Woyome Is Innocent Before The Law But Seems Guilty Before Political Actors

Innocence Of Woyome Before Law But Criminal In Eyes Of Political Actors

0
Alfred Woyome
Alfred Woyome

In any country where reasonable laws are enacted and made to function and prevail, no one is ever guilty of an alleged crime unless and until duly prosecuted and convicted. In particular, Article 19(2)[c] of 1992 Constitution of Ghana and Article 14 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) do not hide this fundamental legal principle of ‘presumed innocence’.

Alfred Woyome
Alfred Woyome

Background

In 2010, Alfred Agbesi Woyome was paid by Finance Ministry of Ghana a consent judgment amount totaling up to GhȻ51, 283480.58. The consent and terms of settlement was that which was duly reached in a court of Ghana. Upon audit report, public outcry and political maneuverings on revelations thereof, then President John Evans Atta Mills (Prof) ordered for an investigation which Economic and Organized Crimes Office (EOCO) took up, investigated and produced a report.

Mr. Alfred Agbesi Woyome is a businessman who used to be engaged in variety of business activities including what was noted to be ‘financial engineering’. He was said to have paid monies to NPP at one point and to NDC at another. He is, however, controversially labeled in some mischievous quarters of the media as ‘NDC financier or bankroller’.

Damning EOCO report

EOCO report was damning on four main grounds: Presidential authority appeared to have been undermined since Professor Mills was said to have instructed finance ministry and attorney general to stop payment but to no avail. The second ground is that attorney general at least lackadaisically tried to stop the payment through the Court but the Court appeared to have denied the request thereof. Thirdly, the Court had asked for part payment of the money to Woyome pending other settlements. But apparently flagrant instructions from attorney general made Finance Ministry to have incautiously paid all the GhȻ51.283million.

The fourth ground is that, the former administration under President John Agyekum Kufuor of NPP may have had unnecessarily introduced Woyome to CAN 2008 financial engineering processes who may have leveraged governmental prefecture to gain more recognition and favor with Waterville/Vamed.

In this connection, procurement processes appeared to have been recklessly terminated at the expense of Vamed/Waterville. The subsequent memorandum of understanding reached with Vamed/Waterville and authorization thereof to go to site which was complied with may have formed the basis for Woyome to dare into the political maneuvering space of the succeeding government led by Prof Mills of NDC.

While others discredited EOCO’s report and labeled it as face-saving measure, without any alternative matching report of such caliber, majority of people (especially those who had the opportunity to read it) regarded the report as credible enough to draw a reasonable conclusion on what had transpired. I was one of those who gave the report benefit of the doubt and was anxious to see how any court processes will unveil the reasonable truth.

To my agitated mind, it appeared that there was an uncharitable collusion between the Court where the consent judgment was reached on one hand and Attorney General Ministry, Finance Ministry and Woyome on the other. As the report intimated, I was far from convinced that the issue was about one ‘criminal Woyome’ (as peddled around) outsmarting all actors in three government institutions in order to dupe the State of huge sums. I cautiously saw Woyome trying to fight for his legitimate business rights but unduly took advantage of a weak and malleable system for his private gain ever more than deserved.

Attorney general in court

The attorney general was back in court praying the court to order Woyome to refund the GhȻ51.2million which, they deemed, had been ‘mistakenly’ doled out to him. On the other hand, the attorney general was also seeking the court to have Woyome imprisoned for having ‘defrauded the State by false pretence and caused financial loss to the State’. Under the contentiously convoluted circumstance, neither ‘mistake payment’ nor ‘defrauding by false pretence and causing financial loss to the state’ was ever expected to be an easy- walk-through for the attorney general in court, even with a best legal foot forward.

In a bizarre discretion of attorney general, however, Woyome was the only one strongly put forward for trial – the two or so other people that were put on trial were not really the people at the centre of the controversy. The attorney general, of course, has had its basis for ignoring the so-called central people. Perhaps, the attorney general did not have enough evidence on people like Mrs. Betty Mould Iddrisu, Mr. Paul Asimenu and Mr. Nerquaye-Tetteh. Or that their legal conviction was that Woyome deceived all of them. We are yet to be told exactly why all of that happened. Sadly, it appears the prosecutors owe the public no such explanation.

I reemphasize here my ambivalence about Woyome’s ability to have outwitted all the technical men – just like that. It was therefore no wonder that attorney general could sustain only the trial of Woyome, at least for a while.

Court judgements

The civil court case to retrieve the money from Woyome appeared to have been swallowed by 29/07/2014 judgement of Supreme Court of Ghana in favour of a review suit (citizen action under articles 2 and 3, 1992 constitution) by Mr. Martin Amidu. The court agreed with Martin that the said contract which Woyome associated himself with (i.e. Vamed/Waterville) was invalid and unconstitutional because under article 181(5), international agreements such as that must have been approved by the Parliament of Ghana, which was not done. The court made consequential order that Woyome should refund the GhȻ51.2million to the State.

