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Ambulance case: plot by Richard Jakpa to entrap Attorney General revealed

Richard Jakpa, the man suspected to have recorded the Attorney General, is on trial with the former deputy finance minister Cassiel Ato Forson, the Minority Leader

Asaase News has uncovered what appears to be a deliberate plot to entrap the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, last April in the house of a Supreme Court judge (name withheld) who happens to be a very close relative of the accused person suspected secretly to have recorded the Attorney General.

Richard Jakpa, the man suspected to have recorded the AG, is on trial with the former deputy minister of finance Cassiel Ato Forson, the Minority Leader, in the ambulance procurement trial over an alleged €2.3 million financial loss to the state.

The facts available to Asaase News show that Yeboah Dame was invited by a Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana to come to his house for a discussion. He obliged, as would be expected, but had no indication that Jakpa would show up there.

Invitation by SC judge

In the course of the conversation with the Justice of the Supreme Court, the accused person Jakpa, whom the judge had introduced as a cousin, came into the room. The judge enquired what was happening with the plea-bargaining proposal submitted by the accused and whether it could be accepted.

This conversation happened shortly after the prosecution had closed its case and the trial judge, against the submission of no case to answer by the accused persons, had ruled that there was indeed a case to answer and that Dr Ato Forson and Jakpa should go ahead to open their defence.

But Jakpa, who was allegedly wired, breaching the trust of his cousin the judge, is said to have spoken in a way designed to commit the AG to say something injurious.

However, our checks show that the AG limited his interventions to facts and evidence of the case he had presented in open court.

The high-profile nature of the case, our checks show, has led to a lot of pressure being brought to bear on the prosecution against the continuation of the trial. The AG, from one check, has always remained firm but has welcomed the option of plea bargaining once properly framed.

On 30 March 2023, Justice Afia Serwaa Asare-Botwe’s court ruled that a prima facie case had been made by the prosecution against all the accused persons and that they ought to open their defence. Jakpa subsequently applied for plea bargaining but the request was rejected on the grounds of not being properly framed and his lawyers were asked to resubmit it.

The Attorney General, at the said meeting with the Supreme Court Judge (which took place about six weeks ago), informed the judge about the circumstances that had led to non-acceptance of the plea negotiations and said that essentially it could be attributed to the strategies adopted by the accused persons.

The reasons, the AG said, were as follows: Richard Jakpa had indeed submitted a plea proposal to the Office of the Attorney General by letters dated 16 April, 27 April, 16 May and 30 May 2023, but the difficulty was that the letters only stated that Big Sea General llc, a Dubai-based company, had heard about the dispute and was prepared to pay €2 million and to take back the vehicles purporting to be ambulances.

In consideration of this, Big Sea would request for the Republic to discontinue the case against all the accused. The Office of the Attorney General replied that Big Sea was not a party to the court case in Ghana, and therefore a plea agreement whereby Big Sea would offer to pay the amount in question in settlement of the case was improper. The third accused subsequently wrote “improving” the offer made.

The first accused person, Cassiel Ato Forson, through his lawyers, also wrote a letter to the AG, dated 25 July 2023, stating that “he had no objection” to the proposals by the third accused. The Office of the AG replied to the letter from the first accused, Ato Forson, and asked him to clarify whether by the letter, he is to be understood as also making a plea request. The first accused’s lawyers replied that he should not be understood as making a plea request.

Based on the above, the AG wrote to the accused persons stating that the third accused person’s offer was not acceptable. Even after this, counsel for the accused persons, particularly the third accused, Jakpa, continued to engage the AG both in court and out of court on the possibility of negotiating a plea agreement.

The Supreme Court judge then asked whether it was possible for an opportunity for a settlement to be given to the third accused person, his cousin.

During the meeting, the third accused person, who was secretly recording the meeting, accused the AG of being too difficult, claiming that he had something against him, the third accused person, and wanted to see him jailed.

The AG stated categorically that in a case involving financial loss to the state, the focus is more on the public officials whose acts occasioned the alleged crime(s).

But Jakpa declared that the AG was the main hindrance to the efforts to reach a settlement and that the offer by the accused persons for plea-bargaining was good and reasonable. He alleged that if the AG was so inclined, the case would have been settled long ago.

Recorded conversation

Unknown to the AG, the whole conversation was being recorded. Our checks show that apart from telephone conversations, the third accused knew that he could not have direct contact with the AG anywhere and secretly record him unless, as it happened, in the house of a judge that AG respected and also knows as a good friend.

The Attorney General assured the Justice of the Supreme Court that he did not have a problem with any of the accused persons and that if plea-bargaining was what they wanted, they simply had to come clean and indicate unequivocally that they wanted a plea bargain.

He said that the situation whereby they shied away from categorically applying for plea-bargaining and proposed to pay the cost of purchase of the ordinary vans purporting to be ambulances, rather seeking to hide behind an entity which was not a party to the case (Big Sea General llc in Dubai), was unacceptable.

The AG said this because, in the case of the first accused, for instance, Ato Forson had pleaded with the AG to stop prosecuting him when he came to the AG’s house to plead in the company of a senior Member of Parliament. The AG had told him that the only way he would compromise was for the first accused, together with the other accused persons, to submit a plea-bargaining proposal.

Even though the first accused accepted to do this, he was not prepared to acknowledge explicitly on paper that he had offered to reach a plea-bargaining settlement with the AG because he thought an indication of the same would imply acceptance of wrongdoing on his part, a situation which, according to him, would lower his standing in the eyes of society.

The third accused, Jakpa, said at the meeting that, despite all the AG had said, he was still pursuing him and that the AG meant to secure his conviction. The AG assured him in the presence of the Justice of the Supreme Court, once again, that he had nothing against him, and that, in the particular case of the third accused, if he was truthful when testifying and did not attempt to be “clever” or evasive, it would facilitate acceptance of a plea proposal by him.

The Attorney General indicated that it was easy to accept a plea-bargaining proposal from Jakpa because he was not the principal actor in the processes for payment of the defective ordinary vans purporting to be ambulances, and so, to that extent, he was not the main target of the legal process.

The AG stated that the principal actors in the transaction, or the main targets, were the public officers through whose acts the state had lost millions of euros for the purchase of the ordinary vans held out as ambulances. Those public officers were the other two accused persons, for one of whom a nolle prosequi had been entered on account of his sickness and inability to stand trial.

The Attorney General stated that all he would require of the third accused to facilitate a plea negotiation was for him to co-operate by being truthful and faithful to the record of the transaction. The AG told Jakpa in the presence of the Justice of the Supreme Court that, for instance, he would show him the cabinet approval for the transaction (which the prosecution had already tendered at the trial) and ask whether Big Sea Company was mentioned in the cabinet approval.

Reporting by Wilberforce Asare in Accra

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