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24.06.2004 General News

I did not take any bribe from Dr Owusu-Barnafo - Agbodo

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Accra, June 24, GNA - Emmanuel Amuzu Agbodo, former Executive Secretary of the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC), said on Thursday that he did not receive any bribe from Dr Albert Owusu-Barnafo, a Prosecution Witness in the Ghana Rubber Estates Limited (GREL) divestiture case.

Opening his defence at an Accra Fast Track Court (FTC) hearing the case, Agbodo further denied ever doing anything to influence the divestiture of GREL in favour of Societe Industrielle Plantation Hevea (SIPH), French Company.

Agbodo and two others are being tried at the Court for their alleged involvement in bribery and corruption in connection with the divestiture of GREL.

The two are Hanny Sherry Ayittey, Treasurer of the 31st December Women's Movement and Ralph Casely-Hayford, Businessman.

They have all pleaded not guilty to their various charges, and the trial judge, Mr Justice J. C. Amonoo-Monney, Appeal Court Judge with additional responsibility on the case as a High Court Judge, had admitted each of them to a self-recognisance bail.

Mr David Lamptey is defending Ayittey while Agbodo and Casely-Hayford have Mr John-Hanson Senoo and Mr Rodney Heward-Mills, respectively, as their Counsel.

Mr Osafo Sampong, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is representing the State.

Agbodo led in evidence by his Counsel, told the Court that during his tenure of office as Executive Secretary of DIC from 1990 to 2001, he did everything in line with procedures as laid down by the Committee as far as the privatisation of GREL was concerned. Asked by Counsel when he got to know Dr Owusu-Barnafo, Agbodo said the first time he came into contact with him was sometime in 1992 at a social gathering.

Agbodo said from that time onwards, Dr Owusu-Barnafo followed it up to his office to look for consultancy services, but he (Agbodo) did not offer him any job.

Agbodo told the Court that during 1996 Christmas, Dr Owusu-Barnafo brought him a present, but left it with the reception.

Agbodo said the hamper Dr Owusu-Barnafo brought contained assorted drinks and biscuits plus an envelope containing five million cedis. He told the Court that the following day when he enquired from Dr Owusu-Barnafo about the items, he said they were only Christmas parcel for him.

Asked by Counsel whether Dr Owusu-Barnafo was the only person from whom he received hampers at Christmas, Agbodo replied in the negative, saying that he also had gifts from other friends, well wishers and those who loved him.

Agbodo had earlier taken the Court through the processes, which the GREL divestiture programme went through in 1993, and said an Evaluation Team executed it.

He stated that after the bids for the divestiture of GREL were opened, the team invited prospective investors for negotiations. He said after the negotiations the Team, which was also known as the Technical Committee, presented its report that formed the basis of memorandum to the DIC Board for approval.

Asked by Counsel whether as the Executive Secretary he had powers to alter or vary the negotiations, Agbodo responded in the negative. He said when companies, including SIPH, expressed interest in the divestiture programme, he wrote and invited them for negotiations, which took eight months to complete.

Agbodo told the Court that at the end of the day, the Committee agreed that SIPH should be given the bid for GREL, but members disagreed on the price offer.

He said instead of the 20 million French Francs offered by SIPH, the Company was made to add an additional one million French Francs. Agbodo said when the Former President Jerry John Rawlings finally became satisfied with the price offer from SIPH on June 14, 1996, he authorised his secretary to officially write to inform the Company that it had won the bid for GREL.

Asked by Counsel whether either he personally or any member of the DIC did intimate or suggest to SIPH that it had won the divestiture, prior to the authorisation from Former President Rawlings, Agbodo's answer was an emphatic no.

The case has been adjourned to Friday. The Director of public Prosecution would cross-examine Agbodo.