Friday, August 22, 2008

Alhaji Hearts, 2 Others Bailed.

By Stephen K. Effah
Friday, 22 August 2008

Three persons, including an executive member of the Accra Hearts of Oak Football Club, were yesterday put before an Accra Circuit Court charged with money laundering.

The three, who pleaded not guilty to the charges of conspiracy to commit crime, concealment of currency, and aiding and abetment of money laundering were given a 25,000 Ghana cedi bail each with one surety.

The accused, Claribel Ewura Esi Kinful, a Cabin Crew, Alhaji Sulemana Braimah, popularly known as Alhaji Hearts and Alhaji Ahmed Tijan, a taxi driver, are also to report to the Bureau of National Investigations on Mondays at 2:00 pm until the determination of the case.

The facts as presented to the court presided over by Mr.Nathaniel Osam, were that Kinful, who is a cabin crew member of the Ghana International Airline, arrived at the Kotoka International Airport on the night of August 8, from London.

According to the prosecution, ASP George Abavelim, a random search was conducted by the security officials of the airline upon which they found 59,870 pounds concealed in the two travelling bags of Kinful.

He told the court that when Kinful was interrogated, she disclosed that the money was given to her by one George in UK to be given to someone in Accra, and that, the said George told her that someone would call her and take delivery of the money upon her arrival.

She could, however, not provide any information on the said George, ASP Abavelim said, adding that Kinful in her caution statement admitted to having transacted money in similar manner with the said George on several occasions.

The prosecution said that on August 14, while investigations were ongoing, Alhaji Hearts came to the BNI Headquarters with Tijan to claim ownership of the money seized from Kinful.

According to Alhaji Hearts, he sent 50, 000 pounds through one Mushoo to Tijan in the UK one and a half years ago to buy him a house tthere but when Mushoo was interrogated, he claimed it was Alhaji Hearts himself who brought the said money to him.

ASP Abavelim said that “in view of the discrepancies in their assertions, further investigations are being conducted to establish their complicity in the case involving the smuggling of the 59, 870 pounds to Ghana”.

Judge Rebuts Bribery Allegation

By Stephen K. Effah
Friday, 22 August 2008

A middle-aged woman last Friday stunned an Accra Circuit Court when she informed the sitting judge of an alleged bribery made against him by a man from one of the factions in the Osu rioting case which is before the judge.

According to the woman, Victoria Quaye, the man, Feihi Quartey, had on two occasions told her that they have bribed the court to end the case, saying “he told me the case has already finished since they have seen the court”.

Madam Quaye made the revelation to the judge, Iddrisu Mahamadu, just when the court was about to take the plea of five of the 13 accused persons who appeared in court yesterday.

Speaking in Ga, the woman told the court that Feihi first made the allegation when the case was referred to the Attorney General for advice, adding the second time was when the case was first brought before the judge.

The statement by the woman did not only shock the court but the judge who asked Quartey to tell the open court when, where and who he alleged to have bribed to end the case which is before him.

But Feihi denied having told Madam Quaye of bribing the court to end the criminal case, but Madam Quaye maintained that Feihi together with his younger brother did tell her that they have bribed the court.

Reacting, Mr.Mahamadu, described the allegation as “funny talk” and denied having been bribed by anybody to end the case, saying “it cannot happen. Nobody will dare”.
He told the people in the courtroom that nobody has come to “see” either him or his workers in the courtroom or chambers.

He said he has confidence in his workers and that none of them will compromise on their integrity for money, saying “our hands are clean”.

Mr.Mahamadu said that he has been on the bench since 1996 but has never taken bribe from anyone, noting “people have tried but they do not succeed,” which makes them wonder whether he is “crazy”.

He said that he work to please God almighty who sees him all the time, adding “you never can hide anything from him. I am happy that people appreciate that I am here for justice”.

The judge lauded Madam Quaye for her move, saying that it was good that she did not go to an F.M station to make the allegation for him and the court to have been “bastardised”.

He assured her of fair trial to ensure justice and urged her not to let the allegation dampen her spirit, and that the factions in the case should keep their money for their lawyers.

In the substantive case, all the five persons pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of conspiracy to commit crime, rioting with offensive weapons, unlawful entry, assault and causing unlawful damage.

