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20.01.2006 Crime & Punishment

Murdered French tycoon’s trial on today

By Statesman

Today sees five men who face charges relating to the murder of foreign investor Paul Feghali return to court. It is the resumption of a case that has shocked, confused and frightened a large proportion of the westerners who had previously felt safe and welcome in Ghana.

Mr Feghali was a prominent businessman and head of Imexco Ghana Limited, a company that employs over 500 people and with an annual turnover of ¢500 billion.

He was murdered on Sunday 8 August near the Sakumona Celebrity Golf Club where he had been playing that day.

At 9.00am on Sunday August 8, 58 year old Paul Feghali went to play golf at the Sakumona Celebrity Club, something he had done on a regular basis for 10 years. What was different on this fateful day is that he didn't return. Mr Feghali was beaten to death, the body found near the golf course he patronised. By midday Mr Feghali's son, Jean-Paul, became concerned when he could not contact his normally meticulous father. He notified the police and radio stations later that day, it didn't take long for his fears to be confirmed. The following day police found the body of a white man near the golf course and at 4.00pm Jean-Paul identified this body as his father. An autopsy later revealed that he had died of internal haemorrhaging of the brain caused by several heavy blows.

Paul Feghali was a man who did a lot for Ghana. Arriving in the country from France with his young family, he took the franchise of a French company and started Imexco Ghana Limited in 1990. From humble beginnings, employing just 10 people, the company has blossomed and now has over 500 people working for it.

Imexco imports various commodities, focusing on rice, sugar and flour and is also a cocoa purchasing company. It has an annual turnover of approximately ¢200bn and a fleet of 30 heavy duty trucks transporting its goods all over Ghana.

Mr Feghali leaves behind wife Bernadette, 26 year old Jean-Paul and two younger sons. Mrs Feghali now divides her time between Ghana and France while Jean-Paul runs the company his father built. His youngest brother, just 17, lives in France, too scared to return to the country he considered a home throughout childhood.

Jean-Paul emphasises that this is not just a family tragedy though; there is sadness and fear among the European and Lebanese communities in Ghana following his father's murder. Mr Feghali was widely known, respected and liked; what happened to him has made many question their safety in one of Africa's most peaceful countries.

One of the five accused persons, Redwan Zakour, is the son of the Lebanese entrepreneur and football enthusiast, Harry Zakour. He is currently on bail.

On the same day that Mr Feghali's body was found his car was discovered in Ashiaman, near Tema. Locals who had heard of the news from radio reports spotted the vehicle and alerted police.

The police watched the car and that evening three men approached it and were arrested. One man was quickly identified as Paul Feghali's golf caddy of more than five years. Two more men were later arrested; these two, including Mr Zakour, were released on bail at the end of November.

Jean-Paul Feghali is unsure about the future; “I have travelled in Africa, Ghana is a peaceful place. The company is established and we don't want to abandon it but the family is afraid.”

He also praised the judicial system in Ghana, claiming that he was impressed by it when the company took civil legal action in the past. However, he is frustrated by the time it has taken for this criminal trial to begin because, as he explains, “the body, car and suspects were found within two days and, for me, that is 90% of the job done.” He is hopeful that in court today the case will receive fresh impetus.