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02.02.2006 General News

Carridem bought Nsawam cannery for 2.9bn cedis

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Accra, Feb. 2, GNA - Former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings on Thursday told an Accra Fast Track High Court that Carridem Development Company (CDC), a limited liability company, bought Nsawam Food Cannery for 2.9 billion cedis.

Mrs Rawlings said CDC paid the money to the Divesture Implementation Committee (DIC) in instalments with the last instalment being paid in 2000.

She, however, admitted that CDC's debt of 750 million cedis had accrued to 2.8 billion cedis but said the Lawyers of Carridem and those of ECOBANK were holding discussion on it.

She was answering questions under cross-examination by Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, Counsel for Western Publication, Mrs Gina Blay and Ato Sam, Editor and Deputy Editor, respectively, of the "Daily Guide" newspaper.

Mrs Rawlings has sued the "Daily Guide" newspaper and Mr Ato Sam, alias Baby Ansabah and Mrs Blay and Western Publications, publishers of the "Daily Guide", for libel.

The newspaper, in its Wednesday, July 6, 2005, edition published a story titled, "Milking the Sacred Cow - Konadu owes 2.8 billion to the State."

Nana Konadu, who is also a gender consultant; further admitted that as the Chairperson of CDC Board of Directors, she appended her signature on the sale and purchase agreement.

She denied using her influence as the Former First Lady to purchase the Cannery.

When asked which part of the publication had bothered her, Mrs Rawlings mentioned that the screaming headline, the words and her picture displayed on the front page of the newspaper.

"I don't have any problem with the body of the publication but it had some inference to my reputation. It is as if I have used m y influence to collect monies from the Bank for my private use.

"Though the story did not make any allegation of fraud and stealing against me, it had damaged my reputation on both local and international scene. Most of my projects to be funded by the donor community have been halted."

Explaining the operation of the DIC, to the Court presided over by Mrs Justice Iris Heward-Mills, she said the Committee in its operations announced the duration for the sale and purchase of firms, adding that until all payments were made one could not take over the firm. "My Lord, you need to complete all payments before taking over, else the DIC would take some shares until final payment."

Mrs Rawlings denied that CDC took possession of the Nsawam Food factory before making the final payment explaining that the DIC gave them letters before they entered the premises of the factory.

Defence Counsel: "You entered the premises of Nsawam Food Factory and controlled affairs?"

Mrs Rawlings: "No, we only controlled the security"

Defence Counsel: "After CDC bought the factory, you turned round to take a loan from Government to rehabilitate it?"

Mrs Rawlings: "Yes, my Lord. The loan was handled by ECOBANK Ghana under the Trade and Investment Programme (TIP)."

Defence Counsel: "Has CDC been able to pay for the loan facility?"

Mrs Rawlings: "No, my Lord, because CDC could not fulfil international standardisation on re-equipping the factory and construct a tunnel for workers. Due to these problems, CDC had to halt its production. Until all these were done we would not be able to exports to Europe."

Continuing with her evidence in chief, Mrs Rawlings narrated discussions being held between CDC and ECOBANK on the debt of the Company.

Mrs Rawlings, who was led by her counsel Mr Tony Lithur, tendered various correspondence sent to the Bank on the payments. Mrs Rawlings said she had not benefited from the loan.

She said since CDC could not meet the international standardisation; operations of the factory had to be halted. The Former First Lady in her November 23, 2005 suit demanded general damages including aggravated and/or exemplary damages for libel in respect of the words published by the defendants on the front page of the July 6, 2005 edition of the paper.

She is further praying the court to restrain the defendants from further publishing similar or other libellous statements or stories about her.

The Defendants in their statement of defence contended that the words together with the story that followed them were fair comments on matters of public interest.