A bullet-by-bullet account about how a High Court judge Justic Charles Quist set free a man accused of armed robbery after receiving a bribe of 4,000 cedis.
Charles Quist-Labor Court, Accra High Court
Case: Republic vs. Kwesi Nkrumah Koomson
Connection Man: Gyata
Kwesi Nkrumah is a carpenter. He and his two other accomplices namely- Napoleon Gomez and Joseph Azure, armed with pistols and pump action guns, attacked the Unity Oil Petrol Station at Taifa in the middle of the night at around 2am. During the attack, they beat up six female fuel attendants and the security man on duty at gunpoint.
As their booty, they made away with the company’s steel safe containing over GHc 11,000.00 together with mobile phones, wristwatches and personal effects of the attendants. The robbery took place in a Rambo fashion, traumatizing the female attendants and the security man especially, who was beaten almost to pulp.
The Men Behind The Bribery Deal
The story of his Lordship Charles Quist and right hand man Gyata was as fascinating and intriguing as it was disturbing. In this case, the trial was almost ending and the date for judgment had been set. The accused would certainly be jailed.
Two defining moments underline the months that we had dealings with Gyata and his boss. Both men were so ‘conscientious’ that they did not want to soil the sanctity of the courts, so no deals, whether verbal or monetary, could be struck at the court premises. They were like priests who could murder but never do so on the holy premises of the Lord’s own church itself.
Their homes as well were accorded the same discreet sanctity. So while Gyata preferred to negotiate over a bottle of alcohol either in a bar or close to the beach, for Judge Quist; his car was the perfect place to take monies, in envelopes or otherwise. This cautious, sanctimonious stance was markedly different from the eager-grabbing, reckless attitude of other Judges and their intermediaries whom we had our transactions with.
As stated already, apparently, the smart Judge had deemed his car a more secured sanctuary for this type of deal. Yet, it was in this ‘sanctuary’ of his that we captured the salient points of our mission, for instance, how he is on record to have said, "I have all the power, I will let him off". There also did Gyata say “everything has to be done kpakpakpa’. Indeed, as it turned out, Judge Quist had the power to do and undo and did prove true to his word.
Prior to the encounter described above, Tiger’s investigator had posed as a cousin to the accused who had been on trial for months on charges of robbery.
Strategic Meeting With Court Clerk Gyata (Hidden Camera Footage)
His rather stout stature and age even on seeing him, cuts a very matured figure of Gyata, our connection man as we sought to get close to the trial judge on the Kweku Nkrumah robbery case. The proven professional that he was, he had a caveat - all meetings would be away from the court premises. We agreed. Had we any choice anyway?
Gyata turned out to be the desperate, always burdened family man who would hanker after money from any source to feed his family even if it meant soiling his hands. He was in a hurry to go straight into action. Gyata doesn't play with money collection deadlines and has great respect for Judge Quist. These were two traits that easily expressed themselves in his utterances and actions.
Our initial meetings make interesting reading:
Tiger: So concerning my partner, I want to know how best you can…..
Gyata: What is he doing, is it an appeal?
Tiger: I don’t know but it seems that he committed the offence and the case is in progress, maybe if you can talk to someone, then we will know what we can do about it.
Gyata: Robbery actually in this country is a very serious offence, it’s a first degree……and when somebody commits that offence and maybe you even leave him, the whole country would be watching you.
So normally when they commit such an offence and we go on to help them, the only help is to consider certain things so that they give them a minimum sentence and the minimum sentence is just to help them, you know with robbery the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.
Tiger: What about killing?
Gyata: The same, killing attracts death penalty or life imprisonment so it is with robbery. Robbery, even that one is more dangerous because this is the point you want to kill somebody and at the same time you took his things away.
So normally, it’s a life imprisonment and then 50, 45 years and so on. But if the court considers as a way of maybe helping, then 15 years, 10 years minimum, it takes effect from the day of arrest whereby maybe you spent like……. The gravity of the offences is what you take into consideration….. So what is the name?
Tiger: Kweku Nkrumah and I am Kwame Nkrumah, his cousin.
Gyata: So they are involved in that George Ayettey thing?
Tiger: No, I learnt it’s against the republic or so.
