Ato Forson Ambulance trial: Court rules on A-G, Jakpa audio tomorrow

Ato Forson Ambulance trial: Court rules on A-G, Jakpa audio tomorrow

The Financial and Economic Court 2 of the High Court in Accra will determine whether or not to admit into evidence the audio recording involving the Attorney-General and the businessman charged alongside the Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, in the ambulance case tomorrow. 

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When the case was called yesterday, the court presided over by Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe allowed the audio to be played to ensure whether it was the same audio that had been served on all parties, before hearing arguments from both the defence and state attorneys regarding its admissibility. 

Lawyers for Dr Forson are seeking to tender the audio through the businessman, Richard Jakpa, who is currently under cross-examination. 

Opposing arguments

However, after the audio had been played, the Director of Pubic Prosecution (DPP), Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, opposed the admission of the audio on grounds that insufficient foundation had been laid for its inclusion into evidence in the ongoing trial.

She argued that the court in its ruling in the application for mistrial only relied on the audio because it wanted to determine whether the Attorney-General sought to implicate Dr Forson through the evidence of Jakpa, adding that the judge found it insufficient to end the proceedings or order mistrial.

“My Lady puts negligible weight on this recording. “There’s absolutely no relevance to admit this tape into evidence. It doesn’t assist this court to arrive at a decision regarding the substance of this case,” she said.

The DPP further argued that aside from relevance, the audio failed the constitutional checklist for admissibility. She added that the audio infringed the right of the Attorney-General to privacy when no crime had been committed, adding:

“For you to interfere in the right to privacy, you record somebody because you want to prevent the commission of a crime”. To buttress her point, the DPP made reference to the coup plot  trial in which the court admitted an audio because it was recorded to prevent a crime.

“We laid the necessary foundation, we explained what had been done, we showed proper custody and chain of custody and there was basis for admission for the tape. None of that has been done by the lawyers in this matter,” the DPP said. 

Defence

Counsel for Dr Forson,  Dr Abdul Basit Aziz Bamba, on the other hand, said the argument that the audio was inadmissible was frivolous.  He said the content of the audio was relevant to the proceedings because it related to discussions about the subject matter of the substantive case, including exhibits such as the supply agreement and the authorisation sent by the Ministry of Finance to the Bank of Ghana for the letters of credit to be established.

Counsel further explained that since the court considered the audio to be relevant and admitted same to make a determination in the motion for mistrial, the audio was relevant in the substantive matter.

“We say that for the same reasons and more that the court assigned for admitting that evidence into tape in that application those same reasons and more apply to the current trial,” Counsel argued.

On the point that no foundation had been laid, Dr Bamba told the court that Mr Jakpa admitted that he had interactions with the A-G and same had been captured. He added that it was on the basis of that that the court ordered them to file the tape and make it available.

“If we are seeking to tender this tape, it’s just a natural progression because it’s not coming out of the blue,” he said. Meanwhile, the judge has pleaded with parties in the matter to help her finish the case quickly.

Her plea was in reaction to a letter addressed to the court requesting the Minority Leader’s absence from court to attend to parliamentary duties. Reacting to the letter in open court, Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe said she respected the Minority Leader and his Office. 

However, she said supposing Dr Cassiel Ato Forson was not the Minority Leader but the Senior Housemaster of a school, “Would he have said that today is reopening assembly and that he can’t come to court, no,” she said.

She said the Minority Leader was not being called to assist the court as a witness but was an accused person standing trial. “So please help me to just finish this case quickly. That way everybody will go and attend to what they have to attend to,” she said, making reference to how the court handled the case involving a Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, who was standing trial over alleged procurement breaches in an ambulance purchase but was subsequently discharged.

The judge said the original plan was to conclude by end of May, this year, but Mr Jakpa sacked his lawyer, a situation which changed the court’s plan. “Let’s try and put the plan back on schedule, let’s try not to interrupt the flow of things; it’ll not happen,” she said.
 

Background 

Dr Forson and Jakpa have been accused of causing a financial loss of €2.37 million to the state in a deal to purchase 200 ambulances for the country between 2014 and 2016. They have pleaded not guilty to counts of willfully causing financial loss to the state, abetment to wilfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act and intentionally misapplying public property.

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