By Bernice Bessey
The Economic and Financial High Court ‘2’ will on Monday, June 17, 2019 determine applications filed by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, challenging the capacity and qualification of the Special Prosecutor to handle cases relating to matters that has brought the parliamentarian before the court.
Mahama Ayariga, through his lawyers, is also challenging the remit of the Special Prosecutor – the kind of offenses that the Special Prosecutor can investigate – since the Maker of the Law, that is parliament, stated that he can only investigate corruption and corruption related offences.
According to one of Mr Ayariga’s defence Counsel, Godwin E. Tamakloe, “we are saying the corruption charges that he has brought against Mahama Ayariga don’t fall within the remit of the powers of the Special Prosecutor.”
The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) has charged the Member of Parliament for fraudulent evasion of custom duties and taxes, contrary to section 12(2) (f) of the customs Act, 2015 (Act 891) and using public office for private benefit, contrary to section 179 (a) of the criminal offences Act, 1960 (Act 29).
Others are fraudulent evasion of customs duties and taxes, contrary 12(2) (f) of the customs Act, 2015 (Act 891); Dealing in foreign exchange without license, contrary to sections 3(1) and 29(1)(a) of the foreign exchange Act, 2006 (Act 723) and Transfer of foreign exchange from Ghana through an unauthorised dealer, contrary to sections 15(3) and 29(1)(a) of the foreign exchange Act 2006, Act 723.
Mr Ayariga is also standing trial on different counts with six others; namely Sumaila Ewuntomah Abudu, Alex Vadze, Alhaji-Mumuni Jesewunde, Mary-Stella Adapesa and Mununi Yakubu Nambe.
The Bawku MP is, therefore, praying the court, presided over by Justice Afia Serwaa Botwe to scrap the charges that have been brought against him and make a determination on whether the lawyers of the OSP have the power to use Solicitor’s License.
Justice Afia Serwaa Botwe, addressing the court yesterday, said the case has invited several preliminarily legal objections regarding whether the OSP has jurisdiction, public procurements, as well as the charge sheet being challenged.
As a result, the judge adjourned the case to Monday, June 17, to determine the matter.
Why Mahama Ayariga is in court
Parliament at its fifth sitting on 7th day of April, 2017 by a resolution approved a loan agreement for the purchase of members’ office vehicles between the House and Societe General-Ghana.
Out of this loan, each Member of Parliament was entitled to $80, 000 loan payable within a period of four years for the purchase of their official vehicle.
Members of Parliament, however, could only access the loan facility through a supplier and no Member of Parliament was entitled to personally collect the loan, due them for the stated purpose, for which the loan was secured of.
Mr Ayariga, according to the charge sheet, allegedly connived with one Sheriff Ahmed Tijani Abdulai, who had registered a company called ASH Plantpool Limited (ASH Plantpool), with the sole aim of representing the company as the former’s supplier.
Mr Ayariga then requested his share of the loan to be released to ASH Plantpool Limited as his supplier and the same was released to the company by Societe General-Ghana, based on the approval of the Deputy Clerk of Parliament.
When the money was transferred into the company’s account, US$78,000 was transferred to Mr Ayariga’s personal account with Standard Chartered Bank – Opiebea House, while Sherrif Ahmed Tijan Abduai kept the remaining two thousand US dollars ($2,000) as his commission, contrary to the loan agreement.
Mr Ayariga then used the money to import three second hand Toyota V8 Land Cruiser vehicles from Dubai.
He then applied for tax exemption to clear the three vehicles from the port and he was granted same on condition that he pays duties and taxes of 36,591.15 upfront, before the vehicles are cleared from the port, since the duties and taxes on the vehicles exceeded his allowable tax exemption.
Instead of the amount stated as tax, however, GH¢6,052.86 was rather paid by Mr Ayariga to clear the vehicles from the port-Tema.
When the vehicles were cleared from the port, Mr Ayariga, instead of using the vehicle for official duties, for which reason tax exemption was granted to him, sold them out to Kendrick Akwasi Marfo at a cost of $40,000 each, of which Mr Marfo made part payment of $9,000 and promised to pay the outstanding balance in August, 2018.
Investigations into the matter revealed that, though Mr Ayariga transferred $90,000 to Dubai for the purchase of the vehicles were exempted from customs duties and taxes, he failed to pay those exemptions before he purchased the vehicles, neither did he pay those tax exemptions before the sale.
The other charges that Mr Ayariga is standing trial for, with six others, include conspiracy to contravene the procure for request for quotation contrary to section 23(1) of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29 and sections 43(1) and 92(1) of the public Procurement Act, 2003 (AS Amended), Act 663.