Gyata: Yes, they are many and the leader is that George Ayettey; already he’s serving about 80 years in two different cases before this one.
Tiger: When he goes, then he breaks out or what?
Gyata: No, he’s already serving those ones in addition to this current one.
Tiger: So how did he come out again to commit this one?
Gyata: It means that when he was arrested in connection with one, the other one popped up.
Tiger: Okay, I understand; I thought when they sentenced him, he came back and…..
Gyata: No, so as he’s there, he has not even spent a quarter of the sentence that he’s serving currently before this one too is pending.
Tiger: So as I’ve seen you, maybe if there’s anything, that’s the reason why I came, so if you can go and see your man, I would be very happy.
Gyata: You see, at times when you help human beings, they go to sing halleluyah somewhere, and it’s like they’ve even forgotten you.
Tiger: No, it’s you I’ve seen and you will lead me to where I have to go so don’t say that at all, I don’t want to hear that, yes I understand you, I can’t leave you and go and see him directly, no it’s through you that I can see him, so it all depends on you.
Gyata: What I will do is that, Monday I will discuss with him
Tiger: Any amount involved, I’m ready to…..
Gyata: But as I’m giving you the implications, he will not be left like that; at least he will get a minimum sentence taking effect from the day of arrest or whatever. But why is it that these our brothers and sisters they involve themselves in things like that?
Tiger: As I’m here, I have so many things doing there, but I don’t know, if you tell them to do something, they think you’re punishing them or something. I don’t know why they do that. As it is now, the friends (you were with) …… no one will come close to you.
Gyata: They will not get close to you.
Tiger: Even when you come out, they won’t get close to you.
Gyata: So I will go to the man on Monday because that case is pending judgment, judgment is about to be delivered on that case.
Tiger: Please do your best for me, I’m begging you.
Gyata: Okay, I will see what to do. I will talk to my man about it but call me on Monday morning and remind me, call me around 8 o’clock and remind me, so that I’ll see. (We did cut a deal to pay a GHc 10,000.00 bribe.)
Clerk Gyata’s String Pulling With Justice Quist Over Bribe (Hidden Camera Footage)
A few days later, having raised GHc 5, 000.00, we decided to schedule a meeting with Gyata to formally present the first tranche of the money to the judge. His eager response was an indicator of the possible success of our mission.
We met Gyata at a spot away from the court where we handed him the GHc 5,000.00 part payment meant for the Judge. The intention was to settle Gyata’s later but on receiving the envelope, he made it clear to us that he would take a cut of GHc 1,000.00 out of the amount. There, he took the GHc 1,000.00 of the amount meant for the Judge.
Not long after, as planned, Justice Quist’s car approached. On seeing his master arriving, Gyata quickly slipped his GHc 1,000.00 into his pocket, saying ‘ The man is almost here. Let me pocket mine so when he comes we’ll go to him in the car, then see him, (and) talk to him because I don’t know what he will be doing.’
Tiger: I understand, I understand.
Gyata: So what’ll you do if (let’s say) he hands over or whatever, will you take him out?
Tiger: Ah he? Oh he has to be out of Accra or something but…
Gyata: Because, the way these cases are rampant these days; armed robbery cases, it’s becoming too much. It means yourself sitting here, if they (armed robbers) get you, they will rob you too.
Tiger: Yeah, I understand. Is it computer?
Gyata: mmmm. Yeah there are some issues; we can talk about it before he (the judge) comes.
Tiger: Yeah cool, concerning the money, concerning the money.
Gyata: What’ve you gotten?
Tiger: When I was coming, I shipped some cars but I told someone to transfer some money for me, but still the money is not in but now the cars are in and as I’m here (so) I have to clear the cars before …, so as I am here, it’s GHc 10,000 I have on me and I don’t know,
Gyata: Hmmm. Okay if ……….fully ready
Tiger: I’ve thought about this thing very well, me I wanted to make a commitment that yes I’m in …
Gyata: Yes that’s what I mean.
Tiger: So I wanted to settle him first, even though I have to see you, but as you said he has to do everything but it’s through you that I’ll meet him.
Tiger: So if maybe, (I don’t know) I’ll make the commitment of GHc 5,000 and from here I will go to the port and clear, if it’s the car that I have to sell cheap, I’ll sort everything out before I leave, then I’ll do that.
