A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal has set timelines to hear a request from Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson and Richard Jakpa, challenging the High Court’s order for them to open their defence in the ongoing ambulance case.

The lawyers for the accused are dissatisfied with the March 30, 2023 order from the High Court, presided over by Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, requiring them to present their defence. Justice Asare-Botwe, a Justice of the Court of Appeal sitting as an additional High Court judge, concluded that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against them, necessitating their defence.

Dr. Ato Forson, the current minority leader in parliament, and businessman Richard Jakpa have been accused of willfully causing financial loss to the Republic amounting to 2.37 million euros through the purchase of ambulances. Both have pleaded not guilty and are currently on trial.

Despite the commencement of their defence, with Richard Jakpa currently under cross-examination, the parties appeared before the Court of Appeal. On Wednesday, June 19, 2024, the Court of Appeal panel, led by Justice Poku Acheampong, directed the applicants (Dr. Ato Forson and Richard Jakpa) to file their written submissions within seven days from June 19 and to serve them on the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General is also required to file responding submissions within seven days after being served with the applicants’ submissions. The panel, which also includes Justice Kweku Tawiah Ackaah-Boafo and Justice Philip Bright Mensah, has scheduled its decision for July 30, 2024.

Dr. Ato Forson was represented by lawyers Dr. Abdul Bassit Aziz Bamba and Godwin Edudzi Tamekloe, while Thaddeus Sory and Baffour Gyau Bonsu Ashia represented Richard Jakpa. Joshua Sackey, a Senior State Attorney, represented the Attorney General.

The trial has taken a dramatic twist, with Richard Jakpa alleging that the Attorney General met him at odd hours to try to implicate Dr. Ato Forson.

High Court Ruling

On March 30, 2023, the High Court in Accra ordered Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, the former Deputy Minister of Finance, and two others to respond to charges of allegedly causing financial loss to the state in an ambulance deal. The court ruled that a prima facie case had been established against them after the prosecution presented four witnesses and closed its case on February 14. Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe found sufficient evidence to require a response from the accused on charges of willfully causing financial loss and misapplying public property.

The court noted that while it did not need to examine the prosecution’s evidence in totality at this stage, it found a prima facie case against Ato Forson and businessman Richard Jakpa. Similarly, the court ruled that there was a case against Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, for contraventions of the public procurement act. However, Mr. Anemana has since been discharged after the Attorney General filed a nolle prosequi.

Justice Asare-Botwe emphasized that the standard of proof required for the accused to explain their case is not as high as the prosecution’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The court held that since it was established that the ambulances were unfit for purpose and did not provide value for money, the accused were required to respond to the charges.

Source: Kasapafmonline.com/Murtala Inusah