The High Court in Accra has threatened to discharge former President of the Ghana Football Association, (GFA), Lawyer Kwasi Nyantakyi over prosecution’s delay in presenting their first witness to begin the trial.
This was after, the Prosecution had indicated to the court that they are now considering their “legal and procedural options” following recent development regarding their Star Witness Anas Aremeyaw Anas, whom the court had asked to unmask to the accused persons in-camera before testifying in open court masked.
But Anas had turned down that directive on grounds of personal security concerns.
Anas’ investigative piece titled, #Number 12 Exposé, which exposed some corruption in Ghana’s football led to the former FA president being charged for fraud and corruption with one another.
In court on Wednesday, June 21, when the case was called, Derick Ackah, Assistant State Attorney told the court that, they had procured a copy of the Court’s ruling on Anas after the Judicial Service Staff Association’s suspension of indefinite strike and was only able to meet Anas a few days ago.
According to him, “some concerns were raised and as a result the Republic is considering its legal and procedural options.”
The Assistant State Attorney also stated that, he had explained to counsel for the Nyantakyi and apologized to the court profusely for the prosecution’s inability to present their witness to begin the trial as directed by the court.
He subsequently prayed for the court to adjourn the matter for them to “put their house in order” for the case to proceed.
Lawyer Baffour Gyau Bonsu Aisha, Counsel for Nyantakyi pointed out to the court that, at the last court sitting, the concern raised by the prosecution was that, the cover letter covering the witness statement they filed was stamped but appears that the witness statement itself is not stamped signifying that it never filed.
Counsel again recounted that, Prosecution’s prayer to the court was that, it should indulge them to file the same witness statement on the record, assuring it that not even “a” would change on the witness statement.
He said, the case was then adjourned for the state to file the same witness statement served on them “so that we can have enough time to compare.”
“My lady adjourn the case to today (Wednesday, June 21), for it to call their first witness for the case to commence,” and “I even prayed then for them to tell us who their witness is, but they did not,” he pointed out.
He said, “throughout the night, we have been reading the witness statements” and “for the state to say that procuring the ruling of the court after the (suspension of) JUSAG’s strike, and they are meeting one witness as the reason for not filing witness statement already prepared and signed is a bit of bad faith from the state.”
“This is a criminal matter hanging on the head of the accused persons, and we have been going back-and-forth at the instance of the state.”
“It is my prayer that My Lady should make firm orders that at the next adjourned date that if the State does not comply,” the accused should be discharged.
Lawyer Charles Puozuinu, Counsel for the 2nd Accused person Abdulai Alhassan also pointed to the court the difficulties his client had to endure traveling from Tamale to attend court sittings only for prosecution to keep delaying the trial.
He prayed for the court to discharge the accused person and anytime the prosecution was ready, they can serve notice on them to appear.
“My difficulty is that, my client resides in Tamale and the risk involved in coming to Accra and we coming by air is so expensive,” Counsel told the court.
“It is our prayer that the accused persons be discharged,” and “Whenever the state is ready, they can serve notice on the accused to appear.”
“You are the third judge they (accused persons) are appearing before, and this case has been pending for the past years and all adjournments have been at the instance of the prosecution and none at the instance of accused persons,” counsel expressed.
He said, fair trial also includes reasonable cost and “If it was a civil matter, the cost the state would have incurred would exceed GHc1 or GHc2 million.”
At this point, the Assistant State Attorney was against on his feet and said, “we apologize for not refiling the witness statement as requested at the last adjourned date.”
“This is because the legal and procedural options may require the Republic to either pray the court to withdraw one of the statements or amend one of the statements,” he stated.
He however described as “untrue” that the delays in this case have been entirely at the instance of prosecution.
“My lady ship would notice that a number of motions have come up in this case” and “we want to assure the court that the Republic would file” the statement by the next court sitting.
The Criminal Division of the Accra High Court presided over by Justice Marie Louise Simmons after listening to the parties said she will adjourn the case for “one more time” should prosecution fails to call their first witness; the accused persons would be discharged.
The court said, bearing in mind that the conduct of criminal prosecutions in the country is entirely in the hands of the attorney general and as per article 88 of the 1992 Constitution, the court does not think that the prosecution is doing enough in this case.
The court said, if they are now “considering their legal and procedural options” which they may have in this case, the charge sheet was filed before the court differently constituted March 15, 2021, and the case as at now has traveled through the hands of two other judges and several adjournments.
“I noticed from the disclosures filed that witness statements were filed for six witnesses, and so I believe that the prosecution might have been able to call at least one of them soon.”
“In view of the fact that the last adjourned date was for a decision on the testimony of one of the witnesses, (Anas), I will grant you (Prosecution) one more adjournment to call a witness or have the accused discharged.”
Justice Simmons said, the Prosecution is to put its house in order before the next adjournment.
The former GFA President was charged with fraud and corruption over his involvement in the Anas Aremeyaw Anas Number 12 Exposé.
Nyantakyi, who is also facing the charge of Conspiracy to commit fraud with the former Northern Regional Representative of the GFA, Abdulai Alhassan, pleaded not guilty.
The two football administrators have been admitted to their previous bail sum of GHc 1 million each with three sureties, to be justified.
They are also to report to the case investigator until the final determination of the case.
The embattled former GFA president, Nyantakyi, came under heavy criticism after the content of Anas Aremeyaw Anas investigative piece entitled ‘Number12’ was aired in Ghana on June 6, 2018.
The video captured Nyantakyi supposedly taking $65,000 (£48,000) from an undercover reporter pretending to be a businessman.
The video among other things also captured top officials of the football association including its President, Nyantakyi allegedly taking bribes to influence the invitation of players to the national team, to influence the duration of playing time offered to some players and to influence the selection of unfit players and referees to participate in games.
The Number 12 documentary also captured more than 100 referees allegedly taking bribes to manipulate the outcome of games in a team’s favour.
Following the first screening of the video, which attracted more than 3,000 persons, many called for a complete dissolution of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) and immediate resignation of its embattled president, Kwesi Nyantakyi.
Nyantakyi, who was also the first Vice President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) eventually resigned from all football-related positions few days after the video was aired.
FIFA subsequently suspended Kwesi Nyantakyi and later banned him for life.