I know it’s some way but yesterday, you see that I couldn’t call you early, I was chasing money, chasing money but you see people want to know what you’re going to use the money for and me too I can’t tell you what I’m going to use the money for; I told them that I have something that I’ve to deal with, but as it is now (me) I am in already, anything that I have to do to take him out, that’s what I want to do.
I don’t know if I have to do the commitment and give him the 5,000 cedis then. Today is Tuesday, yes from here, I’ll go to Tema straight and (go and) clear and put ‘for sale’ on it. If it’s quick, then I remove my hand from it, then later I’ll come and see both of you again.
Tiger: I hope he’ll…
Gyata: Yeah but when he comes I’ll go with you to talk (some) for you.
Gyata: But just as you’re going to do some commitment to him, on my part too you have to do some commitment; you have to do some commitment on my part.
Tiger: Then unless I give him four and give you one because I don’t want to, the GHc 5,000 that I have I don’t want to get there and they’ll tell me the money is not enough because it’s a BMW and we know how BMW and the duties and stuff.
Gyata: Ok you let’s settle it when he comes. You give me two (GHc 2,000.00) then you give him three (GHc 3,000.00), you know I’m going to do the talking and I’ll know how I’ll convince him. Tell him that you just met me with our money matter … but as you have come now, you have some cars to clear from the port but you want to do a commitment of 3,000 cedis to him, whether everything is over or not you’re promising that you’ll get back and get him his additional 7,000 cedis; you get what I mean? He’ll understand. He’s not a difficult person.
Tiger: (Me too) I understand you too but that means (it is between) the pair of you when the money gets to him, he’s not going to see you at all?
Gyata: No, oh no, how possible is that?
Tiger: You brought the customer?
Gyata: No, these people we’ve been working with them for a long time and we know how they are. When something gets into their hands (that is it,) that is it! They would not, assuming I’m going to benefit from whatever they had I wouldn’t have told you of the need to do whatever for me, no they’ll not. Me, the only thing I like about him in particular is that when I tell him something, he respects me and does whatever he’s supposed to do, that’s the one thing about him.
Tiger: Is he far from here?
Gyata: He says he’s stuck in traffic round but he’ll soon be here.
Tiger: I’m even getting thirsty. Because I’ve not slept …., I’ve not slept at all because it keeps me thinking, I’ve not slept.
Gyata: Don’t worry, don’t worry. You as I said ehhh, do as I said when he comes. We’ll get to him, myself I’ll do a lot of talking, then you’ll ask him that you want the half, if you can leave him entirely for now ehh maybe this is what you’re going to do; as a way of commitment, you brought this and then you’re rushing to the port to clear your cars. You follow what I mean?
And you’ll try to ensure that you get rid of those things as early as possible to come and top this for him straight.
And I’ll also add my voice to it; the thing is you should understand that this whole thing, this kind of thing, it’s some of us who do the actual work. Imagine convincing the person to do something…..
Tiger: Let me give you your share of the money.
Gyata: Okay. You should have arranged this thing well.
Tiger: You were not agreeing with me. (51:00 seconds Tiger gives Gyata his part of the money). You can count it if you want.
Gyata: These are the 10s?
Tiger: Yes. You can count it if you want.
Gyata: Okay. (He begins to count it but puts it in his pocket)
Now sure that the money had arrived and he had collected his part, Gyata placed a call to Charles Quist to alert him that the booty had arrived and that we were waiting for him to come and collect.
Cash Exchanges At The Back Of Justice Quist's Official Saloon Car (Hidden Camera Footage)
Just after speaking on phone, a black Toyota Avensis with Registration number GT 6143-11 arrives and parks at the corner of Afia Hotel near the Independence Square. Justice Quist was seated in it. Gyata rushed to the car and took the front passenger seat while I was asked to sit at the back. Justice Quist was driving himself.
Tiger sat at the back seat, while Gyata introduced us. The man appeared to be of few words; he gave straightforward answers and asked pinpoint questions. He has a style for taking bribe! Read the following:
Gyata: Good morning sir.
Judge Quist: Good morning.
Gyata: My Lord, as I pleaded with you yesterday, this is the guy, he’s the brother to the second accused person, he has just come down from the USA ….
