Lawyers Fight Over NCA Cash
Defense lawyers in the trial of the five government appointees of the Mahama-led administration charged for causing $6 million financial loss to the state have kicked against requests for daily hearing of the case.
The Accra Commercial High Court presided over by Justice Eric Kyei-Baffour had suggested daily sittings on each day of the week
The move the court said was to ensure that the trial proceeds at a pace while it also offers the accused persons the opportunity to clear themselves.
But lawyer for the five accused persons- Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, a former Board Chairman of the National Communication Authority (NCA); William Tevie, former Chief Executive Officer of the NCA; Nana Owusu Ensaw; Alhaji Osman, former Deputy National Security Coordinator and George Derrek Oppong, a private businessman, and Director of Infraloks Development Limited, disagreed.
While some of the lawyers for the five had raised medical concerns as a reason for their inability to agree with the daily sitting, others claimed they had commitments in various courts.
The five paddies have been dragged before the court facing 17 charges such as conspiracy to steal, stealing, using public office for profit, money laundering, among others.
According to the prosecution, the accused persons are being charged for allegedly causing financial loss to the state to the tune of $6 million among under the guise of procuring a Cyber Surveillance System which they claimed were to be used for anti-terrorism activities in the country.
All five have variously denied the charges and are granted bail in the sum of $1 million with three sureties.
At the hearing yesterday, Ms. Gloria Akuffo the Attorney General, (A-G) who lead a Seven-member legal team urged the defense to try and cooperate with the court so the case is heard expeditiously adding that the lawyers must not engage in speculation.
In the ruling, the trial judge said the prosecution prays to supply the defense the document it intends to rely on upon request by the defense team.
This he said was for the purposes of preparing for their defense.
On the a date for the hearing, Justice Kyei Baffour stated that the court had taken into consideration the constitutional rights of the accused persons for fair trial, the need to ensure expeditious disposal of the case; the need to afford the accused persons every conceivable opportunity to answer the charges they are facing and the need to accommodate the health conditions of some of the accused persons.
In the view of the judge, the court was also aware of the need to ensure that the commitment of the lawyers of the accused persons in respect of other cases are not needlessly denied them.
As a result, he stated that the matter would be heard on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week. The state is expected to present its first witness on the day.
The facts of the case as presented by the Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo, are that sometime in 2015, the affected board members, without any authorization, took a decision to purchase a cyber surveillance system which they claimed was to be used for anti-terrorism activities in the country.
According to the accused persons, without going through processes as established by law, together with an Israeli lawyer, Peninat Yany – who is also a business facilitator -selected NSO Group Technology Company Limited – an Israeli entity – to supply the cyber surveillance system.
She told the court that the accused persons decided to purchase the system through a re-seller and Mr. Baffoe-Bonnie nominated George Derek Oppong as his business partner and Director of IDL, to be the re-seller of the system.
According to the Attorney General, IDL was the company registered to provide the logistics and infrastructure development, but investigations revealed that the supplier of the surveillance system is not an object of IDL.
Ms. Akuffo told the court that in furtherance of the decision of board members to purchase the surveillance system, Alhaji Osman signed a letter dated February 21, 2016 in the name of the National Security Coordinator and directed to Tetteh Tevie in his capacity as the Director General of the NCA and copied to Baffoe-Bonnie.
According to her, by the letter, the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) solicited finance of $8,000,000 for the surveillance system.
She said on the same day, Mr. Tetteh Tevie endorsed the letter to the Director of Finance of the NCA, authorizing payment for the system without going through the procurement process.
She said NCA then executed a contract with IDL for the purchase of Pegasus Cyber Security System at the cost of $8,000,000 and by a second contract, IDL executed an agreement with NSO Group for the same supply of the Pegasus system at an initial cost of US$5.4 million, which later shot up to US$6 million, to include commission for the Israeli lawyer who facilitated the deal.
The AG told the court that at this point, Mr. Tetteh had already written to Ecobank to transfer US$4 million to IDL from the accounts of NCA and the transfer was subsequently executed on March 11, 2016.
She said out of the US$4 million paid, only US$1 million was paid to NSO Group for the supply of equipment, leaving US$3 million, which was withdrawn over a period and shared among the accused persons.
She said the equipment was shipped into the country on May 31, 2016 and was delivered to a private warehouse on the Spintex road, owned by Alhaji Baba Kamara, the then National Security Advisor.
The AG said when the equipment was installed in the warehouse, it was later found out that some parts were missing and the system had no software to run it, rendering it unusable.
By: Jeffrey De-Graft Johnson/ thePublisher