By: Ivy Benson
The Accra Financial Court trying former New Patriotic Party (NPP) government appointees for their alleged involvement in the sale of Ghana Airways, which is currently operating as Ghana International Airline Limited (GIAL), has adjourned the case indefinitely.
The decision of the court, presided over by Justice Bright Mensah, followed an order from the Court of Appeal, directing the trial court to stay proceedings until the final determination of the case before the higher court.
Two of the accused persons, Dr. Richard Anane, former Minister for Roads and Highways and Member of Parliament (MP) for Nhyiaeso, and Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, former Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and MP for Old Tafo, had appealed against the trial court’s ruling that rejected a request for the prosecution to furnish them with documents relating to the trial.
According to them, pre-trial disclosures from the prosecution, among other issues, would assist them put up a strong defence in the case.
The accused persons, who are all members of the erstwhile New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration, include, Dr. Richard Anane, former Minister for Roads and Highways and Member of Parliament (MP) for Nhyiaeso, Samuel Adolphus Kenneth Bernard Crabbe, former Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and President of Unger Oaks Limited, Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, former Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and MP for Old Tafo, Kwadwo Otchere Mpiani, former Chief of Staff and Minister for Presidential Affairs, and Prof. George Gyan Baffuor, former deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning and Member of Parliament (MP) for Wenchi.
The accused persons had demanded a fair trial and respect for their fundamental human rights enshrined under the 1992 Constitution, and further requested to be placed on a level playing ground with the prosecution, in order to properly and adequately defend themselves of the allegations made against them by the state.
According to them, Act 30 of the 1960 Criminal Code, under which they are being prosecuted, conflicts with the 1992 Constitution that guarantees their fundamental human rights, and therefore, requested that the issue concerning the two legal provisions should be referred to the Supreme Court for its true and proper interpretation.
They had further requested for an order directing the Attorney General to supply them with certified copies of all statements made to the police, potential witnesses to be used by the prosecution, and all documents intended to be used by the prosecution in the course of the trial.
The accused persons had argued that the prosecution had declined to provide them with the necessary documents and statements that would be used in prosecuting them, adding that the failure of the prosecution to furnish them with the documents amounted to ambush litigation.
However, the court threw out their requests, describing the application as unwarranted and without merit, as it endorsed arguments made by the prosecution that the defense were not entitled to re-trial disclosures, as well as any of their demands.
The court, in its ruling, noted that it was yet to be informed on which law, apart from Act 30, that governs criminal prosecution in the country, adding that the inconsistencies of Act 30 to the 1992 Constitution, complained of by the accused persons, were unwarranted.
According to the court, Act 30, under which the accused persons are being prosecuted on summary charges, does in no way conflict with the 1992 Constitution, further noting that there may be some amendments to be made on the law.
It was also the view of the trial High Court that no law compels the prosecution to supply material evidence to accused persons in summary trials, stressing that relying on international conventions, as was being done by the defense, was unwarranted and could not be accepted.
Moreso, the court indicated that Act 30 was supplementary to the Constitution, and does not infringe on the fundamental human rights of the accused persons.
Subsequently, the court held that the accused persons are not entitled to pre-trial disclosures, as pointed out by the provision of Act 30 under which the accused person are being tried, explaining that summary trials are silent on pre-trial disclosures.
The five accused persons, including four others, are standing trial for willfully causing financial loss to the state in the sale of Ghana Airways, which is currently operating as Ghana International Airline Limited (GIAL).
The four other accused persons, who are said to be at large, include Ralph Atkin, Kirk Heaton, Albert Vitalis, all Americans from the State of Utah, and Brian Bresbory, a South African/European, who are all minority shareholders in GIAL.
The accused persons, whose alleged inactions in the sale of the defunct Ghana Airways resulted in the loss of over US$58 million to the state, are standing 22 counts of conspiracy, willfully causing financial loss to the state, defrauding by false pretences, deceit of public officer, misapplication of state funds, opening of offshore account without authority from the Bank of Ghana, and stealing.
They have pleaded not guilty to all the charges leveled against them, and have been admitted to self-recognisance bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.