In NCA Trial As Case Takes Interesting Turn
With so much breaking news hogging the headlines on a daily basis, it is no wonder that a major trial which started over two years ago, has the prosecution winding down on its submission of evidence against five accused persons, who have all pleaded not guilty, in an interesting way.
Indeed, insiders are asking whether the prosecution has not been more politics than law. The concern is that the prosecution may be employing the tactics of coercion to achieve “conviction by all means”.
Sources say intense pressure is being brought to bear on a crucial witness regarding critical mistakes made on a supposedly independently witnessed statements taken from one of the accused persons.
Allegedly, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Ms. Yvonne Obuobisa, has more reasons than one to win the case by all means. Like any public office, the Attorney General’s Office, is riddled with its internal politics and rivalries.
According to a source, she wants to keep her job and therefore has to please her boss the AG, because she is in an aggressive competition with Mrs. Evelyn Daawee-Keelson (a relative of the Senior Minister, Osafo Marfo) who is leading the onslaught to prove her mettle as a better replacement for the DPP’s position.
It is alleged that, she believes she has what it takes to deliver conviction at all cost by putting tremendous pressure on the person who was supposed to independently witness the statements from one of the accused persons.
According to the same source, there is so much tension among the state prosecutors that some dissenting voices are afraid to question these tactics for fear of being victimized.
And what are some of these tactics, which may be unethical and do not adhere to the true principles of the application of the law?
The prosecution is alleged to have “approached” a retired Supreme Court judge, described as the “Godfather” of the independent witness to prevail upon him to let his godson perjure himself in court in favour of the prosecution.
The root of the enormous threats and intimidation on this independent witness can be traced to the fact that, the AG’s office, decided to pursue this case in court because of such statements from the accused person.
In the other words, damn the rule of law and judicial jurisprudence – get conviction at all cost using unimaginable legal machinations to support what they believe to be the paramount reason why they took the case to court in the first place.
In jurisdictions where the rule law really operates, this could potentially be characterized as a prosecutorial misconduct with potential attraction of sanctions that is if the allegations of coercion are proven to be true through an independent judicial inquiry.
The question is how can the judicial system whose motto is “freedom and justice” provide an arena of “free space” devoid of intimidation and threats for this independent witness to follow his moral compass to truthfully testify in the confines of unqualified justice? This is what these last stages of this trial is turning out to be.
In February, the High Court hearing the US$4 million National Communication Authority (NCA) case was treated to some interesting testimonies, including revelations by a Deputy National Security Coordinator, who is the fifth prosecution witness that A-G’s Department is now hunting for witnesses and evidence.
“I have not given any statement to the police. I gave my statement to the prosecution”, Mr Duncan Opare, had told the court last week, Thursday, when he appeared before it to testify in the case which had been on trial since 2017.
The normal process was to get the witness statement from him through police investigators, but the Deputy National Security Coordinator, told the court that officers from the Attorney-General’s Department, had on unusually gone to his office at Castle Annex-Accra to collect the witness statement on a police statement form available only to police.
Strangely, the particular police statement was directly collected by the prosecution itself on January 24, 2019, shortly after one Colonel Michael Kwadwo Poku, Director of Operation at National Security, had concluded his testimony as the fourth prosecution witness.
It came up in court that Colonel Poku, had engaged in private discussions with his Deputy National Security Coordinator, concerning his testimony in court on the case.
This private conversation had happened ahead of the prosecution taking the Police statement form to Mr Opare, to write while trial was in session.
Under cross examination by counsel for George Derek Oppong; Lawyer Reindorf Twumasi Ankrah, Mr Opare, admitted writing the witness statement in the comfort of his office and handed it over to the prosecution team, adding he was never invited by police investigators.
He disclosed that the prosecution had earlier contacted and told him what they needed from him reference to the US$4 million NCA case, which he obliged them.
He could not say why the police investigators did not consider him appropriate or irrelevant to the case, hence their inability to invite and interrogate him for a witness statement.
The Deputy National Security Coordinator was, however, emphatic “I wrote the statement in my office”.
Meanwhile, the first accused person in the case, Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, has revealed that he wrote and signed five out of ten caution statements taken from him by investigator under duress, intimidation and threats.
His lawyer, Thaddeus Sory, made this known to the trial Court when he opposed the tendering of the five caution statements by State prosecutors through their sixth prosecution witness, a Police Officer, who investigated the case, Detective Chief Inspector Michael Nkrumah.
Detective Chief Inspector Michael Nkrumah, earlier on in his evidence, indicated that he inherited the case docket from Detective Sergeant Marcus Yawle, whose tenure at the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) had ended.
He said to the court that, when he took over the case docket, the first accused person had already given three statements on caution, the second accused person had already given one caution statement and the third accused person had also given one caution statement.
At the time, however, the fourth accused person had not been arrested yet. The fifth accused person, had also given three ordinary statements.
Detective Chief Inspector Michael Nkrumah, stated in Court that when he took over the investigations, he took six more caution statements from the first accused person, in addition to one charge statement.
He took five caution statements from the second accused person in addition to one charge statement. Four additional caution statements he said were taken from the third accused person plus one charge statement.
Four caution statements were taken from the fourth accused person in addition to one charge statement and four caution statements were taken from the fifth accused person in addition to one charge statement.
In all, the first accused person, Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, has written and signed ten statements that the State intends to tender in exhibits in support of their case. Lawyers for the accused person are, however, challenging the admissibility of five of the Statements.
In his opposing argument, the defence lawyer, stated that the statements of the first Accused person, was taken without any reference to him of his right to counsel of his choice.
He further argued that the constitutional Obligation to inform the first accused person of his right to a lawyer of his choice was in breach of Article 14 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic, and therefore a breach of his fundamental human rights.
“At the time of taking the statement, there was no independent witness present. The statement was extracted from the first accused person by the use of threats, inducement, and duress” lawyer Thaddeus Sory told the Court.
In her counter argument to the claims of lawyers for the first Accused person, the DPP Yvonne AtakoraBuabisa argued that the first accused person was reminded of his right to Counsel before the statements were taken and in his own handwriting on the phase of the caution statements indicated that he was reminded of his right to counsel.
Justice Eric Kyei Baffour’s Court in its ruling, said the claims that the first accused person, Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, wrote and signed all the caution statements the State intends to tender as exhibits under duress, threats and inducement, can only be determined in a mini trial.
He ruled that a mini trial would be conducted in the midst of the ongoing trial to determine same. The Court also refused to admit the three ordinary statements given by the fifth accused person as exhibits as prayed by State prosecutors.
The Court explained that at the time the ordinary statements were taken, the fifth accused person was not charged yet.
The State the Court said, had the option of using the fifth accused person as a witness but choose to rather charge him after further investigations. The State can therefore not turn back to use the ordinary statements taken by investigators as evidence against the fifth accused person.
The Court adjourned sitting to March 5, 2019 for the mini trial to commence. The substantive trial stands suspended till the mini trial has been determined.
On trial are Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, William Matthew Tetteh Tevie, Nana Owusu-Ensaw, Alhaji Salifu Mimina Osman and George Derek Oppong.