It nonetheless would have been very interestingly instructive to see what outcome the earlier action by attorney general in the Commercial Court to retrieve the money would have yielded if the Supreme Court had not intervened through Martin. That perhaps would have been more decisive and fairer under the circumstances.

However, on March 12th 2015, the High Court found Woyome not guilty of the criminal charge of ‘defrauding by false pretence and causing financial loss to the state’ and thus went on to acquit and discharge him. One of the shocking reasons advanced by presiding judge Justice John Adjet Nassam was that not only the prosecutors could not prove beyond all reasonable doubt to convince him but also the prosecution was ‘shoddy’, particularly citing unavailability of crucial witnesses or perceived conspirators. Apparently, ‘shoddy’ reason adduced could simply imply that the judge was overreaching his remit perhaps merely to appease the rage of the public or that he may have been angered by what he may have seen as unacceptable manner in which the prosecutors handled the case.

Vehemently disagreeing and visibly angered by the release of Woyome and description of poor prosecutor conduct, the attorney general quickly filed appeal against Adjet Nassam’s ruling. On 10th March 2016 however, the appeal court upheld the decision of Adjet Nassam and thus acquitted and discharged Woyome on the crime of ‘defrauding the State by false pretence and causing financial loss to the State’. Woyome appeared to have become a free man albeit with Supreme Court’s Constitutional interpretation order to refund the GhȻ51.2million still hanging on his neck.

Innocent before the law

Save the Supreme Court order which did not even touch on innocence or otherwise of Woyome or those who did not get Woyome’s contract (if it ever existed) approved by Parliament, Woyome, in the case of GhȻ51.2million paid to him for financial engineering, was not a criminal and is still not a criminal in the eyes of the law.

This is regardless of how some people including myself would have wished the prosecutors should have gone about the prosecution. It does not also matter how people may suspect the integrity of the judicial process including conduct of officers of court and judges.

The fact is that if Woyome had been convicted as would have wished by some people, such people may not have raised any eyebrows even if Woyome had been unfairly convicted. The need to respect the verdict of the law no matter the dissatisfaction of either party is, therefore, instructively sacrosanct.
Criminal in eyes of political actors

It is understandable that political actors wanting to score political points almost succeeded in convicting Woyome in court of public opinion as ‘a criminal’. This is because even though there were other alleged infractions in the same audit report where Woyome was initially raised, it was Woyome’s case which could be conveniently used to tag NDC as corrupt.

However, although political capital was hardly fetched with it and consequent verdict of the court that Woyome was not a criminal after all, some political actors like former President J J Rawlings ‘of NDC’ and Nana Akomea of NPP were recently reported in the media as continuing to taint Woyome with a criminal brush in a vulnerable posture suggesting that the government did not do a good job.

But that the prosecution did not do a good job in the eyes of some people cannot, by any means, make someone vindicated by a court still regarded as a criminal. If we were to take this stance, then I dare say that there would not be any prosecution that would be accepted as good enough by any losing party. If this posture were to be elevated, it would dangerously undermine people’s confidence not just in prosecution but also in adjudication. After all, no matter the shoddiness that shrouded the prosecution and verdict in Adjet Nassam’s Court, all the appeal court judges could not have unanimously upheld the release of Woyome by the lower court if they found something terribly wrong.
Bottom-line

I personally have had a hard time trying to unpack issues that point to Woyome being a criminal or not. I am not convinced that Woyome’s Saga is not one of daily politically tainted projects which some politicians use to enrich themselves. These cases are well planned and shrouded in secrecy more often beyond the grasp of the law.

To my mind, some of the politicians that have been parading themselves as latter day saints and making Woyome’s case any different than their blemished selves not forgetting the over GhȻ 200,000,000 wasted in 2014 auditor’s report may have no integrity and moral right, to start with. They must admit the universal culpability of political and civil classes from both NDC and NPP and from many MMDA’s across the country.

That said, Woyome must refund the GhȻ51.2million as promised the Supreme Court as long as the order stands. His right to proceed to international court to challenge the consequential order of Supreme Court is particularly protected by article 2 of ICCPR and article 40 of 1992 constitution of Ghana. But this is likely to further drag his name into the mud even if he emerges winner thereof. At the moment, regardless of my misgivings, Woyome is not a criminal before the law and he is a free man.

He must be minded to advise his caliber and pretentious political actors who are currently despising him but are daily sneaking and lurking around corridors of power to milk the State that it is high time they took ordinary Ghanaians very seriously, even before the law.

Source: Adam Abukari
International Legal Specialist
adam.abukari@gmail.com

Send your news stories to newsghana101@gmail.com and via WhatsApp on +233 244244807 Follow News Ghana on Google News

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here