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Thursday, November 19, 2009

M&J saga: Deadline extended for officials

Emile Short, Commissioner of CHRAJ
Emile Short, Commissioner of CHRAJ
The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has extended the deadline for some of the officials who were mentioned in the Mabey and Johnson (M&J) bribery affair to present their responses.

This follows requests from the affected officials for more time to respond.

Consequently, Messrs Baba Kamara and Kwame Peprah have been given up to Friday, November 20, 2009 to respond to CHRAJ’s queries, while Alhaji Ahmadu Seidu was given up to Wednesday, with Mr Ato Quarshie’s response expected by the close of Tuesday, November 17, 2009.

The Commissioner of CHRAJ, Mr Emile Short, who disclosed this, said the decision to resort to the courts to compel the implicated officials to respond had been put on hold because of the extension requested and granted.

He confirmed the receipt of some information from Dr George Yankey’s lawyers seeking to show that the former had not been implicated in any court suit.

He added that all the government officials allegedly implicated were never arraigned before the UK court, nor were any charges preferred against them.

The UK court could, therefore, not have convicted them, though the court, on the basis of evidence given by M&J, accepted statements by the company that it had set up a special fund from which bribes had been paid to government officials to secure and maintain their contracts.

“Our investigation, therefore, is based on the statement by the company which the court accepted and our objective now is to determine whether the evidence given by the company is supported,” the commissioner said.

“This requires laying hands on documents the courts relied on in the decision, but it has not been very easy to get all the documents.

Efforts at getting those documents from the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of the UK are proving difficult, primarily because the issue boarders on trans-national crime,” he said.

Mr Short said with trans-national crime, there was the need to invoke the Mutual Legal Assistance Scheme Agreement, an agreement of co-operation in the investigation of trans-national crime between countries that requires the use of a central authority in each country where these crimes have been committed and are being investigated.

In the case of Ghana, the central authority is the Attorney General (AG), while in the UK it is the Home Office.

Although CHRAJ has the court proceedings, and the AG has submitted to the commission all the documentation on the matter, it still does not have certain relevant documentation referred to in the judgment and a request has gone through the central authority of Ghana, the AG’s Department, through the UK Home office to the SFO in the UK.

Mr. Short, expressing the difficulty in its investigation process into the matter, stated that if it had been a local investigation, CHRAJ could have compelled anyone to produce the evidence needed, explaining, however, that its jurisdiction did not extend outside the borders of the country and so it could not do that in this matter.

He underscored the fact that the M&J case had been decided on a plea-bargain agreement, in which the company decided to admit to wrongs in return for a less stiff punishment, saying that such cases would not have any witnesses to testify, a situation which added to the difficulties.

Meanwhile, CHRAJ is studying the rules covering a grant on the acquisition of tractors by co-operative and small-holder farmers in respect of a petition against the Presidential Spokesperson, Mr Mahama Ayariga and Mr. Ato Ahwoi.

The two have, meanwhile, submitted their responses to queries from CHRAJ after petitions had been lodged with the Commission that the two used their positions as public officials to acquire the tractors meant for rural poor farmers. Mr Short said the Commission would come up with the next step to take after studying the agreement.

Source: Daily Graphic

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