The five, each of whom is on a 150 Ghana Cedi bail, are: Lawrence Quist, Samuel Dowuona, Paul Dowouna, Jacob Adom and Nii Saban Atsen.

The other seven people, who were given a 100 Ghana Cedi police bail are on the run, and the court has ordered the prosecution to bring their sureties to court on the next adjourned date, August 22.

They are Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Awal, Abubakari Yusiff, Evaris Bambara, Antaru Issaka, Mohammed Inusah and Kwame Akuni.

Presenting the facts of the case, the prosecutor, ASP Kofi Blagoge, said Quist and Samuel Dowuona together with some elders from the Dowuona Clan from Osu were invited by the Kpehe Divisional Police Commander following reports that some youth had planned to take over the Osu palace.

According to the prosecutor, that was based on extract received from the National House of Chiefs to the effect that Nii Nortey Owuo III had been de-stooled as the Osu Manste.

ASP Blagoge said that at the meeting, the accused persons were advised to use due process of the law and not to take the law into their hands as their action was likely to breach the peace in the area.

That notwithstanding, Quist and Sameul Dowuona were alleged to have gone to Nima and Maamobi to recruit other people and promised them 8,000 Ghana cedis if they invaded the palace with the intention of occupying it.

In the event of that, the accused persons were said to have attacked some people who were in the palace at the time, including the Besheo Cultural Troupe who were rehearsing at the palace, and destroyed their drums among other things.

The police upon information moved in and arrested them.

Lotto Operators Appeal

By Stephen K. Effah
Friday, 22 August 2008

The Ghana Lotto Operators Association (GLOA) and six other private operating firms yesterday filed a stay of execution of the decision by an Accra Fast Track High Court not to allow them to operate private lottery in the country.

The court, presided over by Justice Edward Amoako Asante on Wednesday, dismissed an action by GLOA challenging the constitutionality of the Lotto Act 722, and awarded a GH¢2,000 cost against each of them.

Not satisfied with the Fast Track Court’s ruling, the plaintiffs filed an application to contest the ruling at the Court of Appeal.

The GLOA and six private lotto operating firms are seeking an order from the Court of Appeal to set aside the High Court’s ruling on August 20, since according to them, the trial judge erred in law by summarily dismissing their action.

In their grounds of appeal, which is expected to be moved on September 3, the plaintiffs are praying the Court of Appeal to restore their action for it to be determined on its merit after a proper hearing.

They averred that the judge, Edward Amoako Asante, failed to consider and appreciate the nature and extent of their case as borne out by the reliefs and pleadings.

At the High Court, the plaintiffs had asked that it declared as "illegal and unreasonable," an NLA directive to private lotto operators to surrender their machines and equipment used for their operation.

"The learned judge in summarily dismissing the plaintiffs’ case has failed in his duty to give the plaintiffs a fair hearing in a case involving serious issues of facts and several pieces of difference," they contended.

The plaintiffs further indicated that they would file additional grounds upon receipt of a copy of the proceedings of the High Court on August 20.

In an affidavit in support of the notice of stay of execution of the court’s order, and deposed to Seth A. Amoani, Secretary of GLOA, it said the circumstances of the application by the NLA to have the plaintiffs’ action dismissed "raises serious questions of law and fact which would be considered by the appellate court"

"The appeal has good grounds and has a great chance of succeeding given the serious errors that culminated in the ruling of the Fast Track Court on August 20, 2008," it added.

It pointed out that a decision of the appellate court reversing the ruling of the Fast Track Court of Wednesday would be rendered nugatory if the enforcement of the said ruling is not injuncted pending the determination of the instant appeal.

It said that the Supreme Court in its ruling of July 23 on the constitutional aspect of the case recognised that the plaintiffs "are not at the mercy of the state in seeking to participate in the state regulatory lottery industry."

"I say that the Supreme Court never said that the plaintiffs cannot participate in the state regulated lottery industry," it added.

Plaintiffs on August 13, 2007 began an action at the High Court applying for an interlocutory injunction against NLA which was granted until the determination of the matter.

However, upon the NLA’s raising the issue of constitutionality, the matter was referred to the Supreme Court, which on July 23, ruled that Act 722 was not in contravention of the constitution as claimed by plaintiffs.

