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12.09.2005 Crime & Punishment

Tsatsu's legal team wants Judge off

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Accra, Sept. 12, GNA - Professor Emmanuel Victor Oware Dankwa, leading counsel for Tsatsu Tsikata, former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), accused of causing financial loss to the State, on Monday told an Accra Fast Track Court Judge to disassociate herself from the case. Prof. Dankwa said, "we want you to disassociate yourself in this case, because a media report of proceedings of August 26, this year, indicated that you have shown a case of clear bias." Leading Counsel was referring to the "TIMES" and Daily Graphic Edition of August 26, this year. Prof. Dankwa, who was absent from court on the last adjourned date, said the Graphic had a headline: "Nobody is at war with Tsikata." According to him, this was a serious report and that it was bias against the accused person, adding it could determine the guilt of his client. Responding to the statement, the FTC, presided over by Mrs. Justice Henrietta Abban, Appeal Court Judge sitting on the case as a High Court Judge, stated, "I have not shown a clear case of bias." She stressed that if counsel had any case, he could take it up with the higher authorities of the judiciary. Mrs. Abban contended that so far as she was concerned, she did not think that she had been bias against the accused person. She blamed Prof. Dankwa, who was absent on August 25, for not informing the Court Registrar or his co-counsel. The trial judge said since nobody was able to tell the court where Prof. Dankwa was, the situation was indeed an embarrassment. Mrs. Abban said, "I felt that as a seasoned lawyer, you treated us in contempt," saying "instead of coming this morning to apologize, this is what you are saying." She then explained that the court on that day had asked Tsatsu and Major Rowland S. Agbenato (rtd), a co-counsel why Prof. Dankwa was absent, but nobody was able to tell. At the close of the day's proceedings, Prof. Dankwa sought permission to enable him to travel abroad and therefore, asked for adjournment and it was granted that the case would continue on September 19, this year.
Tsatsu 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 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.
Earlier, Mrs. Rachael Baddoo, Head of the Legal Department of the Merchant Bank Ghana Limited, presented a file to the court, in respect of certain documents that the defence team had requested for. Prof. Dankwa told the court that since there were few relevant documents in the file to enhance his defence, it was proper to take those out, instead of keeping the whole file.
As a result 14 relevant documents were selected. They included a "Re Cocoa Plantation Project", dated July 8, 1987; "Re Valley Farms Rehabilitation", dated September 3, 1987; a letter from JW Wilson, Managing Director of Valley Farms Limited, dated October 6, 1987 and another letter from the Merchant Bank, dated November 12, 1987. The documents were all correspondences between Valley Farms Limited and the Merchant Bank.
They were tendered without objection.
During cross-examination by Mr Osafo Sampong, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Witness said she was a corporate lawyer and that she had worked for 10 years with the bank. In an answer to a document stating the objectives of GNPC which witness read in court, she said she did not see any "farming" mentioned in it.
When asked, "you agree that it was professional advice from Merchant Bank to GNPC, to enter into farming venture?" She said it was not a professional advice.
Witness replied in the negative, when she was asked if she advised GNPC to invest in Valley Farms Limited.
DPP and Mr. Augustines rpt Augustines Obour are representing the State.
On July 25, this year Tsatsu's evidence was cut short, when he told the court that in order for him to adequately present his case, he would need certain relevant documents related to the Valley Farms transaction. He stated that those documents were in the custody of Merchant Bank and Agence Francaise de Development, which granted the loan facility.
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.