OSP wants Supreme Court to overturn ruling on Cecilia Dapaah
The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) has filed a certiorari at the Supreme Court seeking to overturn a High Court decision which approved an expedited hearing of the seizure and freezing of the bank accounts of a former Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Cecilia Abena Dapaah.
A certiorari is an order of a superior court directing that a record of proceedings in a lower court be sent up for review.
As a result, it has filed an application at the High Court to stay the proceedings until the final determination of the application at the Supreme Court.
Dr Isidore Tuffuor, who represented the OSP in court yesterday, notified the court about the latest application.
The High Court, presided over by Justice Edward Twum, was on October 12 expected to take the plea of Ms Dapaah in a case in which the OSP had accused her of failing to declare her assets during her time as minister.
Aside from that, a second attempt by the OSP to freeze the assets and accounts of Ms Dapaah was also expected to be heard by the same court that day.
However, the OSP petitioned the Chief Justice, Gertrude Torkornoo, to remove Justice Twum from all its cases, including that of the former minister.
When the case was called yesterday, Justice Twum confirmed to Victoria Barth, lawyer for Ms Dapaah, that he had been notified that the OSP had withdrawn the petition.
A few minutes later, Justice Twum retired to his chamber.
He later announced that he had been informed that the petition was still pending.
Lawyers for the former minister were of the view that the introduction of the latest applications by the OSP was an “orchestrated plan” to flee from the hearing of the OSP’s own application.
“It is important to note the clearly orchestrated plan by the applicant to delay or flee the hearing of his own application, which is causing injury to the respondent and infringing upon the first respondent’s economic right,” Lawyer Barth said.
But in a sharp rebuttal, Dr Tuffuor described the comments by the former minister’s lawyer as an attack on the integrity and person of the Special Prosecutor.
Justice Twum adjourned the case to October 25, this year, for the motion for stay of proceedings to be heard.
On August 31, Justice Twum dismissed a motion by the OSP seeking to continue to freeze the accounts of Ms Dapaah.
It was the considered view of the court that the OSP could not provide any legal basis to continue to seize the accounts.
He held that the OSP was in doubt about the true ownership of the alleged tainted property found in Ms Dapaah’s house and also failed to convince the court that the alleged tainted property was used in connection with a crime.
“If he (OSP) is unsure as to ownership, how did he reach the conclusion that the property is tainted?” the presiding judge queried.
Last week, Justice Twum granted an application for abridgment of time filed by Ms Dapaah for the fresh motion by the OSP to freeze her accounts earlier than the expected date.
The application by the OSP was expected to be heard on October 18, but the court decided to hear it earlier on October 12, 2023, after it upheld the application for abridgment of time filed by Ms Dapaah.
In a ruling, Justice Twum held that Ms Dapaah would suffer greater hardship if the application was not heard earlier.
Justice Twum said pursuant to a ruling by the court on August 31 dismissing a first freezing application, the OSP released Ms Dapaah’s funds to her on September 5, but seized them again on the same day.
The OSP, the court said, then filed an application for another freezing order on September 11 and served Ms Dapaah on September 20, with a return date for hearing on October 18.
It was the considered view of the court that the long period for the application to be determined would be inimical to Ms Dapaah and cause greater hardship for her as she would be disadvantaged, not knowing her fate regarding her bank accounts.
“In the interest of fairness, justice and expeditious trial, the court grants the application for abridgment of time,” Justice Twum held.
It is this ruling that the OSP is currently asking the apex court to quash.
The OSP commenced investigation on Ms Dapaah for corruption and corruption-related offences in July following the revelation that she was keeping more than $1 million in her house.
That was after police prosecutors had arraigned two househelps of Ms Dapaah and her husband, Daniel Osei Kuffour, for allegedly stealing money and items worth millions of Ghana cedis from the couple's residence at Abelemkpe in Accra.