An Accra High Court led by Justice Ajet-Nasam, yesterday left many Ghanaians very confused after freeing businessman, Alfred Agbeshi Woyome, of all criminal charges in the case in which he was accused of defrauding the state of GH¢51.2 million.
The confusion, stem from the fact that the Supreme Court, had earlier in a case filed by ex-Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Martin Amidu, given judgement that Mr. Woyome, did not deserve the amount and the money should be retrieved from him.
It is currently unclear what becomes of the attempt by the serving Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong to get back the huge cash, following the Supreme Court’s judgement to get back the money from Mr. Woyome
Additionally, it is unclear what becomes of the US$47 million paid to Waterville, a company owned by Don Ernesto Taricone, owner of plush Trassaco Estates, Villagio, Royal Aluminium, Micheletti among others, which the Supreme Court insists must be collected from the Italian-Ghanaian.
Furthermore, it is not clear, what becomes of Mr. Woyome’s bank accounts and properties.
Whether Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, will proceed to the Court of Appeal and later to the Supreme Court, to appeal against the ruling of Justice Ajet-Nasam’s at the High Court, is also not clear for now.
Mr. Woyome, who finances both the NDC and NPP, faced two counts of causing financial loss to the state and defrauding by false pretence, after he was accused of
illegally receiving GH¢51.2 million in 2010 for his role in the construction of stadia for the CAN 2008 tournament held in Ghana.
But Justice Ajet-Nasam, said the prosecution woefully failed to prove its case against the accused person.
The trial judge, did not understand why key actors in the case, including former Attorney General and her deputy, Betty Mould Iddrisu and Ebo Barton Oduro respectively, were not invited to testify.
Justice Ajet-Nasam, could also not understand why Paul Asimenu and Rex Dankwa also failed to be called as prosecution witnesses.
He had no option than to let the accused person walk a free man, especially so when the same officials, took part in meetings, authored documents all in furtherance to the payment of GH¢51.2 million to Mr. Woyome.
There was sudden eruption of jubilation from family members and friends of Alfred Woyome, who thronged the court in solidarity with the business man.
Facts of the case
Alfred Woyome, was paid ¢51 million for helping Ghana raise funds to construct stadia for purposes of hosting the CAN 2008 Nations Cup.
However, an Auditor General’s report released in 2010 said the amount was paid illegally to the NDC financier. The report triggered nationwide controversy with critics accusing government of misappropriating funds.
Officials of the NPP, who were in government during the CAN 2008 tournament said, Woyome did no work to be paid that whopping sum of money. The then Attorney General, Joe Ghartey, said Woyome was contracted to help in raising money for the construction works, but he failed to meet the deadline.
He said, the NPP government had no choice than to abrogate the contract with Woyome. When the NPP left office in 2009, Alfred Woyome proceeded to court claiming his contract was illegally terminated and was demanding a judgment debt well over GH¢2 million.
The then Attorney General under the late Mills administration, Betty Mould Iddrisu, is said to have negotiated with Woyome for him to reduce his demand on government. He did and requested for GH¢51 million instead to be paid in three tranches.
The court had asked the AG to pay the first tranche of GH¢17 million to the plaintiff, but the A-G decided to pay all the three tranches.
Her Deputy, Ebo Barton Oduro, later publicly defended the payment to Woyome. Martin Amidu In 2010 was appointed Attorney General to replace Betty Mould Iddrisu, who was sent to the Education Ministry. That appointment and revelations in the 2010 Audit report changed the dynamics of the Woyome scandal.
Woyome was arrested and charged for causing financial loss to the state.
One Nerquaye Tetteh, the Chief State Attorney, was also arrested after it was found out that Mr. Woyome had deposited some cash into his bank account shortly after GH¢51.2 million was paid him, suggesting that he got paid or bribed for his negligence.
Woyome was arrested on February 3, 2012, after the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), commissioned by President John Evans Atta Mills to investigate the payment to him, implicated him for wrongdoing in their report. He was first arraigned on February 6, 2012, together with three others.
Martin Amidu, was sacked from government days to the trial for showing gross disrespect to the late President John Mills during a meeting inside the Castle and Dr. Ben Kumbuor, the current Minister of Defense was appointed to take his place.
Martin Amidu, however, proceeded to the Supreme Court as a private citizen and got the Supreme Court to declare the payments, including those to Don Ernesto Taricone’s Waterville as illegal.
The Supreme Court, on July 29, 2014, ordered Woyome to refund GH¢51.2 million to the state on the grounds that he got the money out of unconstitutional and invalid contracts between the state and Waterville Holdings Limited in 2006 for the construction of stadia for CAN 2008.
It held, in a unanimous decision, that the contracts upon which Woyome made and received the claim were in contravention of Article 181 (5) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, which requires such contracts to be laid before and approved by Parliament.
The 11-member court, presided over by the Chief Justice, Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, was ruling on a review application filed by a former Attorney- General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Martin Amidu.
Other members of the panel were, Justices Julius Ansah, Sophia Adinyira, Rose Owusu, Jones Dotse, Anin Yeboah, Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, N. S. Gbadegbe, Vida Akoto Bamfo, A. A. Bennin and J.B. Akamba.
Eight wit¬nesses, including former Deputy Minister of Finance, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, and staff of the Ministry of Finance and Eco¬nomic Planning, as well as the former Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Yaw Osafo-Maafo were called.
The Criminal Case
Mr. Woyome, called no witness to testify in his defence. He relied heavily on correspondence from Betty Mould Iddrisu to the Finance Minister, Kwabena Duffuor, to make his case, and the judge noted in his judgement that the prosecution failed to prove beyond every reasonable doubt that the suspect was guilty.
He, therefore, acquitted and discharged him.