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26.07.2005 Crime & Punishment

Tsatsu Tsikata Opens Defence

Tsatsu Tsikata Opens Defence

THE former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Tsatsu Tsikata, yesterday opened his defence at the Accra Fast Track High Court in the case in which he is accused of causing financial loss to the state.

That followed the court's dismissal of his application last week asking the court to stay proceedings in the trial.

The court ruled that there was no merit in the application, since the Supreme Court Registrar had complied with the order to transmit documents regarding the case to it.

Tsikata challenged the court's jurisdiction to continue with the case and argued that it breached certain provisions in the 1992 Constitution, as well as clauses in the Supreme Court rules.

He is to answer charges on three counts of causing financial loss of about ¢2.3 billion to the state through a loan he, on behalf of the GNPC, guaranteed for Valley Farms, a private cocoa-producing company, and another count of misapplying public property.

Valley Farms contracted the loan from Caise Francaise de Developement, in 1991 but defaulted in the payment, compelling the GNPC, which acted as the guarantor, to pay it in 1996.

However, his evidence was cut short when he told the court that in order for him to adequately present his case, he would need certain documents related to the Valley Farms transaction which were in the custody of Merchant Bank and Agence Francaise de Development, which granted the loan facility.

Consequently, the court ordered that the Resident Manager of the French agency in Ghana and the Managing Director of the Merchant Bank or his representative be subpoenaed to appear before the court on August 8, 2005, and furnish it with those documents.

Tsikata's counsel, Prof E.V.O.Dankwa, told the court that he, on behalf of his client, had written to those institutions for the submission of the documents but the reply they received indicated that the documents could only be provided upon a court order.

The documents include the feasibility study on the Valley Farms project, its project assessment, correspondence between the Industrial Holdings Limited, a subsidiary of the Merchant Bank in charge of the project, correspondence between the French agency, formerly called Caise Francaise de Developement, and the GNPC regarding the project and communication from the French agency headquarters approving the project.

Led in evidence by his counsel, Tsikata said the Merchant Bank, through Mr Jude Arthur, introduced themselves to the GNPC as a bank charged to meet the various financial requirements of the corporation through financing its oil imports as well as the provision of local currency to purchase the required foreign exchange that would be needed for foreign imports.

After that, he said, there were series of meetings between the GNPC and the bank and it was agreed to mandate the Merchant Bank, to assist in a number of areas.

“A mandate was, therefore, issued to the Merchant Bank by the GNPC in respect of the provision of certain services,” witness said and added that Valley Farms was introduced by the bank within the context of the relationship between it and the GNPC.

He explained that in spite of the interaction with the bank, its subsidiary, Investment Holdings Limited, was to take charge of the Valley Farms project.

According to the witness, all the documents in respect of the agreement on Valley Farms were with the French agency and a request by his counsel to them on July 1, 2005, to make the documents available to enable him to present his case had been turned down in a letter dated July 11, 2005.

At that stage, counsel prayed the court that “we have come to a stage where these documents are useful to the evidence of Mr Tsikata.

We ask Her Lordship to make an order to compel the Resident Manager of Agence Francaise de Developement to appear in court to make the documents available to us.”

The prosecution did not object to the application, saying that would serve the interest of justice.

The presiding judge, Mrs Henrietta Abban, gave the order that the two institutions be subpoenaed to appear in court on the next adjourned date with the documents mentioned.