Sir John's assets frozen - Office of Special Prosecutor moves to freeze those overseas
The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) has frozen the assets of the former Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, popularly known as Sir John, as it continues investigations into allegations of unlawful acquisition of state lands.
The action affects all assets mentioned in the Will and Final Testament of Sir John.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) informed the Daily Graphic that the move was to prevent executors and beneficiaries of the late Sir John’s will from dissipating his assets before investigations were completed.
The OSP is currently investigating suspected corruption and corruption-related offences in respect of the alleged improper and unlawful acquisition of state property at the Achimota Forest enclave and the Ramsar catchment at Sakumono in Accra, as stated in the late Sir John’s will.
Assets outside jurisdictions affected
“Typically, if you don’t freeze those assets, by the time you finish the investigation, the properties you may be investigating may not be there”, the OSP explained.
The office indicated that other assets, such as foreign accounts outside the jurisdiction, were also under investigation, and that the OSP was seeking assistance from its foreign counterparts to freeze them.
“We need the assistance of our foreign counterparts to trace those assets and get them frozen as well because Ghanaian laws do not apply in these jurisdictions and, therefore, we need to get mutual legal assistance to do this,” it added.
The OSP further disclosed that a number of people, especially officials of the Forestry Commission, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, beneficiaries and executors of the will, would be invited by the office to assist in the investigations.
The investigation follows a petition by Corruption Watch, a coalition of anti-corruption civil society organisations, including the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), the Africa Centre for International Law and Accountability (ACILA) and the Multimedia platforms, Joy FM and Adom FM, requesting the Special Prosecutor to investigate the acquisition of state lands in the Achimota Forest and the Ramsar area in Sakumono by three companies and two individuals contained in the Last Will and Testament of Sir John.
The companies are Jakaypros Limited, Fasoh Limited and DML Limited, while the individuals are Charles Owusu and Sir John.
The petition came in the wake of public outcry over the Last Will and Testament in which Sir John had allegedly willed several acres of the Achimota Forest and the Ramsar area to the beneficiaries forever.
The issue, which was carried on the airwaves over the past weeks, had many Ghanaians question how the late Sir John could have owned state properties and willed them to his family members.
The Achimota Forest has been in the news in recent weeks following what the government describes as the declassification of the peripherals in order to return them to their original owners.
Many civil society organisations and individuals have spoken against the government’s actions, with some alleging the steps would affect the ecological integrity of the forest, while the lands would also be distributed among government functionaries, claims the government has denied.
The petition relates to a 5.541-acre land located in the Achimota Forest held in the name of Jakaypros Limited; 0.987-acre land located in the Achimota Forest held in the name of Fasoh Limited; a piece of land located in the Achimota Forest jointly owned with one Charles Owusu; a piece of land held in the name of DML Limited located in the Achimota Forest, and a 5.07-acre land located at the Ramsar area in Sakumono, near Tema in the Greater Accra Region.
The group believes that Sir John abused his public office and dishonestly used it for his private benefit.
The anti-graft group, therefore, wants the Special Prosecutor to establish how the state lands were acquired by Sir John, and if established that they were acquired illegally, be recovered to the state.