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24.06.2005 Business & Finance

Afra Boss’ licence revocation Court stops GIS, GCAA

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AN ACCRA Commercial Court hearing the plea of two Australian investors, whose residential and work permits were revoked by the authorities early this month, has ordered the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) and their agents including the minister from taking any further steps in revoking the said licenses pending the hearing of the suit.

The court, presided over by Justice Henry Cofie, further ordered that the movements of the plaintiffs, Luke Butler and Andrew Lachajcezak, Chief Executive Officer and I.T Manager respectively, of AFRA Airlines, from in and out of the country should not be hindered.

Giving its ruling on an essential technical argument under Act 555, raised by the Attorney-General (AG) for a 30-day notice before a suit can be commenced against the defendants, the court further ordered the plaintiffs to give the mandatory 30 days notice to the AG, which should be served on them by the close of day today, June 24, 2005.

Regarding whether or not the notice will affect the other defendants, the court held that the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the GIS are by law, statutory and corporate bodies, which can sue and be sued and therefore were not entitled to the 30 days notice claimed by the AG.

It additionally held that the suit against GCAA and the GIS are not premature as the Chief State Attorney, Kathleen Quartey Ayensu argued before the court.

The Chief State Attorney, had argued that plaintiffs' action was premature as it had not given a 30-day written notice to the AG as required under by law for any person who intended to institute a civil action against the state.

She noted also that an injunction order could not be issued on any of the defendants, and therefore called on the court to stay proceedings until the plaintiffs had met the 30-day written notice they were requeting.

Arguing further, the state attorney noted that the GCAA and the GIS are conduits for government plans and that the state is the real interested party among the defendants.

Lawyers for Messrs Afra Airlines, Messrs Lithur, Brew and Co., countered the arguments raised by the defence counsel, saying that GCAA and the GIS were created by statute and as statutory bodies, could sue and be sued in their own rights and were responsible for their own acts of commission and omissions.

Plaintiff counsel, Mr. Tony Lithur, noted that it was unfair for his clients to give a 30-day written notice due to the revocation of their permits.

According to counsel, even if the judge were minded to grant the AG's application of a stay of proceedings for them to be given the proper notice, the action could still proceed against Immigration and Civil Aviation with the consideration of the interlocutory injunction sought by the claimant.

Besides, counsel maintained it would be ludicrous, in the matter of such urgency, to expect his clients to wait 30 days before commencing the suit.

AFRA Airlines, together with its directors, on June 9, 2005 issued a Writ of Summons against the GCAA with GIS and the AG as co-defendants.

The plaintiffs are seeking the order of the court to restrain the defendants and their agents from carrying out or taking any further steps on the notice contained in a letter dated June 2, 2005, revoking their residential and work permits by the GIS and the AG.

They are further seeking in addition to cost and other reliefs, an order that defendants by their action are unfair and unreasonable, which constitute a breach of Act 678, L.I. 1075, Articles 23 and 296 of the 1992 Constitution and should therefore rescind their decision and reinstate their residential and work permits.

In an affidavit in support of their motion, plaintiffs noted that since the incorporation of AFRA Airlines under the laws of the country, it had concretized its objectives with an amount of US$8.5million investment and employed 40 people; however, half of the people were laid off, following defendants' action, even though frantic efforts at widening its operations were undertaken.

Plaintiffs held that following their investment made in the country, the two co-defendants issued them with a year's residential and work permit under section 13 (1) of the immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) with effect from November 24, 2004 to reside in the country.

According to them, plaintiff's company applied for an Air Carrier License (ACL) meant to carry cargo and passengers worldwide and was given the license and a review followed in January 12, 2005 by the Acting Director General of GCAA, adding that the airline was further issued with an Air Travel Organizer's License by the Ghana Tourist Board, when an application was made on January 13, 2005.

Plaintiffs noted that while waiting for the review of the ACL, CTK CityLink Airline publicly announced on February 3, 2005 that it would co-operate with Plaintiff Company to assist offering domestic services in West African.

The court has fixed July 27, 2005 to hear the motion filed by the plaintiffs.

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