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A-G Dodges Osei-Adjei


Osei Adjei

Osei Adjei

THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL’s Department yesterday swerved the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Akwasi Osei Adjei, and Daniel Charles Gyimah, the former boss of the National Investment Bank (NIB), in connection with their trial on the importation of the 300,000 bags of rice from India.

The two accused persons arrived at the Fast Track High Court Financial Division early with their lawyers, only to wait for about two hours. They then had to pray for an adjournment when it became evident that the state attorney in the case, Anthony Gyambiby, would not be in court.

This obviously did not go down well with Godfred Yeboah Dame, counsel for the former minister, who wondered why after eight months of investigations into the matter the state would absent itself from court without formally writing to the court to inform it of the reasons why the prosecuting attorney would be absent.

Mr. Dame told the court, presided over by Justice Bright Mensah, that the state had no excuse to absent itself from yesterday’s proceedings, considering the fact that the two accused persons had suffered very disparaging remarks from some sections of the public. He added that there was the need for action to be expedited in the trial.

Counsel for Osei Adjei also prayed the court to review the bail condition of his client, especially with regards to him reporting to the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI). But the Judge said it was too early for such a review. He was of the view that if the state failed to appear in court next time he would pray for the case against his client to be dismissed. Rtd Col. Alex Johnson, counsel for Gyimah, expressed the same sentiment. The case has been adjourned to November 19, 2009.

At the last hearing, Mr. Gyambiby wanted the court to order the former minister to surrender his passport to the court registry till the time the court would deem fit to return them because, according to him, Osei Adjei in particular would abscond if that order was not made.

However, Justice Mensah said once the passport issue was before the Court of Appeal for determination, he would not be drawn into making any decision on it since that would be subjudice. The accused persons were charged with eight counts of conspiracy to commit crime, contravention of the Provisions of the Public Procurement Act, using public office for profit, and stealing and willfully causing financial loss to the state.

They both pleaded not guilty to the offence and have been granted bail in the sum of GH¢200,000 each with two sureties and with immovable property worth GH¢1million. They were also ordered to deposit their title deeds with a movable property, as well as report to the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) once a week.

They said it was purely a governmental procurement, adding that they have a letter of approval from the Indian Parliament on the importation of the rice and would at the right time prove that they are indeed innocent.

Presenting the facts of the case, the state attorney told the court somewhere in February 2008 that the former Minister of Trade and Industry, Joe Baidoo Ansah, initiated the importation of rice from India, and in a letter dated February 13 2008, requested through the Ghana High Commission there to buy 100,000 metric tons of broken rice from the Government of India.

He said the rice was to arrive by May 2008 to help curb what the minister called “the severe increase of price staples in Ghana”. The Ghana National Procuremenrt Agency (GNPA) was the designated consignee.

According to him, Mr. Baidoo Ansah in another letter dated April 10 2008, addressed to the Minister of External Affairs of India, referred to an earlier meeting held between former President J. A. Kufuor and the Minister of Commerce of India on “the severe food situation looming in Ghana” and sought to procure from India 300,000 metric tonnes of low grade white 25% broken rice for shipment to Ghana.

The prosecuting attorney noted that in April 2008 the first accused person, who took over the effort by Mr. Baidoo Ansah on the importation, nominated the National Investment Bank (NIB) as the sole consignee. The bank, represented by Gyimah, the second accused person, negotiated the terms of the contract with the State Trading Corporation of India through the High Commission of Ghana in India.

Furthermore, he said, the commission was instructed by Osei Adjei to sign the contract on behalf of the Government of Ghana, represented by him and the then NIB boss. The state attorney said the contract was executed and 15000 metric tonnes of broken rice, which arrived at Tema on 18 February 2009, was shipped by Amira Foods Limited of India.

Explaining further, he stated that initially the importation was supposed to be a grant but it was later turned into a transaction, and the second accused person went to Citibank for a letter of credit to cover the value of the transaction.

Mr. Gyambiby said on arrival of the goods, efforts by the former NIB boss to obtain tax exemptions from the Ministry of Finance were turned down due to the fact that they were not involved in the deal. Thus the rice has since been kept at the Customs Exercise and Prevention Services warehouse.

In addition, the prosecuting attorney said an account of the consignment revealed a shortage of 2997 bags of rice, with the remaining varying in wholesomeness. The NIB is making efforts to sell the rice through tender process.

Explaining further, he said in due course the prosecution would lead evidence to show that the Public Procurement Act was not followed and that the 2997 bags were diverted from elsewhere and sold for huge profit, adding that the culpability of the accused persons would soon be established.

Source: dailyguideghana

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