The Special Prosecutor has taken full responsibility for the defects in the drafting of the charge sheet in the case against the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, and another.
“All we have to do is to make sure that our particulars meet the standard. I welcome the decision of the High Court, and in accordance with Section 14 (3) of the Special Prosecutor’s Act, I take ultimate responsibility for the lapse in the drafting,” Martin Amidu told the Daily Graphic in an exclusive interview in Accra yesterday.
“I have no doubt that the office tried to do the best it could and I am sure it is a guidance for the future,” he added.
The High Court, on Monday, struck out three charges levelled against Ayariga and Kendrick Akwasi Marfo, a businessman, on the grounds that “the drafting of particular offences under counts one, three, four and five do not make any reference to any part of those offences having been allegedly perpetrated in furtherance of corruption and/or corruption-related enterprise”.
The charges struck out against the MP were fraudulent evasion of customs duties and taxes, dealing in foreign exchange without licence and transfer of foreign exchange from Ghana through an unauthorised dealer.
With regard to Marfo, the court struck out the charge of fraudulent evasion of customs duties and taxes.
According to the court, the particulars of those offences did not relate to corruption or corruption-related offences and were, therefore, not under the remit of the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP).
With the court striking out the four charges, the MP is facing only a charge of using public office for private benefit in the case of tax evasion, while the businessman has been discharged.
Making further allusion to the case, Mr Amidu said “the misunderstanding is clearly due to maybe the lack of appreciation by the press that by striking out counts 1, 3, 4 and 5, it follows that ordinary laymen will assume that we cannot investigate and prosecute offences once they come under the customs or Foreign Exchange Act”.
He said many anti-corruption activists were very uncomfortable because one could not deal with corruption without the ability to deal with breaches of other offences which were committed in furtherance of corruption and/or corruption-related offences.
“When I got the judgment, I had no doubt that the judge in the case did the right thing by not pronouncing on the ability of the office to investigate and prosecute under the Customs Act or the Foreign Exchange Act,” Mr Amidu noted.
“What she [judge] did was to insist that there must be a nexus between the breach of the customs offence or the foreign exchange offence in the perpetration or in furtherance of the perpetration of a corruption or a corruption-related enterprise and this must be clearly stated and come out in the particulars of offence,” he added.
He said the court’s ruling simply meant that he must give to the accused person sufficient particulars of the linkage of the foreign exchange offence and corruption-related offence.
“In this case, counts one, three, four and five on our charge sheet, regrettably, fell short in the particulars in making any reference to any part of those offences having been allegedly perpetrated in furtherance of corruption and/or corruption-related enterprise,” Mr Amidu said.
According to the Special Prosecutor, his office assumed that by the mere mention of the three home-used Landcruiser vehicles, which were the subject of abuse of public office for private benefit, the connection between the abuse and the breaches of the Customs Act and the Foreign Exchange Act would be deduced.
“Our assumption has clearly been demonstrated to be wrong,” he conceded, and said: “We should have established in each of the particulars, without leaving any doubt in the mind of the accused, that those offences were committed in furtherance of the corruption and corruption-related enterprise of abuse of public office for private benefit.”
He urged anti-corruption activists and civil society groups to disabuse their minds that the remits of the fight against corruption would be abused with the wrong notion that his office could not prosecute corruption-related offences arising out of customs and foreign exchange offences.
Mr Amidu denied claims that there was an ongoing feud between him and Mr Ayariga.
He said the impression was wrong and that there was no basis in fact, adding that the MP was not the only person being investigated by the OSP.
“Whatever case that emanates from here cannot be between me and the accused.
It is between the Republic of Ghana and the accused,” he said, adding that “were it not for this appointment, I would not have any authority to investigate and prosecute anyone”.
He, therefore, urged the media to stop personalising and twisting purely criminal matters.
Mr Amidu reiterated the fact that he had said on oath that he would treat crime as crime.