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12.10.2005 General News

Former Vice President attends Tsatsu's trial

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Accra, Oct. 12, GNA - Prof. John Atta Mills, former Vice President and a flag bearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the 2004 presidential election, on Wednesday joined a sparse crowd at an Accra Fast Track Court to hear Tsatsu Tsikata, Former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), express dissatisfaction about the evidence of the former Managing Director of Merchant Bank, Mr Jude Arthur.

Tsatsu said, "Mr Arthur was not being honest in his evidence during a cross-examination to the court."

He said Mr Arthur was aware at the time that the GNPC opened an account with the Merchant Bank, and that there were matters discussed at the GNPC's Board meeting, adding, "I am indeed surprised." 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 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, 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.

Tsatsu, who was led in his evidence-in-chief by his counsel, Prof. Emmanuel Victor Oware Dankwa stated that at one of the GNPC Board meetings, they did not form a quorum, hence the meeting became informal. He added that he, then the chairman and Chief Executive of GNPC, was mandated to proceed to open an account with Merchant Bank. According to him, the GNPC selected Merchant Bank as a Trustee and therefore, emphatically stressed that "the Merchant Bank was not a nominee," adding that it was a bank that rendered services. "We appointed them on their own representation that they could take charge of our investment," he added.

Tsatsu pointed out that the bank then held itself in the general legal obligation of a Trustee, with regard to their (GNPC-Merchant Bank) relationship.

The accused said crude oil financing was a significant problem that existed and engaged the minds of the board of GNPC. Referring to an exhibit captioned, "Interest Expenses", the accused stated that it was the 31st meeting of the board held sometime in 1988 and that what was discussed was to avoid loss to the corporation in its responsibility to import crude oil.

He said the board of GNPC also discussed the issue with COCOBOD to use cocoa as a source to guarantee for crude oil because cocoa was an international commodity that Ghana was noted for. Tsatsu said the board mandated the management of GNPC to take all the available steps to ensure the deal.

Tsatsu's evidence last July 25 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 Developpement, 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.

Mr Osafo Sampong, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Mr. Augustines rpt Augustines Obour are representing the State. Major (rtd) Rowland S. Agbenato is a co-counsel. The case was adjourned to Thursday, October 13, for continuation. 12 Oct. 05