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Ato Forson was “criminally reckless” says Attorney General

The Attorney General says evidence led at the trial by the state shows that Dr. Forson and two other accused persons have a case to answer

The Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame says Minority leader Ato Forson was criminally reckless as a Deputy Minister of Finance in 2015 and definitely has a case to answer for his role in importing ‘fake ambulances’ into the country under the erstwhile John Mahama administration.

In written submissions filed in an Accra High Court, the Attorney General argued that evidence led at the trial by the prosecutor leads to an irreversible conclusion that Dr. Forson and two others standing trial with him surely have a case to answer.

Portions of the written submissions intercepted by Asaase Radio state that   “a consideration of the evidence led at the trial so far by the prosecution should easily lead to the conclusion that the prosecution has satisfied all the elements of the offences” contained in charges preferred against the accused. The Republic argues further that “the evidence given orally by the prosecution’s witnesses was buttressed by a large volume of documents directly confirming the truth of assertions made by the witnesses”.

The prosecution points out that the actions of the first accused, Dr Ato Forson directly led to financial loss to the State in the purchase of the vehicles purporting to be ambulances. It recounts that by a letter dated 7th August 2014, signed by Dr Ato Forson, the Bank of Ghana was urgently instructed to establish an irrevocable transferable Letter of Credit (LC) in the sum of EUR 3,950,000.00 in favour of Big Sea General Trading LLC. as payment for the ambulances to the Ministry of Health.

“This authorisation for the LCs to be established resulted in the payment of €2,370,000 for the supply of vehicles by Big Sea General Trading LLC, which did not meet the description of an ambulance (a fact clearly established from the evidence on record).

“Dr Forson’s actions, judged in light of thee terms of the contract governing the transaction, showed that he violated the duty he owed as a public officer with responsibility over the use of the public purse by virtue of his status as a Deputy Minister of Finance in 2014. His actions were criminally negligent and most unwarranted” the Republic argued.

To justify the AG’s position, he argued that Dr Forson’s instruction for LCs to be established, were contrary to the terms of the “ambulance contract”, since none of the conditions set out in the contract before payment could be made, had been satisfied.

After his letter instructing the Controller and Accountant General and consequently the Bank of Ghana had been received, the vehicles were shipped contrary to the terms of the agreement which stipulated pre-inspection in Dubai. Upon inspection in Ghana vehicles were not fit to be described as ambulances.

“It is indisputable, on the facts established at the trial, that, first accused’s actions and omissions led to the loss to the state”. The State argued.

The Attorney-General further submitted that the first accused’s omission to respect the terms of the agreement between the parties, showed mens rea to wilfully cause financial loss to the Republic. “It can clearly be deduced that he desired to cause financial loss, or he foresaw the loss as virtually certain but took an unjustifiable risk of it, or he could foresee the loss as probable consequence but elected to unreasonably risk same, or he failed to exercise due care and attention and thereby caused a loss”, Mr. Dame argued.

The prosecutions’ case thickens when it argues further that the first accused did his actions without any further “authorisation” from any quarters. A careful examination of the record does not disclose any so-called authorisation by the former Minister for Finance or, indeed, any superior officer.

On the contrary, exhibits tendered by the prosecution show that Dr Forson acted on his own and not through any alleged authorisation by his former boss, Mr Seth Tekper. The actions taken by the Controller and Accountant-General as well as the Bank of Ghana, all relied on first accused’s actions, not any action by Mr. Seth Terkper, the prosecution stated.

Further, the prosecution points out that the Republic actually tendered in evidence an internal memorandum from the Ministry of Finance regarding the matters in issue that showed that the Ministry of Finance staff who worked on the transaction relied solely on the authorisation by Dr Forson, and not the Minister, Mr. Seth Terkper.

This exhibit, in the prosecution’s view, gave an insight into the understanding and thinking of the staff of the Ministry of Finance who worked on the authorisation for the LCs to be established. They clearly attributed their action and decision to the direction of first accused, and not the Minister. They were under no illusion that the authorisation for the LCs to be established was coming from first accused, not his boss.

Nowhere in the statement given by Mr. Seth Terkper to the police did he claim ownership of the letters written by Dr Ato Forson.

On the contrary, Mr. Terkper’s actions around the same time that the first accused’s letters were written, showed a completely different inclination, as the Honourable Minister rather was working on reviving the Stanbic facility which was the parliamentary-approved means of payment for the transaction.

It is very obvious therefore, that, the Minister and his deputy, first accused, were doing different things around the same time. Whilst one (the Minister) was working on ensuring a success of the parliamentary-approved facility, the other (first accused), was working to ensure payment contrary to the terms of the contract and from a source that had not been approved by parliament.

Dr. Ato Forson will know his fate when the ruling on the submission of no case is delivered by the trial judge on Thursday 30th March 2023.

Wilberforce Asare in Accra

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