Five Chinese alleged to be involved in illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey, will face charges under the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act 2015.
After taking over the case from the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), the Attorney-General’s (A-G’s) Department will prosecute the five alleged Chinese galamsey operators.
They are Gao Jin Cheng, 45, Lu Qi Jun, 39, Haibin Gao, 26, Zhang Zhipen, 23, and En Huang aka Aisha Huang, 31; the woman known to be a kingpin in the galamsey business.
A Senior State Attorney, Ms Mercy Arthur, revealed this to the Criminal Division of the Accra High Court during a hearing of a bail application by the the legal team of the Chinese yesterday.
Under the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act 2015, foreigners are barred from engaging in “galamsey’’, which falls under the domain of small-scale mining.
Section 99 clause 3 of the Act states that any foreigner who commits such an offence will pay a fine of not less than GH¢360,000 and not more than GH¢3,600,000 or serve a jail term of not more than 20 years or both.
Section 99 clause 5 of the Act also prescribes that “any equipment used in or associated with the commission of the offence and any product derived from the commission of the offence shall, regardless of the ownership of the equipment or product, be seized and kept in the custody of the police.’’
Lawyers for the five Chinese were in court yesterday to move an application for bail pending trial for their clients, who were remanded in prison custody for two weeks by the court on May 9, 2017.
The court, however, adjourned hearing to May 23, 2017, to allow the A-G to respond appropriately to the bail application.
On that same date, the five will appear before the court following the expiration of their remand warrant.
It emerged during the court proceedings that the A-G had filed an affidavit in opposition to the bail application.
It pleaded with the court not to grant bail because the activities of the five Chinese contravened the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act 2015.
The presiding judge, Mr Justice Charles Ekow Baiden, then enquired why the state lawyers were basing their response on the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act 2015 when the five had not been charged under the Act.
“You have not charged them with offences under the Act so why are you basing your opposition to the bail application on the Act?’’ he asked.
Ms Arthur replied that the A-G took over the case from the GIS last Wednesday and during its preliminary assessment, it deemed it necessary to charge the five alleged “galamseyers’’ under the Act.
“We were getting ready to charge them under the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act 2015 when we were served with the bail application so we had to respond to it,’’ she said.
Mr Justice Baiden further enquired why the A-G did not apply to the court to allow it to amend the charge sheet of the five Chinese to reflect offences under the Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act 2015.
“You had time to see their bail application, so you could have amended the charge sheet and also apply for more time to respond appropriately,’’ he said.
Put house in order
Mr Justice Baiden further asserted that the bail application was about the fundamental human rights of the five Chinese to be granted bail, and, therefore, there was no basis for the state to oppose it based on charges that had not been levelled against them.
Ms Arthur then pleaded with the court to grant the state more time to “put its house in order’’ to investigate the case and also respond appropriately to the bail application.
Counsel for the five alleged “galamseyers’’, Mr Jerry Akuetteh, in his response, pleaded with the court to grant his clients bail, arguing that the state could still continue with investigations if his clients were on bail.
He further argued that one of the reasons for the bail application was on health grounds.
The court, however, adjourned the hearing to May 23, 2017, to allow the A-G to file a response.