Former Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson has withdrawn his application for recusal against the judge hearing his case of allegedly causing financial loss to the State involving the sum of €2.37 million in the purchase of vehicles meant for ambulance.
The prosecution described the procured vehicles (ambulances) for the Ministry of Health as being “defective” and unfit for purpose.
In the course of the trial, Dr Forson, the Minority Leader through his lawyers filed the application asking Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, a Justice of the Court of Appeal sitting an additional High Court judge, to recuse herself from continuing with the case.
Dr. Forson, who is standing trial with two others, filed the application on ground that the judge had shown possible “bias” towards him.
The application alleged, among other things, that the judge threatened to jail the Member of Parliament’s witnesses if they failed to show up in court to testify in spite of a witness summon issued against them.
He contended that, this, breaches his right to fair trial as he was unsettled by the court’s threats to have his witnesses arrested and jailed.
Before the the application could be heard, Dr. Aziz Bamba, lead counsel for Dr. Forson, raised preliminary objection against the judge hearing the motion for recusal.
He argued that the trial judge against whom the allegation of bias was made ought not to be the one to determine the application.
Justice Asare-Botwe had then adjourned the case to October 12 to deliver a reasoned ruling while indicating her decision which would be based on precedence would have determined whether or not to consider the substantive application.
The adjournment to October 12 also meant that an application filed by Dr. Forson asking the court to vary the bail conditions regarding the release of his passport to him could not be heard.
However, Godwin Edudzi Tameklo, holding brief for Dr. Bamba, went back to the court to withdraw the application for recusal and subsequently withdrew same.
The trial judge consequently struck out the application as withdrawn.
Mr Tamekloe subsequently prayed the court to allow Dr. Forson to keep the passport till October 1, 2023.
Justice Asare-Botwe granted the request and ordered the accused to return the passport to the court’s registrar by 12 noon of October 2, 2023.
Petition to CJ
Earlier, the Chief Justice, Gertrude Araba Esaaba Sackey Torkornoo, dismissed a petition asking her to transfer the case to a different judge.
Richard Jakpa, a private businessman who is also standing trial for same offences, had petitioned the Chief Justice to remove the judge from the trial, alleging bias against her as a result of an incident which occurred during one of the court’s sittings.
It was his case that on June 20, 2023, the judge issued a stern warning to him that it was the last time she would tolerate any disrespect from him and let him go home.
Dr. Ato Forson, together with Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director at the Ministry of Health and private businessman, Richard Jakpa, are standing trial for willfully causing financial loss of €2.37 million to the state, through a contract to purchase 200 ambulances for the Ministry of Health, among other charges.
The State led by Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame and Director of Public Prosecutions, Yvonne Atakora-Obuobisa, called five witnesses and closed its case on February 14, 2023.
The witnesses paraded by the state include the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu.
The case of the prosecution is to ascertain whether the defective vehicles were purchased in accordance with the purchase agreement approved by Parliament.
The State also wants to ascertain whether Dr. Forson was authorised by the substantive Finance Minister or any superior officer to write a letter to the Controller and Accountant General directing the establishment of irrevocable Letters of Credit (LCs) which led to the payments.
The case has been adjourned to October 2, 2023 in the new legal year.
Source: Ghana/Starrfm.com.gh/Murtala Inusah