By Bernice Bessey
The former bosses of the National Communications Authority (NCA) were ordered by Commercial Court last week to open their defence yesterday, after losing to a no case application, nevertheless, have opted to file a stay of proceedings pending an appeal at a higher court.
The former bosses, Baffoe Bonnie, former Board Chairman, William Tetteh Tevie, former Director General, and Nana Owusu Ensaw, a former Board Member are standing trial together with the past Deputy National Security Coordinator, Alhaji Salifu Mimina Osma,n and a businessman, George Derek Oppong, are in the court facing charges of wilfully causing financial loss to the state.
However, the Presiding Judge, Justice Eric Kyei Baffuor, upon hearing the submission of no case by the defence counsel for the former NCA Board Chairman, Thaddeus Sory, filed two applications in respect of the court rejecting a certain document in mini trial, while the other was the submission of no case.
Similarly, the lawyers for the other accused persons have also filed to appeal against the submission of no case.
The Director for Public Prosecutions (DPP), Yvonne Attakora Obuobisa, on her part, said they have not been served with those applications.
Justice Eric Kyei Baffuor, after hearing the submissions of the lawyers, fixed June 4, this year, to determine the various applications before him.
What transpired last week
The gist of the matter was that last week a submission of no case was filed by defence counsels in the ongoing trial of the former management of the National Communications Authority (NCA).
According to the judge, a prima facie case had been established by the prosecution, therefore, it was imperative for the accused persons to open their defence to prove their innocence of all the charges levelled against them.
The accused persons, with the exception of Nana Owusu Ensaw, were discharged and acquitted of 15 out of the 17 counts, which include conspiracy to cause financial loss to the state, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, conspiracy to steal, using public office for profit, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, money laundry, and intentionally misplacing public property.
Thus, Baffoe-Bonnie was charged with eight counts, William Tetteh Tevie, eight, Nana Owusu Ensaw, six (now two), Alhaji Salifu Mimina Osman, seven and George Derek Oppong, six.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to all of the charges levelled against them.
Justice Eric Kyei Baffuor, giving his ruling, indicated that despite the prosecution concluding its case by calling six witnesses, the accused persons must open their defence, starting from Baffoe-Bonnie that was yesterday, which would have been followed by the others.
“All the five accused persons, at the close of the case for the prosecution, have invoked the provision supra, and in copious written submissions, that no case has been made against the accused persons sufficient enough to justify the court to invite them to open their case.
“And, indeed, even without any input from the accused persons, it is the duty of the court to determine whether at the close of the case for prosecution, sufficient evidence has been adduced to justify proceeding beyond this stage, or the trial being halted because a prima facie case has not been established,” he said.
In his view, a prima facie case has been made by the prosecution in respect of all the charges against Baffoe-Bonnie, William, Alhaji Salifu, and George, sufficient enough for him to call on them to open their defence.
He added that a prima facie case has been made against Nana Owusu also, only in respect of count ‘3’, being the stealing related charge and the offence of money laundering under count 14, thereby inviting him to open his defence in respect of those offences.
According to him, Nana Owusu was discharged of some of the accounts because he noted that Nana Owusu was not charged with dishonestly receiving, but with the offence of conspiracy to steal, and due to section 156 of Act 30 that connects stealing with dishonestly receiving, he deemed it necessary that an opportunity be offered to Nana Owusu to explain further how the US$300,000 was obtained and deposited almost contemporaneous to the time that the withdrawals of George started.
He, however, continued that the prosecution had been able to establish a prima facie case in respect of count ‘3’ and count ’14’, against Nana Owusu.
This was as defence counsels for the accused persons – Abu Juan Jiagara, Godwin Tamakloe, Samuel Cudjoe, Baffour Assasie Gyimah and Reindorf Twumasi Ankrah – put up a spirited argument that that no case had been against the accused persons sufficient enough to justify the court to invite them to open their case.
However, his was the view that for the prosecution to deem to have made a prima facie case in respect of the offence of using public office for profit, there need not out of necessity be direct evidence of monies in the possession of the accused persons.
The evidence recounted the supra of Baffoe-Bonnie, William, and Alhaji Salifu playing diverse roles in the exhibits, the extent to which efforts were geared to make the transaction to anybody, the transfer of the US$4 million, US$3 million, which was uncounted for until the BNI retrieved one million to the Republic, with the whereabouts of the US$2 million still unknown.
The six witnesses called by prosecution are Abena Asarfo Adjei, Director of Legal Affairs at the NCA; Dr. Isaac Yaw Ani, Deputy Director General in-charge of Management and Operations; and Colonel Michael Kwadwo Poku, Director of Operations at National Security Secretariat.
Others include Duncan Opare, Deputy National Security Coordinator, and Detective Chief Inspector Michael Nkrumah, Investigator of the case.