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26.08.2005 Crime & Punishment

Merchant Bank transferred C20m to MIHL - Witness


Accra, Aug. 26, GNA -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, on Friday told a Fast Track Court (FTC) in Accra that the Merchant Bank Ghana Limited, transferred 20 million cedis into Merban Investment Holding Limited's (MIHL) account.

The Witness, Mrs. Naa Shomeh Gyang, Deputy Manager, Legal Department, MIHL said the cheque with a face value of 20 million cedis, was dated June 13, 1990.

Mrs. Naa Gyang stated that, the transaction was based on a document dated August 18, 1998 and written by the Corporate Manager of the bank to the Chairman of GNPC.

Witness referred to another document and contended that the cheque in question was paid to Valley Farms before Tsatsu instructed payment.

The Witness on Friday appeared with Mrs. Rachael Baddoo, Head of the Legal Department, MIHL.

Major Rowland S. Agbenato (Rtd) was leading Witness in her evidence on the documents, which she had tendered in evidence. The FTC was presided over by Mrs. Justice Henrietta Abban, Appeal Court Judge sitting on the case as a High Court Judge. Leading Counsel for the defence, Prof. Emmanuel Victor Oware Dankwa, was not in court.

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

Tsatsu is charged with four counts of causing financial loss and intentionally misapplying funds totalling 2.345 billion cedis of 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 Development 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 had pleaded not guilty to the charges and the Court, presided over by Mrs. Justice Henrietta Abban, Appeal Court Judge sitting on the case as a High Court judge, had granted him a 700 million-cedi self-recognisance bail.

Witness stated that a receipt was issued against the payment on June 11, 1990 and that confirmed that the transaction was done before Tsatsu gave the instruction.

She agreed with Counsel that, "matters of substance would be reduced to writing and this would form part of the records, some of which you are not able to produce."

At this point, Maj. Agbenator (rtd) remarked: "we want information between the bank and Valley Farms, all those we have are between 1991 and 1993."

Counsel said, he was asking for files ranging from 1987, 1988 and 1989.

Mrs. Gyang told the court that the documents in relation to the courts request on Valley Farms were those retrieved from the bank's archives and that there was none.

During cross-examination by DPP on the documents tendered, Witness was asked to read the second take of "exhibit 30" - the nature of business of GNPC. Witness stated, " petroleum importation, exploration, development, marketing and production."

When DPP enquired from witness if she knew the nature of the business of Valley Farms Limited, she replied, " not specifically, but from the records I thought they have cocoa farm."

In view of the voluminous files, that Counsel had to go through to select vital documents to buttress the defence, Counsel asked for 20 minutes "stand down" of proceedings.

When the court resumed proceedings, Counsel told the court that he realised that the documents in the two files were not in relation to transactions between the Merchant Bank and Valley Farms. However, before Witness was discharged to enable her to bring any other vital documents on the case found in their possession, Counsel wanted to conduct a re-examination on her, but this, the court refused.

The court declared that Tsatsu at that juncture should continue with his examination in chief, but Maj. Agbenato (rtd) said he was tired.

He told the court that it was Prof. Dankwa, leading Counsel who conducted the examination in chief and that he wanted him to continue from where he left off.

When the court enquired from Tsatsu about the leading Counsel's whereabout, Maj. Abenato responded, but the judge wanted Tsatsu to reply. Counsel said since he was representing the accused he felt it was proper to speak for him.

Mr. Osafo Sampong, who reacted said, "you are appearing with Prof. Dankwa and if he is not in, you should be able to continue." The DPP did not object to any of the documents tendered in evidence.

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 September 12, at the instance of defence, for continuation.