16th July 2024

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, says the State has succeeded in establishing a case against all the accused persons, including a former Deputy Minister for Finance, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, in the criminal trial involving the supply of some ambulances in 2015.

Mr Dame argued that “a consideration of the evidence led at the trial so far by the prosecution should easily lead to the conclusion that the prosecution has satisfied all the elements of the offences” contained in charges preferred against the accused.

He stated that “the evidence given orally by the prosecution’s witnesses was buttressed by a large volume of documents directly confirming the truth of assertions made by the witnesses”.

The prosecution points out that the actions of the first accused, Dr Ato Forson, directly led to financial loss to the State in the purchase of the vehicles purporting to be ambulances.

Letter Credit

By a letter dated August 7, 2014, signed by Dr Ato Forson, the Bank of Ghana was urgently instructed to establish an irrevocable transferable Letter of Credit (LC) in the sum of EUR 3,950,000.00 in favour of Big Sea General Trading LLC. as payment for the ambulances to the Ministry of Health.

This authorisation for the LCs to be established resulted in the payment of €2,370,000 for the supply of vehicles by Big Sea General Trading LLC, which did not meet the description of an ambulance, a fact established from the evidence on record.

According to the prosecution, Dr Forson’s actions, judged in light of the terms of the contract governing the transaction, showed that he violated the duty he owed as a public officer with responsibility over the use of the public purse by virtue of his status as a Deputy Minister of Finance in 2014.

Criminal negligence

The A-G further stressed that his actions were criminally negligent and most unwarranted. Justifying why his actions were criminally negligent or reckless, he indicated that Dr Forson’s instruction for LCs to be established was contrary to the terms of the “ambulance contract”, since none of the conditions set out in the contract before payment could be made had been satisfied.

The Deputy Controller and Accountant-General, relying on Dr Forson’s letters, wrote to the Bank of Ghana for payment to be made. After this, the vehicles were shipped contrary to the terms of the agreement.

Unfortunately, when delivered, the vehicles were not fit to be described as ambulances. “It is indisputable, on the facts established at the trial that the first accused’s actions and omissions led to the loss to the state,” the A-G argued.

The Attorney-General further submitted that the first accused’s omission to respect the terms of the agreement between the parties showed mens rea to wilfully cause financial loss to the Republic.

“It can clearly be deduced that he desired to cause financial loss, or he foresaw the loss as virtually certain but took an unjustifiable risk of it, or he could foresee the loss as probable consequence but elected to unreasonably risk same, or he failed to exercise due care and attention and thereby caused a loss,” Mr. Dame argued.

No ‘authorisation’

The Attorney-General further submitted that the first accused did his actions without any further “authorisation” from any quarters.

“A careful examination of the record does not disclose any so-called authorisation by the former Minister of Finance or, indeed, any superior officer. On the contrary, exhibits tendered by the prosecution show that Dr Forson acted on his own and not through any alleged authorisation by his former boss, Mr Seth Tekper,” Mr Dame noted.

According to the prosecution, all actions taken by the Controller and Accountant-General, as well as the Bank of Ghana relied on first accused’s actions, and not any action by Mr. Seth Terkper.

Additionally, the prosecution pointed out that the State actually tendered in evidence an internal memorandum from the Ministry of Finance regarding the matters in issue that showed that the Ministry of Finance staff who worked on the transaction relied solely on the authorisation by Dr Forson, and not the Minister, Mr. Seth Terkper.

This exhibit, in the prosecution’s view, gave an insight into the understanding and thinking of the staff of the Ministry of Finance which worked on the authorisation for the LCs to be established.

“They clearly attributed their action and decision to the direction of first accused, and not the Minister. They were under no illusion that the authorisation for the LCs to be established was coming from first accused, not his boss,” the A-G insisted.

Ownership claim

He also stressed that nowhere in the statement given by Mr. Seth Terkper to the police did he claim ownership of the letters written by Dr Ato Forson.

On the contrary, he explained that Mr. Terkper’s actions around the same time that the first accused’s letters were written showed a completely different inclination, as the  Minister rather was working on reviving the Stanbic facility which was the parliamentary-approved means of payment for the transaction.

He submitted: “It is very obvious, therefore, that the Minister and his deputy, first accused, were doing different things around the same time. Whilst one (the Minister) was working on ensuring a success of the parliamentary-approved facility, the other (first accused), was working to ensure payment contrary to the terms of the contract and from a source that had not been approved by Parliament”.

The State concluded by asserting that a case raising a presumption of guilt had been made against all accused persons, and therefore the court ought to call upon them to open their defence.

Ruling on the submission of no case has been fixed by the trial judge for Thursday, March 30, 2023.

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