The court pointed out that the plaintiffs failed to convince it on how the Act infringes on their constitutional rights, especially those enshrined in Articles 33(5), 35(1) and 36(2)(b).

Following the Supreme Court’s determination, the parties went back to the High Court where the substantive case was pending, for directions since the Supreme Court in its ruling did not give any orders or award costs.

In view of the Supreme Court’s determination, the NLA filed an application at the Fast Track High Court before a vacation judge praying the court to dismiss plaintiffs’ case since there was nothing left unresolved in the matter by the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A-G Wants Tsikata's Jail Term Increased

By Stephen K. Effah
Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Attorney-General has filed a notice of appeal at an Accra Fast Track High Court calling for "enhancement of sentence" for the jailed former Ghana National Petroleum Corporation Chief Executive, Tsatsu Tsikata.

The notice, signed by a Chief State Attorney, Valerie Amate, said the "Republic is dissatisfied with the five-year sentence in hard labour imposed on Tsikata", describing it as "not proportionate having regard to the gravity of the offence".

According to the notice, the A-G is expected to file detailed grounds of appeal when it gets certified true copies of the June 18 proceedings and judgment by Justice Henrietta Abban.

Tsikata was jailed after he was found guilty of three counts of causing financial loss of GH¢230,000 to the state and misapplying GH¢2,000 in public property.

His conviction came exactly a week before the Supreme Court was to give its ruling on whether the International Finance Corporation has immunity or not to testify in his case.
But on June 25, when the Supreme Court was due to deliver its judgement on the matter,

Tsikata requested the court to "arrest" its judgement and invoke its supervisory jurisdiction to quash his conviction by the High Court.

He has since his sentence accused Justice Abban of bias, and requested a mini trial to enable him prove the allegation of bias against the judge but this has been suspended by the Fast Track High Court.

Further, a bail application filed by Tsikata to enable him appeal against his sentence was struck out on July 30 by Justice Abban for want of prosecution after Tsikata failed to move it on the grounds that he was seeking a mini trial to prove the allegation of bias against her.

Tsikata currently has a notice of appeal before the Court of Appeal, urging it to set aside the High Court’s decision since, he said, it was unreasonable and not supported by the evidence given.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has fixed October 16, to give its ruling on whether or not to quash the five-year jail term handed Tsikata.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

MV Benjamin Cocaine Convict Dies In Prison

By Stephen K. Effah
Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Philip Bruce Arhin, one of the five persons jailed on July 25, for his involvement in the MV Benjamin cocaine case, is reported to have died at the Nsawam Medium Prisons Clinic on Saturday.

A source close to the police told the Times yesterday that Arhin, had been on admission at the Nsawam Government Hospital, but was discharged last Friday. However, he died the following day.

The source said although the immediate cause of Arhin’s death is not yet known, he is believed to have died from jaundice.

Arhin, was not in court on July 25, because of his poor health condition when his four accomplices were given a total of 125 years jail term in hard labour by an Accra Fast Track High Court which found them guilty of their various charges.

Each of them was jailed 25 years with retrospective effect from the day of their arrest.

Arhin, a mechanic in the MV Benjamin, was convicted together with his brother, Isaac Arhin, also a mechanic, Cui Xian Li, a vessel engineer and Luo Yui Xing, sailor, both Chinese, on the charges of possessing narcotic drugs without authority and engaging in prohibited business.

The other accomplice, Joseph Kojo Dawson, Managing Director of Dashment Company Limited, was also convicted on the charge of using his property for narcotic offence.

In March 2006, the MV Benjamin vessel was impounded by a combined team of the Narcotics Control Board, the Ghana Navy, the Ghana Air Force and the National Security Secretariat at the Tema Harbour.

Their trial which began in November 2006, after investigations, ended in March 2008 with the prosecution calling a total of 13 witnesses.

The accused, however denied any wrongdoing.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

President's Accident: Thomas Osei Jailed For 9 Months

By Stephen K. Effah
Wednesday, 06 August 2008

Thomas Osei, the man who drove his Mercedes Benz car into the President’s car last year, was yesterday handed a nine-month jail term and a fine of GHc28,200 after almost nine months of trial.

The 51-year-old road contractor was found guilty on four counts of various driving offences.

