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13.10.2005 General News

Tsatsu denies charges during evidence-in-chief

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Accra, Oct. 13, GNA - Tsatsu Tsikata, former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), charged with causing financial loss to the State, on Thursday denied all charges against him. He told the Fast Track Court (FTC) that he was not guilty of any of the offences preferred against him in his trial.

Tsatsu, who was led in his evidence-in-chief by his counsel, Prof. Emmanuel Victor Oware Dankwa emphatically stressed that he did not cause any financial loss to the State.

He further stressed that he did not intentionally misapply any funds.

The accused stated that at the time that the agreement was signed, there was no criminal liability of "causing financial loss to the State".

The former GNPC boss said when he was in office, he took all the prudent steps to ensure that no money went to waste. According to him, "the payments were made on the basis that there were guarantee arrangement with Caisse Fran=E7aise de Developpement", adding that at that time, there was no such law.

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, has granted him a 700 million-cedi self-recognisance bail.

Tsatsu said an investment opportunity was brought to GNPC by Merchant Bank, who agreed to play a trustee role and also to ensure that GNPC fulfilled its role.

He explained that the law that regulated GNPC set out core objectives, which among them, was the exploration of oil. Tsatsu said the African Project Development Facility (APDF) actually did extensive technical study, financed the study and eventually produced an appraisal report, which Valley Farms used and also made available to Caisse Fran=E7aise de Developpement. He said there was no doubt in the minds of the Board and himself that they were to use national assets to strategise their purpose as a possible financing tool.

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, who had earlier in his evidence in chief expressed dissatisfaction about the evidence of the former Managing Director of Merchant Bank, Mr Jude Arthur, on Thursday and described him as a dishonest witness.

Tsatsu at every stage of the proceedings, repeatedly said, "Mr Arthur was not being honest in his evidence and during cross-examination to the court."

He said Mr Arthur was aware at the time that the GNPC opened an account with Merchant Bank and that there were matters discussed at the GNPC's Board meeting, adding, "I am indeed surprised." The former GNPC Boss stated that Mr Arthur had a role in Valley Farms as Corporate Adviser.

He stated that the issue of providing guarantee for the loan came from Mr Arthur.

Tsatsu said the trustee role that Merchant Bank was playing was in the interest of GNPC.

He contended that he was aware that the technical appraisal and surveys conducted clearly indicated that there were risks involved in the loan, and so there were several meetings with regard to these circumstances.

The former GNPC boss averred that there were enough assets available to GNPC in respect of land for the plantation of cocoa at Dadeiso, Assin Nsuta and Assin Nyankumasi. He said he did discuss the land situation with Mr Arthur, but did not do so with Mr. J.A. Wilson, Managing Director of Valley Farms. 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 Monday, October 24, for continuation.

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