Gyata: UK, and that his brother’s issue is a headache to him and he wants to see my Lord, plead with my Lord and see what my Lord can do for him and whatever he needs to do, he’ll also try and do, so I told him that if only he can meet my Lord so that’s why he’s here this morning.
Judge Quist: Okay
Gyata: To do some commitment.
Tiger: I didn’t mean to let this thing happen but it has happened. Some people, when you talk to them, they don’t want to listen. They think the world is like this high, high, but it has happened already but as it is now, only that I’m just pleading with my Lord if there’s something that you can do for him to come, I’ll be very happy.
As at now, getting money is very hard but as my uncle (Gyaata) said, I’ll try the best to do what I have to do for him but when he comes and he wants to do it again, that’s him, that one I’ll not be in town again to go up and down and stuff. So I’m pleading on his behalf.
Judge Quist: Okay I’ve heard you.
Gyata: So my Lord, he wants to know how best my Lord would help him and ehh
Judge Quist: Well, I’ll try my best and let him out.
Tiger: Thank you sir.
As there is a saying, you don’t go to a palace empty handed or something and as my uncle said, I wanted to do some commitment with this. I don’t have a poly something here. Thank you. (5:34 minutes. Tiger hands over the money to Judge Quist and Quist stretches out his hands and grabs the money).
Judge Quist: How much is this?
Tiger: It’s four.
Judge Quist: Pardon?
Tiger: 4,000 cedis sir.
Gyata: He says he’ll …
Tiger: I’ll come again.
Judge Quist: When, when is the case coming on?
Gyata: My Lord I think this Friday or so.
Judge Quist: Friday?
Tiger: For me I have something to clear at the port. I would have given you all the money that I have here, but I have to clear some car at the port, I have only 5,000 cedis here and you know now the port is something …. soon as I clear, I’m putting it on sale and I’ll make sure it goes fast, then I’ll come back again later and pay.
Judge Quist: By Friday?
Judge Quist: you sure?
Tiger: Hmmmm. I know he’s in your hands now, anything you say.
Judge Quist: What if I release him on Friday and I don’t see you again?
Tiger: No, no sir, it can’t be possible.
Gyata: Or my Lord you’ll adjourn it to next week?
Judge Quist: Ah okay, next week would be.
Tiger: I said before Friday from here
Gyata: So before Friday
Tiger: I’m going to the port now.
Gyata: Today is Tuesday.
Gyata: It means maybe by Thursday?
Tiger: Yes. It’s a Toyota and you know how Toyota cars… some people like them fast fast so please I’m begging you.
Judge Quist: Oh I’ll get him off, I’ll get him off the hook on Friday but everything would depend on you.
Tiger: Yes sir, I understand.
Judge Quist: It’s not a big deal. I’ve read the docket and I know how to go around it, hmm?
Tiger: Yes sir.
Gyata: So the pressure is now on you so at least by Thursday (Tiger cuts in)
Tiger: As I’m here now, I’m even shaking, I’m getting sick...
Gyata: By Thursday come and then do the proper (Judge Quist cuts in)
Judge Quist: How many years has he spent there?
Gyata: How many years has he spent there so far?
Tiger: Actually I didn’t (Judge Quist cuts in)
Judge Quist: You can’t tell.
Tiger: I didn’t hear the case early oo.
Judge Quist and Gyata: Hmmmm
Tiger: I didn’t hear the case early because I was trying to reach him and I was trying to call him; no one is willing to tell me and this one nobody knows what I’m doing now.
Judge Quist: What is he to you?
Tiger: Like a cousin but …
Judge Quist: He’s your cousin?
Judge Quist: Okay it’s a deal.
Tiger: Thank you sir.
Judge Quist: So you have to fulfill your side of the bargaining, okay?
Tiger: Okay sir.
Judge Quist: I’ll let him off but he shouldn’t try it again, if we catch him again: trouble.
Tiger: Thank you sir.
Judge Quist: Talk to him
Tiger: Okay sir
Judge Quist: When he comes back, talk to him.
Tiger: Okay sir, thank you sir.
Judge Quist: Okay.
Tiger: I’ll like to leave sir.
Judge Quist: Alright. So we’ll see you before Friday.
Tiger: Okay sir, thank you.
