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24.08.2005 Crime & Punishment

Tsatsu's Counsel requests additional documents from Witness


Accra, Aug. 24, GNA - An Accra Fast Track High Court (FTC) on Wednesday ordered a Witness in the case in which Tsatsu Tsikata, Former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), is accused of causing financial loss to the State, to bring additional correspondence to Court on Friday.

The correspondence is in respect of documents between Merchant Bank Ghana Limited, GNPC and Valley Farms Limited.

The FTC presided over by Mrs Justice Henrietta Abban, Appeal Court Judge sitting on the case as a High Court Judge, directed Witness to submit volumes one and three of the correspondence dating as far back as 1989.

Major Rowland S. Agbanato (rtd), counsel in the Defence Team, made the request to the Court, when he led a Witness, Mrs Naa Shomeh Gyang, Deputy Manager, Legal Department of Merban Investment Holdings Limited (MIHL), to continue with evidence on certain documents she had earlier tended in the Court.

Counsel had stated that the correspondence would boost its defence, as well as refresh its memory.

Tsikata is charged with four counts of causing financial loss and intentionally misapplying funds totalling 2.345 billion cedis to the State through a loan he guaranteed on behalf of the GNPC for Valley Farms Company, a private cocoa buying company.

The Company contracted the loan from Caisse Fran=E7aise de Developpement in 1991 but defaulted in payment. GNPC, which acted as the guarantor, therefore, paid it in 1996.

The offence, according to the Prosecution, was contrary to Section 1(2) of the Public Property Protection Decree 1977 (SMCD140). Tsatsu has pleaded not guilty to the charges and the Court has granted him a 700 million-cedi self-recognisance bail. Leading Counsel for the defence, Prof. Emmanuel Victor Oware Dankwa, was absent from court.

Mr Osafo Sampong, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Mr Augustines rpt Augustines Obour are representing the State.

Naa Gyang told the court that as an institution, the Merchant Bank held funds for firms and people to invest.

According to her, the Merchant Bank gave advice on such funds and acted as trustees.

Giving evidence on a document marked and identified by the court as "Exhibit 30", the Deputy Manager said on August 9, 1989 a meeting of the Board of GNPC was held at GNPC Board room and it passed a resolution that stated that a current account be opened with the Merchant Bank Ghana Limited.

It stated: "The Bank be and is hereby authorised to honour cheques, bills of exchange and promissory notes made on behalf of the Company by Tsatsu, Eric Cato-Browne, Thomas Trogart Fabyan, Augustus Obuadum Tanoh, Joe Akaba and Maxwell David Okine Sowah."

She said the content was obtained from a certified true extract from the minutes of the meeting.

The Witness agreed with Counsel that even before Valley Farms was established, Merchant Bank was in trusteeship for GNPC.

The Deputy Manager referred from one of the correspondence and averred that Valley Farms Limited had approached GNPC for a loan. She added that it was on that basis that MIHL approached GNPC, to provide guarantee.

According to the Witness, it was as a result of the guarantee that GNPC provided the money to Valley Farms Limited. She said when Valley Farms Limited defaulted in the payment GNPC stepped in the shoes of the foreign firm and made the payment. She contended that there were steps taken to put pressure on GNPC to settle the loan.

"It has become clear that MIHL advised GNPC to invest in Valley Farms Limited", she said.

The DPP did not object to a letter from GNPC to Merchant Bank, which was tendered in evidence by Witness. It was in respect of a renewed mandate and signed by Executive Director, Finance and Administration of GNPC.

In March 2003, the FTC overruled the submission of no case filed by Tsatsu and ordered that he should open his defence in the case. Tsatsu then filed an appeal at the Appeals Court in November 2004, which was dismissed on the grounds that it lacked merit and, therefore, ordered him to go back to the FTC to open his defence. He filed an appeal to challenge the Appeals Court's ruling at the Supreme Court and this was also overruled.

The accused again went to the Supreme Court for a review and that also failed.

The case was adjourned to August 26 for continuation.