However, he was acquitted and discharged on the charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and the use of narcotic drugs without lawful authority.

He had pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving, two counts of negligently causing harm, driving under the influence of alcohol, failing to give way to a siren and use of narcotic drugs without authority.

Osei, who has been in police custody since November 14, 2007, is expected to spend only nine days in prison because the court says his sentence takes retrospective effect.

Sentencing him, the Fast Track High Court, presided over by Justice Emmanuel Ayebi, ordered him to formally apologise to the President and the people of Ghana for his conduct.

It also directed the appropriate authorities to revoke his driving licence — which is in the custody of the Nima Police Station, in Accra — for three years, during which period he is not permitted to drive any motor vehicle.

The court further directed the police to give back Osei’s two passports to him and another service passport to the Ghana Immigration Service.

The Motor Transport and Traffic Unit of the Police was also asked to intensify and sustain education on the appropriate use and importance of sirens in the country.Justice Ayebi said that motorists should know that not only sirens of the presidential convoy must be obeyed but also those permitted under the law, and warned against the use of unauthorised sirens.

In discharging and acquitting Osei on the charge of use of narcotic drugs, the trial judge said the prosecution failed to lead evidence that Osei was a drug user, and disbelieved the evidence that he confided in a police officer that he used cocaine.

On the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, the court said the prosecution’s claim that Osei had an alcohol level of 0.41 per cent upon testing was "inaccurate and inefficient" as due process was not followed in testing his alcohol level.

The court explained that it was wrong on the part of the police officer to have conducted the test.

A breath test should be done at the hospital and should be done or authorised by the medical doctor under whose care the patient, is.

The court said the police officer who conducted the test with an alcohol sensor did not take into account time element which was crucial in the test, adding that it is "reasonably probable" that the test was not carried out within two hours on the onset of the accident as claimed by the prosecution.

It said the test result of 0.41 per cent "is not reasonably probable", indicating that even if it were to be 0.03 he would have been in a state of unconsciousness.

On the driving offences, Justice Ayebi said that since Osei was in a hurry to drop off a family friend who was in his car at the time of the accident, it could be inferred that he oversped and ignored traffic regulations.

The court pointed out that if Osei was indeed driving at 50 kilometres per hour at the time of the accident, he would have been able to stop within 12 metres and would not have crashed into the President’s car in view of the perfect condition of his car and the clear weather.

He said it was because Osei was speeding that on impact, the President’s car summersaulted twice before falling on its left side.

Justice Ayebi rejected Osei’s evidence that he heard a faint siren before crashing into the President’s car, saying "the accused disabled himself from not hearing the siren by rolling up his window glasses."

He said the prosecution was able to prove that Osei failed to take a proper look-out at the intersection, thus driving into the President’s car, adding "he didn’t only fail to take proper look-out but was speeding."

On the charges of negligently causing harm, the court held that the harm occurred as a result of the dangerous driving which caused the accident.

Before the judge pronounced sentence, Counsel for Osei, Kwame Boafo Akuffo, pleaded with the court to mitigate the sentence since his client has shown remorse and apologised to the President.

He said Osei has been helpful to society in various ways and should be given the opportunity to continue, adding, "he is even a sub-contractor on the Yamoransah –Cape Coast road which is under construction."

But the Principal State Attorney, Edward Duodu Agyemang, urged the court to give the maximum sentences under the various laws, to serve as a deterrent to other motorists, noting there is a lot of indiscipline on the roads which results in accidents

"Ghanaian drivers are making history. This is a classic case for which the maximum sentence should be given to him."

Osei rammed his car into the President’s car on November 14,2007 at the intersection near the Opeibea House in the Accra Airport area, forcing the President’s car to overturn.

The President escaped unhurt but his driver and another man sustained minor injuries for which they were treated at the 37 Military Hospital.

Osei was first arraigned at the Motor Court in Accra on November 16 for dangerous driving, negligently causing harm, driving under the influence of alcohol and failing to give way to the presidential convoy.

His plea was not taken and he was remanded in police custody. He was discharged by the court on December 20, after the prosecution filed a nolle prosequi (unwilling to prosecute) but he was re-arrested immediately he stepped out of the court and put before the Fast Track High Court