Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tsatsu Files A Motion At The Supreme Court

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

Tsatsu Tsikata, former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, (GNPC), has filed a motion at the Supreme Court to stop the court from determining whether or not the pardon granted him could have effect on his review application before the court.

In a 45-point affidavit in support of the motion, Mr Tsikata said the court “wrongly descended into the arena of conflict by raising the said issue (pardon) suo motu (on its own).”

The Supreme Court on February 25, expressed interest in determining the significance of the presidential pardon granted Mr.Tsikata on his review application before it (Supreme Court).

Consequently, the seven-member panel of judges headed by Justice William Atugubah, directed the Attorney General and Mr Mr Tsikata’s counsel to provide the court with submissions on the issue of the pardon for consideration in the case.

However, Mr.Tsikata averred that “the issue of the pardon can, in no way, absolve this honourable court from ruling on that (review) application” emphasising that the court did not have before it evidence of the alleged pardon, and cannot therefore ask for submissions on its significance for the pending review application.

In response to Mr.Tsikata’s application for a review of the court’s decision of October 16, 2008, the Attorney General argued that Tsatsu had been granted a presidential pardon, thus invalidating the pursuance of the case.

However, the A-G later filed an affidavit at the Supreme Court seeking a withdrawal of the aspect of its response that touched on the presidential pardon which the court granted and accordingly withdrew.

Arising out of this, Mr. Tsikata argued that the court, by its action, was pre-judging the relevance of something it had no evidence of since the court had granted leave for the withdrawal of the affidavit in which the issue of pardon was raised and had not been re-instated.

“For the court to make orders based on this pre-judgement….was a grave error,” Mr Tsikata argued and added, “for the court to raise the said issue of the pardon as a preliminary point of law was an improper exercise of the discretion of the court.”

Mr.Tsikata further contended that the affidavit filed and withdrawn by the A-G’s department did not raise the matter of the pardon as a preliminary issue but simply as part of their opposition to the review application.

He stated that even if the A-G’s Department wished to reinstate the pardon as an issue before the court, the court could not have done so at the time when what was pending before it was a ruling on an application that had been argued.

He said at the time of the pardon, his application for review of the court’s decision was pending, and contended that the former president and the A-G were aware of the pendency of the review and that papers had been filed opposing the review application.

Mr. Tsikata said what was before the court as at February 25, had nothing to do with the issue of the pardon hence “it is in the interest of justice that the court deals with what is pending before it.”

Meanwhile, the motion to set aside the court’s move which was due for hearing yesterday was adjourned to April 28, since neither the A-G nor a representative from her department was in court when the case was called, although the department had filed an affidavit opposing the motion.

It is recalled that on June 18, 2008, Mr. Tsikata was sentenced to five years imprisonment by an Accra Fast Track High Court presided over by Justice Henrietta Abban after finding him guilty of three counts of causing financial loss of GH¢230,000 to the state and misapplying GH¢2,000 in public property.

Mr Tsikata was in 2002 changed with the offence for guaranteeing a loan for Valley Farms, a private cocoa producing company, on behalf of the GNPC and another count of misapplying GH¢2,000 of public property.

Valley Farms contracted the loan from Caisse Francaise de Development in 1991 but defaulted in the payment and the GNPC, which acted as the guarantor, was compelled to pay it in 1996.

Mr Tsikata however, denied any wrongdoing and has since been fighting the legal battle to reverse the five-year jail sentence slapped on him by Justice Abban who he accused of bias and desecration of justice.

He consequently filed a motion at the Supreme Court invoking its supervisory jurisdiction to quash specified decisions and determinations of Justice Abban.

But the court on October 16, 2008, dismissed the application on the grounds that it was “incompetent and without merit” since the trial judge exercised her discretion properly and lawfully when she refused to adjourn proceedings on the date Mr.Tsikata was imprisoned.

Dissatisfied with the court’s ruling, Mr Tsikata filed an application at the court seeking a review of its decision claiming that he had fresh evidence to buttress his allegation of bias and to establish that the trial judge acted in “collusion with the Executive” in his conviction.

Mr. Tsikata was in January this year granted a free, absolute and unconditional pardon but he described it as “hypocrisy” and insisted on pursing the case to prove his innocence and to reverse the sentence.

He has since been on bail granted him by an Accra Fast Track High Court pending the determination of his appeal against his conviction.

Court Moves To Prostitutes Base

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Tuesday, 07 April 2009

The Accra Circuit Court trying the three Chinese who allegedly trafficked seven female Chinese into the country for prostitution, went on a fact-finding mission yesterday to the house where the victims were allegedly exploited.

The trip was at the request of the prosecution to enable it to prove its case that the house, which is located at La, a suburb of Accra, was being used as a brothel and not as a restaurant as claimed by the accused.

The team, led by the prosecutor, ASP Mary Agbozo, included Mrs.Elizabeth Ankumah, the presiding judge; the court clerks, head of the Police Human Trafficking Unit, the accused persons and their counsel, as well as the media.

The team was shown round the six-room self-contained house which was used by the three accused persons and the seven trafficked females, after which the judge interviewed some of the neighbours in the area.

The accused persons, James Xu Jim, his wife, Chou Xiou Ying and his brother, Sam Shan Zifan, are facing two counts of conspiracy and human trafficking. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Those the court officials spoke to during the visit claimed to have had no idea about what went on in the house although they were certain that it could not be a restaurant.

A middle-aged woman who declined to give her name told the team that she rented the house to James at a cost of GH¢350 a month. She said "the main gate to the house is locked all the time".

A store keeper located directly opposite the house denied the claim that the house was a restaurant, adding the girls (victims) always went out in the day and returned very late at night "carrying foods." She said she never saw a black person ever entering the house.

Another man who lives near the house, told the team that he was aware of some Chinese in that house which he said was not a restaurant.

Earlier in court, Zifan, during cross-examination, denied having told the police in his statement that the victims’ main business was prostitution and that he was paid 600 dollars a month by James.

He, however, admitted that he took the 18-year- old victim to an Indian in a hotel in Accra where he (Zifan) was given 100-dollars but denied the prosecution’s claim that it was in payment for the victim’s sexual service.

Zifan also said he only interpreted for the victims in the said restaurant. When the "customers want to say hello to the girls…the girls will call me to translate."

He told the court that the place was a restaurant they were operating and not a brothel, adding that he was the cook, and denied having abetted Jim and Ying to sexually exploit the victims through his translation between the girls and the clients.

A fourth defence witness, Pan Jiasong, who operates a restaurant at Tabora, a suburb of Accra, told the court the house was a restaurant, where he regularly went there to eat in the day time.

He said the victims were introduced to him by Jim as Ying’s "fellows and are here (Ghana) looking for job" and added that he also met the victims many times at the La Palm Casino when he went there to play cards.

Asked by the prosecution whether he would call the living room of the house as a restaurant, he replied affirmatively, saying "it is because in China, a lot of restaurants are decorated this way."
He said there were times he met some blacks in the restaurant who went there to buy take-away food.

He denied that he was a regular customer of the sex trade and had been going there to the house to satisfy his sexual desires.

Hearing continues tomorrow.