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20.04.2004 General News

Judge testifies in Interpreter's bribery scandal

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Accra, April 20, GNA - An Accra High Court Judge on Tuesday found himself at an unusual position in a courtroom when he appeared as a Prosecution Witness in a bribery case involving a Court Interpreter. Mr Justice George A. Aryeetey, the High Court Judge, was in the witness box at an Accra Circuit Court to give evidence against Ahmed Abubakar, an Interpreter at his court, who allegedly collected money from the family of two Convicts in a murder trial to influence the Jurors.

The High Court Judge, who preceded his answers with "Your Honour" at the Court presided over by Mr Williwise Kyeremeh, comported himself and gave due respect to the Lower Court Judge.

Abubakar is charged with accepting or giving 21 million cedis bribe to influence public officers. He has pleaded not guilty and has been granted 80 million cedis bail with three sureties.

Mr Justice Aryeetey, led in evidence by Superintendent of Police Elizabeth Alormatu, said when the murder trial began, two elderly men came to his house with an envelope to intercede for two Convicts - Francis Tetteh Yartey alias Okumani, 43, and Tetteh Yartey alias Dan Breaker, 38, both Farmers, who were charged with murder and causing harm, respectively, with offensive weapons.

Witness said after the two elderly men had informed him about their mission, he told them that the case was neither being tried in his house nor did he sell justice.

Mr Justice Aryeetey said, he told them to allow him to go through the murder case with an independent mind and if the convicts were not guilty of the charges preferred against them they would be acquitted and discharged.

He said as a result of the encounter he sensed that his Court Clerks and the Prosecution might be manipulated so he assembled them the following day and told the about what had transpired in his house.

Mr Justice Aryeetey said the Prosecutor in the case informed him that the Convicts had approached him about the same issue but that he turned down their request.

He said three months later, two of the Jurors reported to him that Abubakar had attempted to influence them.

Mr Justice Aryeetey said he became furious and had wanted to cause the dismissal of Abubakar but the Jurors pleaded that he should wait for them to be sure if Abubakar were serious about his request.

The High Court Judge said while he was at a funeral sometime later, he received a phone call from one of the Jurors, who informed him that Abubakar and the Convicts had met the two of them and had proposed to offer every Juror five million cedis and that they had feigned interest. Witness said the Convicts after the meeting with the Jurors made an initial payment of three million cedis.

Justice Aryeetey said he reported the matter to the Chief Justice George Kingsley Acquah, who asked the Jurors to continue with the case. Mr Justice Aryeetey said two weeks later, Abubakar and the two Convicts gave the Jurors additional seven million cedis.

He said he continued with the trial until the seven-member jury returned a verdict of guilty on the Convicts.

He said he made public what had transpired after sentencing the accused persons in the murder trial.

Mr Justice Aryeetey said he then formally reported the matter to Chief Justice Acquah and when Abubakar was confronted he admitted the offence and pleaded for leniency. He was, however, handed over to the Police.

Before cross-examining Mr Justice Aryeetey, the Counsel for the accused, Mr Agyie Lartey asked: "My Lord is it pleasant or unpleasant to cross-examine his Lordship?"

The Presiding Judge, Mr Kyeremeh interceded and said: "Counsel you have been engaged so go ahead with your duty." Mr Lartey said Abubakar had no interest in the case but acted as a messenger.

Mr Justice Aryeetey disagreed with him and said; "because of Abubakar's interest in the case he travelled at all length to contact the Convicts in order to work out a plan to influence the jury".

The case of the Prosecution was that about two years ago the Abubakar, who was working at an Accra High Court that was trying a murder case involving Francis Tetteh Yartey and Tetteh Yartey collected 21 million cedis from the Convicts to influence the Jury.

Abubakar allegedly gave 10 million cedis to the Jurors and kept 11 million cedis for himself. The Prosecution said he admitted the offence during Police investigations.

The case was adjourned to May 4.

An Accra Fast Track High Court presided over by Mr Justice Aryeetey on April 1 sentenced Francis Tetteh Yartey and Tetteh Yartey to death. After handing down the sentences to the Convicts for the murder of two brothers and injuring three others during unrest at Aplaku in Accra six years ago, Justice Aryeetey revealed that there had been an attempt to bribe him and the Jurors.

Immediately the Judge ended his revelation, the audience in the courtroom clapped their hands and broke into jubilation by pouring powder onto one another.

Some of them loudly asked for God's blessing for the Trial Judge. The two convicts were whisked away to begin their respective sentences. The case for the Prosecution was that in 1997, Nii Okoso Mensah was enstooled as Chief of Aplaku by Nii Kojo Ababoi, Sempe Mantse and ever since, there had been unrest in the village.

The Prosecution said because of the enstoolment, on May 5, 1999, a protracted dispute erupted between the Sempe and Ada factions and during one of the clashes Oko Ofori and Tawiah Ofori, brothers, and one Amoah lost their lives.

The Prosecution said eight people identified Francis Tetteh Yartey as the one who shot and killed the two brothers. He also shot one Busua Coffie in the leg and Odartso Botsoe in the breast while Tetteh Yartey shot Victoria Adams in the leg and she was hospitalised for three weeks. 20 April 04

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