Events that followed got Gyata angry over how Tiger was effecting payment, especially concerning a very sensitive case as the one that we were seeking to have fiddled with. On the next meeting date, we showed up with GHc 2,000.00
As per the computations, we owed the learned judge GHc 6,000.00 and he (Gyata) a cool GHc 4000.00. We were however insisting that the GHc 2000.00 be given to the judge because he would not do our bidding if we failed him.
However, no amount of assurances would satisfy a visibly disappointed Gyata; he called the judge again. As usual, the man appeared again in his black Toyota saloon car, same procedure as Tiger took back seat and Gyata sat in front with Judge Quist.
It was here that we got to know, Justice Quist would not compromise on taking everything before delivering judgment. In other words, there was no crediting here. Read on …….
Fight Over Cash To Judge Quist, Gyata Bares Teeth (Hidden Camera Footage)
Tiger: So I had to call someone to come and give me some money and the money is not even up to GHc 5,000.00, it’s only GHc 2,000.00 the person brought me, so from here I’ve to go home and see what I can do. It’s once and for all.
Gyata: You know with these kind of things…
Tiger: It’s once and for all.
Gyata: You don’t do this kind of things in pieces or whatever, this is the point the man wants, to give the sentence tomorrow so that things will end. If we keep doing this in pieces…… one thing you shouldn’t forget is that some of us, we don’t think about people too much, you follow my point?
Tiger: Then you should have changed the location.
Gyata: No, it’s not about the location, it’s about you working on time, when we fix a time to meet here, then you go according to the time.
Tiger: About your car too, I have contacted some guy, he said he can get it for you but the amount, you will know how to talk about the amount.
Gyata: So what are we going to do now?
Tiger: I know we still have to give you your thing before we go to …….
Gyata: Yes of course, you know that one, you know this kind of things, you don’t do … I’ve learnt certain lessons in this kind of things, that is why I’m very cautious and careful this time when… (even me) I’ve even stopped helping people because of this kind of tactics that they play especially after they get whatever they want and all that.
His tirade veered into another case - a financial case before the court - whereas we thought that would take Gyata's mind off track, he soon refocused the discussion.
Gyata: And you say it’s how much?
Tiger: Just GHc 2,000.00.
Gyata: Then what will happen is that, if only you’re going to bring this and tell him that by the close of the day, you’ll have to come towards Tema.
Tiger: He also lives in Tema?
Gyata: But you will tell him that by the afternoon or whatever, you will be ready with the rest. Then I’ll tell him that okay you let me get his balance to reach him maybe tomorrow morning before he delivers the judgment, then I have to get my money…..
Tiger: I’m cool because I can’t take this money anywhere, I have to go here, go here.
Gyata: Because if the cash or the balance and all those things haven’t come, because this thing should be once and for all thing. So what do you want to do with this one?
Tiger: When we go, then we give it to him for the mean time so that he will know that we came with something; okay? I’m begging you.
Gyata: Honestly, I don’t do this kind of thing… so what time will you meet me?
Tiger: From here, when I get to the guy, I’ll give you a call…. I know you’re not happy with it but you try and….
Judge Quist’s Quest for cash, “Pay Or I Will Not Deliver Judgment” (Hidden Camera Footage)
Gyata: He just came.
Tiger: Let me apologize for delaying.
Judge Quist: No problem.
Gyata: I told him that some of us don’t wait for people too much like this, and secondly, he’s saying that when he went to the bank, the person has given him a cheque to go and cash the money. When they got to the bank there, they’re saying that the person himself should come so what he did was that, in order not to disappoint or whatever, he organized some Ghc 2,000 so that by the close of the day, he will …… this is what he’s saying.
Tiger: I understand sir, I understand.
Gyata: And I told him this kind of thing, you don’t do any go come, go come. He said he wants to check on the guy, he said he bought his car.
Tiger: The one that I told you I would clear from the port.
Gyata: So I told him if that is the case, then in the course of the day, he should get to me, then we will see what happens before tomorrow morning.
Judge Quist: Okay, you get the money, and bring it tomorrow. Okay?
Gyata: Tomorrow morning, yes, I told him, have you heard it?
Tiger: Yes sir, I have; this is the GHc 2,000.
Judge Quist: You deal with the matter once and for all.
