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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

22 Fresh Charges For Mpiani & Others

Kwadwo Mpiani and Wereko-Brobby
Gertrude Aikins, acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), yesterday apologized to Prof. George Gyan-Baffuor, former Deputy Minister for Finance and Economic Planning and Member of Parliament (MP) for Wenchi, for the embarrassment she caused him when she told an Accra Fast Track High Court, Financial Division, that he was among four other persons who were at large and therefore missing, even as the prosecutor leveled fresh charges against the suspects in the case.
“I apologise to Prof. Gyan-Baffuor”, she said, after Nene Amegatcher, counsel for the MP, appeared in court to complain that his client had gone nowhere and was also not invited by security officials, yet was publicly declared at large by the prosecution on March 30, 2010.
Mr. Amegatcher said the prosecution’s declaration had caused his client “serious embarrassment”.
Ms. Aikins admitted that she was not sure if the Professor was served or not, so did not want to mention his name; but was forced to do so by counsel for the accused persons who said they wanted to know who those at large were.
Immediately the apology was rendered, the prosecutor preferred 22 fresh charges against the Professor, and his co-accused persons including the former Minister for Roads and Transport Dr. Richard Anane, former Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, former Chief of Staff Kwadwo Mpiani and former Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the NPP Sammy Crabbe, who were all in the courtroom.
The former NPP appointees all pleaded not guilty to the 22 charges of conspiracy to cause financial loss to the Republic, through a willful action.
They are being tried by the court presided over by Justice Bright Mensah, together with four others at large, for allegedly causing financial loss to the State to the tune of about $56 million.
They stand accused for the various roles they played leading to the formation of the Ghana International Airlines Limited (GIAL).
Dr. Anane faces the charge of causing financial loss and defrauding by false pretences.
Dr. Akoto-Osei is facing seven counts of conspiracy to deceive public officer, deceit of public officer, misappropriation of funds and causing financial loss to the state.
Mr. Mpiani, the former Minister of Presidential Affairs, also faces charges of conspiracy to deceive public officer and deceiving public officer, while Prof. Gyan Baffuor pleaded not guilty to causing financial loss to the state.  
Sammy Crabbe, a minority shareholder of the Ghana International Airlines Limited (GIAL), on the other hand, was charged with opening an offshore account without authority from the Bank of Ghana, stealing and causing financial loss.
The court maintained their GH¢300,000 self recognizance bail while Prof. Gyan-Baffuor was also given the same bail condition.
The DPP said the facts of the case remained the same except that Prof Gyan-Baffuor conspired with Dr. Akoto-Osei and they put state money into GIAL in spite of the warning from PricewaterhouseCoopers, of the dangers of doing so.
She told the packed court that the two made the state to believe that by putting money into GIAL, the percentage owned by the state would increase, but it turned out to be false, explaining that in spite of the Presidential Commission which recommended KLM and Fidelity as the best for the national airline, the accused persons opted for GIAL.
Mrs. Gertrude Aikins, the acting Director of Public Prosecutions, who presented the facts of the case, told the court that in 2004, following the extremely poor performance of the now defunct Ghana Airways, the Government of Ghana wanted a strategy to turn its fortunes around and word went round about the government’s intention.
According to her, Mr. Crabbe, after some efforts, presented a proposal to government even though no open proposals were made for its reconstruction and said that a certain Mr. Ashiagbor of PricewaterhouseCoopers who was then on the proposal board to seek the turnaround of the then national airline, observed that GIA did not meet the criteria they had set.
She said other competitors like Fidelity Group, KLM and Kenya Airways had sent their proposals as well.
Ms Aikins said Pricewaterhouse advised the government to undertake due diligence to ensure that GIA would be capable of putting in adequate funds to ensure the airline was able to run effectively after the GIAL proposal.
She noted that when the GIA-USA LLC partnership was formed, the Ghanaian shareholders were never publicly informed and further alleged that the company was not incorporated when it was given a commercial airlines licence by the government, claiming therefore that the company was fraudulently contrived to defraud the state.
The acting DPP claimed that Dr. Anane falsely represented to Cabinet that the GIA-USA LLC was made up of World Transport Group and Sentry companies which had the capacity to join government to create a new airline. He subsequently, according to her, got parliamentary approval to liquidate Ghana Airways.
The DPP, in addition, said Mr. Crabbe deposited the equity in accordance with the agreement on the airline in Standard Chartered Bank in New York but later went and stole $1.2 million and has since refunded some of the money, leaving $700 unpaid.
She said Mr Mpiani on his part ordered the release of US$6,000,000 to GIAL in September 2008 without lawful authority and noted that Dr. Akoto-Osei also approved a US$15,000,000 loan to fund government equity of GIAL without government approval.
The acting DPP said the mistakes that led to causing financial loss to the state would have been avoided if Dr. Anane and Mr. Crabbe went about their activities strictly under the shareholders’ agreement.
She therefore noted that no investor wants to do business with the airline again because it has become “a floating coffin”.

By Fidelia Achama/Daily Guide

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