Bogus Charges Free Woyome

A three-member Appeals Court panel, chaired by Justice Victor Ofoe, yesterday unanimously dismissed the state’s appeal, challenging the acquittal of business magnate, Alfred Agbesi Woyome.

The state, about a year ago, proceeded to the Appeals Court for redress on the acquittal of Mr. Woyome, saying the High Court Judge who presided over the case, Justice John Ajet Nassam, had erred in law. However, the Appellate Court threw out the case, indicating that the Attorney General (AG) failed to establish allegations of fraud against the businessman.

The three-member panel said the High Court was right in the acquittal of Mr. Woyome, as the state prosecutors failed to prove that he was guilty beyond reasonable doubt, in respect of the charges of defrauding by false pretence, and causing financial loss to the state leveled against him.

The businessman was, on March 12, 2015, acquitted and discharged by the High Court on two counts of defrauding by false pretence and causing financial loss to the state. But the state wanted the judgment acquitting Woyome set aside.

Justice Nassam described the prosecution’s case as “shoddy”, and, therefore, acquitted and discharged him off the two charges.

Woyome’s victory speech
“I have only one thing to say. The only thing I have to say is that, I believe in Lord God Almighty. It’s been four and half years.” According to him, the judgment given by the court was comprehensive. He advised people to believe in God. “I am encouraging you to believe in your God first, and also believe in the court system. No matter what happens, truth will not hide,” he remarked. “Today, all those who have insulted me because of false information, I have forgiven them”.

Background
Woyome was dragged to court, where he faced two charges of defrauding by false pretence and causing financial loss to the state, both to which he pleaded not guilty.

He was subsequently granted bail in the sum of GH¢20 million.

The AG, at that time, informed the court that in 2009 Woyome made a false representation to the then Attorney General, Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu, that he had a contract with the Government of Ghana regarding the construction of five sports stadia, but the contract was unlawfully abrogated.

Woyome subsequently, filed a writ at the High Court, claiming that he was owed an amount of GH¢41 million, to which he added interest, amounting to GH¢51 million.

The amount was paid in tranches – that is on February 2010 he was paid GH¢17,094,493.53, the second tranche was on January 27, 2011, on which he was paid GH¢10 million. The remainder was paid on April 18, 2011, which was GH¢10 million and September 12, 2011, GH¢14188987.06.

Amidu’s suit
In 2010, Mr. Martin Amidu was appointed Attorney General to replace Betty Mould Iddrisu, who was sent to the Education Ministry. That appointment and revelations in the 2010 Audit Report changed the dynamics of the Woyome scandal.

Mr. Amidu had Woyome arrested and charged for causing financial loss to the state. Two others, including Neequaye Tetteh, the Chief State Attorney were also arrested. Unfortunately, Martin Amidu was relieved of his position under mysterious circumstances whilst prosecuting the case, with Marietta Brew-Appiah Oppong appointed to take his place.

But, Mr. Amidu went on a review and had the court rule in his favour, and Woyome was asked to refund the GH¢51 million to the state.

How it all began
Alfred Woyome was paid ¢51 million for allegedly helping Ghana raise funds to construct stadia for purposes of hosting the 2008 Africa Nations Cup. However, an Auditor General’s report released in 2010 said the amount was paid illegally to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) financier.

The report triggered nationwide controversy, with critics accusing the government of misappropriating funds. Officials of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), which was in government during the CAN 2008 tournament, said Woyome did no work to be paid that whopping sum of money.

The then Attorney General, Joe Ghartey, said Woyome was contracted to help in raising money for the construction works, but failed to meet the deadline. He said the NPP government had no choice than to abrogate the contract with Woyome. When the NPP left office in 2009, Alfred Woyome proceeded to court, claiming his contract was illegally terminated, thereby demanding a judgment debt well over 2 million cedis.

The government failed to defend the state. Instead, the then Attorney General under the late Mills administration, Betty Mould Iddrisu, is said to have negotiated with Woyome to reduce his demand on the government. He did, and requested for 51 million cedis. The government went to court with a consent judgment. The court accepted and asked the AG to pay in three tranches of 17 million cedis to the plaintiff. The court was emphatic that only the first tranche be paid until after the trial.

The court again asked Woyome to present an undertaking that in the event he lost, he would refund the first tranche of 17 million cedis. But should he win, the state would pay the two other tranches. Betty Mould Iddrisu, however, decided to pay all the three tranches. Her Deputy, Ebo Barton Oduro, later publicly defended the payment to Woyome.

By Maame Agyeiwaa Agyei

( [email protected] )

& Ethel Mensah


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