To many, Blay & Associates, the law firm belonging to the ex-National Chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) Freddie Blay, is only out to defend the four accomplices of En Huang, popularly known as Aisha Huang, the Chinese Galamsey queen, who has been charged with four others for engaging in illegal mining activities in Ghana.
But the issue goes beyond even suggestions the Akufo-Addo government’s fight against Galamsey shouldn’t have one of his trusted appointees, Mr Blay, the Board Chairman of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) marshaling a formidable legal defense to undo the government’s arguments for a jail sentence for the five Chinese.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah-Dame, who is leading the prosecution is Freddie Blay’s “small boy”. The two have a personal and professional relationship that spans over a decade.
It beats ones imagination that they will be involved in the case when national and environmental interests are being fought on the altar of financial motives.
Long before Godfred Yeboah-Dame, became a full time politician, he used to be the lawyer of Mr Blay’s Western Publications Limited, publishers of the Daily Guide newspaper. He had represented the paper in court to defend it in many defamation cases dating to the Kufuor era.
Some of the cases had Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings and Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni as plaintiffs.
Godfred Yeboah-Dame, after leaving the law firm of President Nana Akufo-Addo, Akufo-Addo, Prempeh and Co, worked with Blay & Associates, the law firm of the ex-NPP National Chairman together with Madam Gloria Afua Akuffo, ahead of becoming Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice after Nana Akufo-Addo’s 2016 Presidential victory.
This means Mr Blay and Godfred Dame are not adversaries before the court, but friends whose relationship runs deeper than the ordinary eye can tell. It has family ties, Adisadel College Old-Boyism, NPP politics, law firm business among other connections.
The decision of Mr Blay’s firm to defend these foreign nationals, when his party and government is battling an ongoing galamsey menace, has raised eyebrows, but in a radio interview, he said every accused person is entitled to legal representation.
Speaking to Joy FM on Wednesday, October 12, Mr Blay said, “My clients are not guilty; we’ve sworn an oath to defend them”, adding “they came to instruct us and we as professionals, we have sworn an oath to defend our clients to the best of our knowledge and ability and that is exactly what we are doing in accordance with the Constitution of this country.
“They are not guilty. They’ve been brought before the court, they’ve pleaded not guilty and are being defended,” Mr Blay said as quoted by Graphiconline.
According to him, the four accused persons may have a relationship with Aisha Huang because in 2017 they bought a supermarket from her.
This attracted flak from persons, including Director of Legal Affairs of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Abraham Amaliba, who indicated that “On this matter of ‘galamsey’, considering the fact that there are accusations and fingers pointing at government officials to be complicit in this ‘galamsey’ issue, if you have government lawyers, already Nkrabeah Effah Dartey is known to be connected with the NPP, now to have the immediate past Chairman of the NPP joining forces to defend these ‘galamseyers’, it gives the impression that yes government, as it were, is not interested in fighting the menace”.
Mr Blay, a former Member of Parliament for Ellembelle in the Western Region, brushed off criticisms for his law firm defending galamsey suspects, insisting personally, he was against galamsey, however, he has the right to defend persons alleged to have engaged in the act, however, his clients are innocent of the charges leveled against them.
Accra-based Citi FM also quotes him as saying “it’s a wrong impression that some people have. The fact that my law firm is defending them does not mean that the government supports and is involved in illegal mining. We all support efforts against galamsey. Personally, I am against galamsey.”
“This does not mean that innocent people should not be represented. Let’s wait for the court to decide. At the end of the day, we will know the truth, that my clients are innocent. They have done nothing wrong and are not involved in galamsey”, he added.
By the facts of the case as read by Attorney General, Godfred Dame, receipts of the purchase of mining concessions were found in their possession at the time of their arrest and WhatsApp conversations amongst them are said to point to their involvement in illegal mining activities.
Aisha Huang was arrested alongside Jong Li Hua, Huang Jei and Huaid Hai Hun, and flown to Accra and arraigned the same day to face prosecution at an Accra Circuit Court. The prosecution is expected to present eight witness statements and 18 other documents by October 24 where the case management conference for the Aisha Huang case is expected to begin.
Godfred Dame has assured Ghanaians that his outfit will not relent in its effort to prosecute all illegal miners in the country, adding that, for Aisha Huang, who has gained notoriety for the galamsey trade she will pay for both her past and present offences.
Godfred Dame was speaking to the press after the now-famous galamsey kingpin Aisha Huang was denied bail on Tuesday, October 11.
“In respect of Aisha Huang, we have filed most of the documents we will rely on. We have filed witness statements with four witnesses, we need about four more. But the Judge in her discretion decided to adjourn to 24th October for us to come and conduct the case management conference and we are ready to conduct the trial on a day by day basis and the Judge has also indicated the inclination to conduct the trial in that manner. So we are happy with the progress of the matter. And it is important to indicate to the world our full commitment to prosecute all these illegal mining offences. It is something that is of utmost importance to the nation.”
Aisha Huang, a Chinese national, previously deported/repatriated for dealing in illegal mining in 2018 was re-arrested this year. She is currently standing trial with three other Chinese nationals for mining without a license and engaging in the sale and purchase of minerals.
All three were remanded into the custody of the National Investigation Bureau pending the final determination of their case.
Speaking to the press after the case was adjourned, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, indicated that the state was unperturbed that the NPP’s former Chairman was representing the alleged illegal miners.
Meanwhile, Blay & Associates, has also explained its decision to defend four accomplices of Aisha Huang.
In a statement responding to these concerns, Blay & Associates said: “It has come to our attention that there has been some misconceptions and the deliberate misconstruction of our decision to represent our clients in the case of the Republic Vs Shi Yang, Shi Meizhi, Li Wei Zuo and another (Our Client), we as a firm will like to clarify these issues.
“To us, it would seem that our clients are collateral victims of a matter that is of great national concern. We understand the deep seated anger and sentiment on any story on illegal mining evokes in Ghanaians. Even worse is when those accused are foreign nationals because of the extensive degradation and pollution of water bodies laid at their door steps.
“At Blay & Associates however, we believe in the inviolability of the judicial system. Blay & Associates is a firm that seeks to promote justice, ensure fair trial and seek to give fair representation.
“We as firm believers in our great 1992 Constitution of Ghana agreed to defend these clients having in mind these principles.”