Akwasi Adjei walks free from ” Rice Master” case
By Ivy Benson
The Court of Appeal, yesterday, acquitted and discharged a former Foreign Affairs Minister under the former New Patriotic Party government, Akwasi Osei Adjei, on charges of conspiracy and contravening the Public Procurement Act (PPA) in the importation of rice from India in 2009.
Also acquitted and discharged was Daniel Charles Gyimah, former Managing Director (MD) for the National Investment Bank (NIB), who was charged on the same offences, together with the Foreign Affairs Minister.
It was the unanimous view of the court, presided over by Justice Mariama Owusu, that from the evidence before the court, the state had failed to prove the necessary ingredients on the charges brought against the applicants.
The rest of the panel members include Justice Yaw Apau and Justice Senyo Dzamefe.
The court further set aside the order of the Trial Accra Financial High Court, requesting the two former public officials to open their defense on charges of conspiracy and contravening the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, after being acquitted and discharged on other charges of using public office for profit, stealing, and willfully causing financial loss to the state.
The two public officials were being tried at the Trial High Court for their involvement in the importation of 15,000 metric tonnes of rice from India into the country.
According to the Court of Appeal, the NIB, which was used in the transaction, was not a public entity, adding that the transaction entered into by the applicants was purely on a commercial basis between two private entities.
The court further noted that no government funds were used in the transaction, since the funds used were generated internally.
The decision of the court followed an appeal against the Trial High Court decision that the state had adduced evidence against the two public officials to warrant them to open their defense before the court.
The applicants had requested the court to set aside the ruling of the lower court, and order their acquittal and discharge on the two outstanding counts of conspiracy and contravening the Public Procurement Law.
According to the applicant, the Trial High Court placed weight on irrelevant evidence and disregarded the overwhelming evidence of all the prosecution witnesses, that there had been no use of public funds, as defined by the Public Procurement Act (PPA).
According to the applicants, the trial judge also disregarded the evidence of the prosecution that the NIB was not a procurement entity, which was required to apply the PPA I in its transactions.
Osei-Adjei and Gyimah have pleaded not guilty to the charges leveled against them, and had since been admitted to bail each in the sum of GH¢200,000, with two sureties, each to be justified.
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