29.07.2005 General News

Luke Butler triumphs

By Chronicle
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Court stops Civil Aviation, Immigration

AN ACCRA Commercial Court has restrained the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), the Ghana Immigration Services (GIS) and Attorney General (AG), their principals and agents, from carrying out the purported revocation of the residential and work permits of two directors of AFRA Airlines, an Australian airline, until final determination of a suit before it. Delivering its ruling yesterday, on the plea of the Australian investors, Luke Butler and Andrew Lachajcezak, Chief Executive Officer and I.T Manager respectively, of AFRA Airlines, the court presided over by Justice Henry Cofie, noted that the plaintiffs should not be prevented from moving into or going out of the country, until the suit is finalized.

The court upheld that greater hardship is put on plaintiffs in view of the deportation order given by a letter dated June 2, 2005 from the Minister of Interior; declaring their continuous stay in the country would be a criminal offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

The court further indicated that the Minister of Interior has powers under the law to revoke the residential permit of foreign nationals if their presence is not conducive to the country and therefore could not be bound to observe the natural justice rule the plaintiffs claim in their arguments.

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

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

They further sought, in addition to cost and other reliefs, an order that defendants by their action were unfair and unreasonable, which constituted 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.

On June 23, 2005, the court granted the AG's request of a mandatory 30-day written notice required under the law before it was sued.

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 averred that following the 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), effective November 24, 2004 to reside in the country.

According to plaintiffs, they applied for an Air Carrier License (ACL) meant to carry cargo and passengers worldwide and were given the license, followed by a review on January 12, 2005 by the Acting Director-General of GCAA.

They argued 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 the sub region.

Coincidentally, plaintiffs noted, by a letter dated February 4, 2005, the GCAA informed Plaintiff Company that it had been directed by the Minister for Roads and Transport, Dr. Richard Anane, to suspend the ACL issued to AFRA Airlines without any reasons.

Additionally, plaintiffs point out that another letter of May 5, 2005 was received from the GCAA, being an order by the Chief of Staff and Minister for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Kojo Mpiani, to revoke plaintiffs' license.

Plaintiffs intimated that the suspension and subsequent revocation of its license was improper and that the GCAA and the AG's conduct was meant to undermine their business and investment, as the actions of the two government officials were wrong and constituted a breach of Act 678 and L.I. 1075.

Subsequently, the plaintiffs noted that a letter from the Director of GIS notified that their work and residence permits had been annulled with effect from June 2, 2005 and the airline's ACL had been revoked and therefore had no authority to operate in the country.

Plaintiffs' counsel, Mr. Tony Lithur, had argued that his clients were not treated fairly by the authorities before revoking their licenses, since they were not given the opportunity to respond to the queries made by the Ghanaian authorities, in spite of their heavy investments.

Counsel for second defendants, GIS, had argued that the plaintiffs' application was premature since the letter written to them had a window of opportunity where they could reapply for the permits.

Counsel indicated that plaintiffs had not made any attempt to apply for the permit as requested by the immigration.

Chief State Attorney, Kathleen Quartey Ayensu in her arguments, indicated that the presence of plaintiffs in the country, in the view of the authorities, was not conducive for the country as it led to the revocation and subsequent invalidation of the work and residential permit of plaintiffs.

The chief state attorney held that it would not be fair to ban ministers from doing what they were required to do under the law, in the interest of the country.

The Chief of Staff, Mr.Kwadwo Mpiani now has oversight over the Aviation which used to be part of the Ministry under the aegis of Dr. Richard Anane.

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