The Fast Track High Court in Accra yesterday dismissed an application for stay of proceedings pending the outcome of an appeal filed by Tsatsu Tsikata, a former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), against a ruling by the court that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), its employees and assets were immune from judicial processes unless expressly waived.
The court described the application by the accused person as “incompetent” and accordingly dismissed it. The court, presided over by Mrs Justice Henrietta Abban, an Appeal Court Judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, held that the court had not received any order from any higher court to stay proceedings.
The Accra Fast Track High Court, on January 24, 2006, ruled that the IFC, its employees and assets were immune from judicial processes.
It, therefore, held that the IFC could not be called to testify in the matter in which Tsikata was standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss to the state.
The court held that if the IFC was not prepared to waive its immunity, the court could not compel it to do so.
Tsikata has been charged with three counts of causing financial loss of about ¢2.3 billion to the state through a loan he, on behalf of the GNPC, guaranteed for Valley Farms and another count of misapplying public property.
Valley Farms contracted the loan from Caisse Francais de Developement in 1991 but defaulted in the payment, compelling GNPC, which acted as the guarantor, to pay in 1996.
After the court's ruling, the defence was then requested to call an official from High Value Horticulture, Mr Steven Caiger, to give evidence with regard to the Valley Farms project.
The defence team could not produce the witness. The court then held that it had taken it that the accused person had closed his defence. The case was subsequently adjourned to April 25, 2006.
Counsel for the accused person, Professor E. V. O. Dankwa, at the last adjourned date, prayed the court to give the defence three weeks to produce the witness to testify, with the reason that Mr Caiger had travelled to Asia and would be back in March.
The Attorney-General, Mr Ayikoi Otoo, said the application by counsel for the accused person was in bad faith and calculated to waste the court's time. He, however, conceded that the matter on extension of the date was at the discretion of the court.
The trial judge gave the defence team the last chance to produce its witness, which it failed to do.
The grounds of the appeal are that the plaintiff is requesting the Court of Appeal to set aside decisions of the trial court and order the IFC to appear, testify and produce documents in its custody in respect of the funding of studies conducted on the Valley Farms project and the result of the studies in the case in which he is standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss to the state.
According to the plaintiff, the trial judge misconstrued the provision in the Legislative Notification (L.N.) 9, 1958 Schedule Article VI, Section 8 of the IFC Articles of Agreement to be applicable to the current director of IFC when the testimony being sought by the defence to be provided to the court, including the documents requested, were not acts that the said country director performed in his official capacity.
The appellant also stated that the trial judge erred in failing to recognise and enforce the fundamental human right of the appellant, adding that “the trial judge erred in failing to appreciate that no violation of the archives of the IFC would be occasioned by an order of the court for testimony and documents in respect of the Valley Farms project”.
In respect of the court's decision, the appellant argued that “the trial judge erred in failing to appreciate the fundamental legal distinction between the IFC as a corporate body and its governors, directors and other staff”.