An Accra High Court has ordered Minority Leader and former Deputy Minister of Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, and two others to open their defence in a trial in which they are accused of purchasing defective vehicles as ambulances.
This follows a decision by the court that the three had a case to answer in the charges of causing financial loss and others levelled against them by the Office of the Attorney General in a deal that saw the state spending €2.37 million on the defective ambulances.
The court, presided over by Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, a Court of Appeal judge sitting as an additional High Court judge, in a ruling held that both the prosecution and the defence teams admit in one way or the other that the ambulances that were imported were defective so, “If you have spent money on a vehicle that cannot be used, then there is a case to be answered.”
Dr. Ato Forson, Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director at the Ministry of Health, as well as private businessman, Richard Jakpa, are standing trial for wilfully causing financial loss of €2.37 million to the state, through a contract to purchase 200 ambulances for the Ministry of Health, among other charges.
The prosecution, led by the Attorney General and Minster for Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame and Director of Public Prosecutions, Yvonne Atakora-Obuobisa, closed its case on February 14, 2023 after calling five witnesses, including the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu to prove its case.
The main issue raised during the prosecution’s case was whether the defective vehicles were purchased in accordance with the purchase agreement approved by Parliament.
The other was whether Dr. Forson was authorised by the substantive Finance Minister or any superior officer to write a letter to the Controller and Accountant General directing the establishment of irrevocable Letters of Credit (LCs) which led to the payments.
The Attorney General, in a written submission to establish the prosecution’s case, asserted that Dr. Forson was criminally reckless in not ensuring that the terms of the agreement were adhered and that resulted in the institution of the criminal case against him.
Dr. Forson, in submission, argues that he wrote the letter on behalf of the then substantive Minister of Finance, Seth Terkper. The AG disagrees with the assertion and argues that the letters were written with no authorisation from any quarters.
Justice Asare-Botwe, in her ruling on whether or not Dr. Forson was authorised to write the said letter, held that lawyers for the accused seem to have misapprehended the law when they stated that the AG should have called Seth Terkper to prove that Dr. Ato Forson did not have authorisation to write the said letter.
It was the opinion of the court that once the AG stated that Dr. Forson did not have such authority and Dr. Forson replied that he did, the responsibility was on Dr. Forson to show that he had authority.
The judge said evidence before court shows that Seth Terkper even told prosecutors he did not have enough information when he gave his statement to the case investigators.
The AG, in his submission on Mr. Anemana, averred that he was the designer of the scheme to cause financial loss to the state by falsely claiming to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) Board in a series of letters to the effect that Big Sea had arranged for funding for the project from Stanbic Bank.
The court, in its 45 pages ruling, held that although counsel for Mr. Anemana argues that he was not at post when the LCs were established, that did not absolve him as he could still be made to answer for things that happened during his tenure.
The court also rejected arguments by counsel for Mr. Jakpa that Jakpa at Business should be hauled before court and not the accused as he was only representing the company.
The court said it was a human being acting on behalf of a company which is able to act, and when a human being acts in the name of a company, it is a human being who should be held and not an inanimate thing.
The case was adjourned to April 13, 2023.
|Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of Peacefmonline.com. Peacefmonline.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.|