The Special Prosecutor, Mr Kissi Agyebeng (SP) has lamented what he describesa developing trend of regressive and dismissive judicial decisions in respect of cases involving the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP).
He observed that these developments, with troubling consequences, portends a disturbing spectre that could hamper the fight against corruption to the “disbenefit of us all.”
Addressing the media in Accra yesterday, Mr Agyebeng enumerated four instances of those judicial decisions against the OSP.
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The SP said the first case was when a judge refused to confirm an order in which the OSP applied to the High Court for a confirmation of a freezing order in respect of a deceased person’sestate.
He said “the judge refused to confirm the order by, in effect, holding that the OSP had come too late since the person of interest had died and that his death had extinguished the enquiry commenced after the occurrence of death.
Mr Agyebeng said the danger of such outcome was obvious; it was to the effect that a person may, in his lifetime, acquire property through corruption and then upon his demise happily pass on the corruptly acquired property to his estate and by so doing, extinguish all scrutiny as to the propriety or otherwise of the acquisition of the property because his corrupt activities were not discovered during his lifetime.
The SP said in another case, a judge issued an injunction order that the OSP should not arrest a person, the OSP declared wanted for a period of ten days.
He said the fugitive through his lawyer proceeded to the Human Rights Court on an ex parteapplication and the judge, without even an enquiry as to why the OSP believed him to be a fugitive from justice, and the judge issued an order that OSP should not arrest the person for ten days.
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“Again, the danger of this outcome is obvious. It encourages criminal suspects to go before the courts to seek injunction orders against law enforcement agencies from apprehending them. The judge did not advert his mind to the well-founded proposition that no one has the right not to be arrested. And he accorded the suspect a right not to be arrested,” Mr Agyebeng added.
In the third instance, Mr Agyebeng said, the OSP applied to the High Court for a confirmation of a seizure order and a freezing order in respect of a person who had just resigned from a ministerial position and had reported that large cash sums in foreign denominations had been stolen from her residence. In addition, the OSP subsequently discovered additional large cash sums in foreign denominations and cedis still stashed in her residence.
He said the judge hastily dismissed the OSP’s application and ordered a return of the seized amounts and the defreezing of her property and he proceeded to lash out at the OSP for not doing a thorough investigation – without the slightest consideration that the seizure and freezing orders are designed by law to facilitate investigation into the affairs of suspects and not the other way of requiring thorough investigation before the OSP can seize or freeze.
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Mr Agyebeng said “the judge also completely shut, ignored the fact that in almost every jurisdiction, including Ghana, it is extremely unusual and highly suspicious for a public officer to have such large cash sums stashed in their homes. And that, that circumstances of the case dictated pause and reflection and the granting of the OSP adequate time to carry out its investigation. The judge was only interested in a return of the money to the person of interest and nothing more and he proceeded to erect non-existent legal barriers to prevent the OSP from investigating the matter.”
In the fourth instance, the OSP had issued an investigation report in respect of the grant of a customs advance ruling by the Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority.
He said the report opined that there was an institutionalised culture of lighthearted unconcern regarding impropriety of action at the Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority – which indicated a high propensity to engender corruption and corruption-related activities.
BY MALIK SULLEMANA