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22.07.2004 Crime & Punishment

Acquit and discharge my client-Counsel

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Accra, July 22, GNA- Mr Tony Lithur, counsel in the Ghana Rubber Estates Limited (GREL) Divestiture case on Thursday prayed an Accra Fast Track Court to acquit and discharge his client because the prosecution had failed to prove the case against him.

Addressing the court, counsel said his client did not receive any money from any prosecution witness to influence the privatisation of GREL of which his client, Emmanuel Amuzu Agbodo was the executive secretary.

Mr Lithur is defending Agbodo, charged with collecting 25 million cedis from Dr Albert Owusu-Barnafo, the third prosecution witness, to influence the DIC Board to divest GREL in favour of a French company called Societe Industrielle Plantation Hevea (SIPH). Agbodo has denied the charge and is currently on a self-recognisance bail.

Two others, Hanny Sherry Ayittey, treasurer of the 31st December Women's Movement and Ralph Casely-Hayford, businessman, are being tried jointly with Agbodo on various charges of corruption. They have also denied the charges, and are also on self-recognisance bail.

Counsel recalled that in his evidence-in-chief, Mr Marie Popeler, former Managing Director of GREL and the second prosecution witness, told the court that he gave the money to Agbodo through Dr Owusu-Barnafo who requested for it.

Counsel stated that if Dr Owusu-Barnafo in turn handed over the money to his client at all, as he alleged in his evidence, then it was just a gift, and not to corrupt him to use his position to influence GREL's divestiture in favour of SIPH.

To buttress his argument, counsel told the court that since the divestiture process was completed in June 1996, and the money allegedly got to his client sometime in August-September the same year, it was simply a gift and could not have been meant to influence the process. Counsel said under cross-examination, Dr Owusu-Barnafo told the court that he did not have any prior discussions with Agbodo in connection with the divestiture process and that he could not have used his position to influence it.

Counsel stated further that since his client was not a member of the Technical Evaluating Committee that handled the bids for GREL, he could not as well have the power to influence the privatisation process in favour of the French company.

Counsel told the court that SIPH won the bid for GREL on merit because the company presented a good proposal to the committee. Counsel said based on the arguments propounded, his client committed no crime in the course of going about his normal duties during the period of the divestiture.

He, therefore, prayed the court to acquit and discharge his client. The case has been adjourned to Wednesday, July 28 for continuation.

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