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Airbus saga takes new turn: Ghana under no duress to extradite Mahama

Airbus C-295 military airplane

The government will have to decide whether or not to arrest and extradite Samuel Mahama to the United Kingdom for prosecution in the Airbus bribery saga following a red alert notice from the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol).

This is because the red alert issued is not a warrant and does not make it mandatory for the suspect to be arrested and extradited.

Samuel Adam Mahama, who is a brother of the 2020 presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and former president John Dramani Mahama, has been fingered in the Airbus bribery scandal. He is alleged to have profited from kickbacks running into millions of dollars.

Open choice

But a lecturer with the Faculty of Law at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Isidore Tufuor, says the choice is for Ghana to make.

“The notice is not a warrant, so once a notice is given to a country, it is up to the country to decide whether it wants to go and look for the person and send him or her to the country that issued the notice,” said Dr Tufuor.

“So, once it is not a warrant and not based on any obligation to the country that is seeking the accused person, then you realise that it is all about international co-operation … You have to arrest the person and go through extradition proceedings to get the person to the country that is seeking the accused,’’ he said.

Dr Tufuor was speaking on Friday (17 July) to Kojo Mensah, host of the Asaase Breakfast Show. He argued that the country where the crime occurred has discretion, depending on the gravity of the offence, to issue a red alert notice or warrant for arrest so that the accused person can be transferred to face prosecution.

Prosecution as a must

However, Dr Tufuor stressed that in a high-profile case such as the Airbus corruption scandal, which made it necessary to issue the red notice alert for Samuel Mahama, prosecution of the accused is a must.

On Thursday 16 July the Ghana Police Service published a red alert notice, issued by Interpol in relation to four people. International investigating officials are seeking the four named individuals for questioning in connection with their alleged roles in the Airbus scandal.

In January this year the European aeronautical giant Airbus reached a deferred prosecution agreement with officials in France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America to avoid answering directly to accusations that the company had paid out billions of dollars to individuals to influence the sale of aircraft to governments and national airlines in five countries.

The settlement concluded investigations carried out over a four-year period in the three prosecuting countries.

Courts in the three prosecuting countries found that the company had paid out bribes of nearly €5 million ($5.7 million) to individuals connected with Ghana’s purchase of three C-295 military aircraft between 2009 and 2015.

Airbus agreed to a settlement covering fines and costs amounting to €3.5 billion (£3 billion or US$3.8 billion).

“Prompt inquiry”

A statement on behalf of the Ghana Police Service dated 16 July 2020, released by the public affairs unit of the Ghana CID, reads in part:

Following a request by the office of the Special Prosecutor through the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), to the Interpol General Secretariat, the latter was issued in respect of [the] following individuals …

  1. Samuel Adam Foster alias Adam Mahama
  2. Philip Sean Middlemiss
  3. Leanne Sarah Davies
  4. Sarah Furneaux.

The Airbus scandal took a global turn five months ago as various countries initiated investigative proceedings and prosecutions of officials who played various roles in profiting from the bribery venture.

At the time, commenting briefly on the matter, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo promised to “conduct a prompt inquiry to determine the complicity or otherwise of any Ghanaian government official, past or present”.

Dr Tufuor told Asaase Radio that the government can either decide to move in and arrest the accused people if they are within the jurisdiction, or it can decide to ignore the red alert.

Terms of engagement

A red notice is a request to law-enforcement officials worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action.

Red notices are issued for fugitives wanted either for prosecution or to serve a sentence. It follows judicial proceedings in the country issuing the request. This is not always the home country of the individual but can be the country where the crime was committed.

When a person is sought for prosecution, he or she has not been convicted and should be considered innocent until proven guilty. If a person is sought to serve a sentence, that means the individual has been found guilty by a court in the issuing country.

Kennedy Mornah

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