced by the Prosecution to prove the essential ingredients regarding Ayittey's influencing any officer.

Counsel contended that since the Prosecution did not prove its case beyond reasonable doubt she should have been acquitted as in the case of Mrs Ocran.

Counsel contended further that the Prosecution could not make any inference of criminal collaboration between Ayittey and Mrs Ocran.

Mr Eric Amison Agboloso, Chief State Attorney, told the court that Ayittey committed the alleged offence in 1998, while she was a member of the DIC Board.

Mr Agboloso said in 1996 there was a memorandum of understanding in which an agreement on the divestiture was reached.

The case was rescheduled for March 31 for continuation.

When Mr Johnson H. Senoo, representing Agbodo, took his turn to defend his client's motion for stay of proceedings and appeal against opening his defence, the Court said he was not being precise. The Presiding Judge, therefore, asked him to "go and put your house in order and when you have prepared well, come back".

The appeal of Agbodo, who was alleged to have received 15 million cedis from Dr. Barnafo to influence the divestiture of GREL, was, therefore, adjourned indefinitely.