Tiger: It’s not in a band so if you can count it for me.
Gyata: You bring it.
Judge Quist: So you heard what I said?
Tiger: Yes, I’ve heard you.
Judge Quist: Otherwise, tomorrow I won’t deliver. First thing tomorrow morning okay?
Gyata: So you get to me then I will get to my lord before tomorrow morning so that he can
[9/10/2015, 21:18] Araba Joy: do this thing once and for all.
Judge Quist: Just do it once and for all then we free the guy. I have all the power and I will free him, so no fear.
Tiger: Thank you.
Judge Quist: So I’ll see you tomorrow.
Tiger: Thank you.
Tiger managed to raise the rest of the GHc 4,000.00 and a thousand for him before calling for a meeting with Quist. This would be the last meeting before the judgment day.
Typical of him, Quist was around to grab his last Ghc 4,000.00 cash at the Afia hotel and with that, gave an assurance that he was going to deliver his part of the contract.
The Judgment Day
The 25th day of July, 2014 arrived, the court room was packed with lawyers, attorneys and investigators waiting to pursue both civil and criminal cases. Friends, families and members of the public had taken their seats in anticipation of the dreaded judgment on the robbery case. Both the judge (Quist) and clerk Gyata were late in coming. This was because while the lawyers were waiting for him (Quist), he and his clerks were with us (Tiger team) to take the bribe as negotiated.
The Tiger team had split into two; one was in the court room and the other was with Quist at his famous Afia Hotel to give him the balance of the bribe money he had demanded in exchange for the discharge of the accused armed robber. It was not until 11 o’clock that Justice Quist and Gyata arrived at the court. They explained to frustrated lawyers that their late arrival was due to traffic.
After about some 30 minutes in chamber, Justice Quist appeared in the courtroom and the first case he called was “our” case involving Kwesi Nkrumah and his accomplices. The trial involved three accused persons. The prosecution had called four witnesses who had given their evidence in chief and been cross-examined.
It was obvious that this was a judgment that had been hurriedly cooked after the deal was brokered and the cash received that morning. Knowing the deal we had struck with the judge, we naturally expected and “not guilty” verdict. All the same, we were shocked beyond believe when Justice Quist, in acquitting our armed robber “friend”, read a scanty one page judgment.
In three minutes, all was over. Three minutes (one page) for an armed robbery case that had lasted five solid years (2009 – 2014). A cry of horror nearly burst from my throat, in spite of myself. It was nothing but shocking travesty of justice.
It even became more dramatic when, in his haste, Justice Quist forgot to even touch on one of the accused persons Napoleon Gomez. Napoleon Gomez had earlier on, in a confession statement during the trial, said that he was part of the robbery but Quist, in his haste after collecting the cash, had released him too.
Not even the most successful judge is safe in a world of thieves. Just imagine it! The pains of years of arduous and honest gathering and eventual acquisition ground to naught when a thief strikes. Dreams fulfilled at last after years of self-sacrifice and meticulous focus fizzle out in just a day, all because of thieves! Not all are able to survive such shocks. A thief is therefore a very dangerous element in every society. It is even worse when he is armed, not only with a weapon but also with the assurance of walking free from Justice Quist’s court if caught.
It would be recalled that in the…edition of The New Crusading Guide, Undercover – ‘Ghana In The Eyes of God’ broke. The story said that over 170 staff and judges of the judicial service would be unmasked for various acts of corruption that they had been engaged in.
This particular investigation lasted over two years, and the team, headed by our ace undercover reporter AnasAremeyawAnas, combed through the length and breadth of Ghana to establish these facts.
The painstaking nationwide operation covered the northern sector (Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions) the middle sector (Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Eastern and Volta Regions) and the southern sector (Western, Central and Greater Accra Regions)
From judges' drivers, police escorts, ushers, interpreters, bailiffs, through CID officials, prosecutors, investigators to clerks and registrars, everybody was shockingly eager to take bribes unabashedly so as to facilitate dubious meetings with judges and magistrates.
We caught different categories of people on hidden camera taking varying sums of money and gifts from desperate clients.
Stay put for a series of shocking stories of corruption on the part of people who have long been seen as the epitome of fairness and integrity: upholders of the national motto; “freedom and justice".