The Chief Justice, Kwesi Anim Yeboah is being thought of as a man who has something to hide with respect to the US$ 5 million bribery allegation, having departed from the precedent set by his onetime boss, Georgina Wood in the bribery incidents involving some High Court judges caught in secret videos by investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas.
In that instances, the High Court judges including Justice Paul Dery, Justices Ayisi Addo and Mustapha Habib Logoh, Justice Kofi Essel Mensah, Justice Ivy Heward Mills, Justice John Ajet-Nasam, Justice Ernest Obimpeh and Justice Francis K. Opoku were made to appear before a specially instituted disciplinary committee chaired by Sophia Akuffo, who quickly recommended their dismissals to the then President, John Dramani Mahama, who promptly complied.
But in the present case, the Chief Justice, has shockingly petitioned the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to probe the bribery allegation made against him by his onetime friend and lawyer, Akwasi Afrifa, and leaving many especially, those in the legal fraternity finding it difficult to appreciate the fact that Justice Anim Yeboah is choosing how and who probes him.
Many don't trust the Police CID to do a clean job. They had cited the case the Australian Visa scandal, Samuel Jinapor and Asenso Boakye vs, Kwame A-Plus, Kwasi Nyatakyi and the Anas' Number 12 documentary among other saying the CID cannot do a good in this matter.
The bribery allegations were contained in Akwasi Afrifa's response to a petition filed against him by his client at the disciplinary committee of the General Legal Council (GLC). The client, Ogyeedom Obranu Kwesi Atta VI, dragged Mr. Afrifa to the GLC alleging that he collected $100,000 from him with a promise to help get a favourable judgment in the case entitled Ogyeedom Obranu Kwesi Atta VI V. Ghana Telecommunications Co. Ltd, with Civil Suit No.J8/96/2020, on his behalf.
The Herald's findings are that Accra-based Ace Annan Ankomah had represented Ghana Telecommunications Co. Ltd in the case at the Supreme Court while Akoto Ampaw, who was mentioned by Lawyer Afrifa, as having been recommended by the Chief Justice as his replacement, represented Ogyeedom Obranu Kwesi Atta VI.
Ogyeedom Atta IV had asked the GLC to order Mr. Afrifa to refund the $100,000, saying the lawyer failed to deliver on his promise to get him a favourable court decision. But in a response dated July 8, Mr. Afrifa denied the claims of Ogyeedom Kwesi Atta VI, further alleging that he was asked to refund GHc300,000 in legal fees to enable his client to raise a $5million bribe to be paid to the Chief Justice to get a favourable decision in the legal dispute.
One lawyer who doesn't want to be known wrote "a complaint about a bribery allegation concerning a judge doesn't ordinarily go to the Police. This is because it touches on the functions of a judge in the performance of his duties as a juristic officer, that complaint is ordinarily lodged with the Judicial Council. So it is the Judicial Council that will institute disciplinary hearings into the same and make a determination".
The lawyer argues that "it was not the Police that looked into the allegations of bribery allegations against some High Court judges by Anas. It was the then judicial council headed by CJ Wood instituted disciplinary hearings and made determinations leading to the dismissal of a large number of judges including magistrates. One or two were exonerated. This can't be any different".
The lawyer charged "the Office of the Judicial Secretary by this letter of complaint directed to the Police CID, has clearly mis-stepped the procedure under law in these matters".
While some feel the Chief Justice must step aside for investigations to come on, others believe that the President, Nana Akufo-Addo must step into the matter and set up an independent inquiry into the claim against the Chief Justice. Indeed, there are those who want the hearings to be made public instead of the usual closed door hearing.
Lawyer Afrifa made two interesting but damning allegations against Chief Justice Anim Yeboah. That his client told him, he was able to negotiate with Chief Justice Anim Yeboah to accept a US$5 million bribe for him to win the case at the Supreme Court of which he paid US$500,000 and that Chief Justice Anim Yeboah counselled him to dump his lawyer, Kwasi Afrifa, and go for Akoto Ampaw as that was the only way he could help him win the case at the Supreme.
The case in respect of which these allegations were made originally travelled from the Swedru High Court, to the Court of Appeal and now with the Supreme Court. It is a litigation over land that the Chief, on one side, and Ghana Telecommunication Company Ltd and Lands Commission, on the other side, are claiming ownership.
At the High Court, judgment was entered in favor of the Chief. The Cape Coast Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the High Court in favor of the Chief with lots of money to be raked by him from Ghana Telecommunication Company Ltd.
Mr. Afrifa was only engaged by the Chief when the case travelled to the Court of Appeal. And this was rightly captured in Kwasi Afrifa's response to the GLC and documents from the court I have sighted also support this assertion.
After the Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the High Court in favor of the Chief, Ghana Telecommunication Company Ltd and Lands Commission filed a civil appeal at the Supreme Court. At the Supreme Court, Kwasi Afrifa again represented the Chief but was led by Sam Joseph. This also supporters Kwasi Afrifa's assertion in his response to the GLC that he was engaged by the Chief to support another lawyer.
At the Supreme Court, Ghana Telecommunication Company Ltd filed for stay of execution which was granted in their favor but in a manner that they considered not in their favor so the motion was repeated.
Justice Anim Yeboah Chaired the panel but the ruling was delivered by Justice Gbadegbe. After this ruling, Ghana Telecommunication Company Ltd filed another application, this time round for adduction of fresh evidence, this application was granted in favor of the Company. Amorse Blessing Amos wrote that "it was at this stage that funny things started to happen".
For the new application to be heard, documents from the Supreme Court indicate that the Chief replaced Kwasi Afrifa with Akoto Ampaw. This was where Akoto Ampaw came into the picture. Chief Justice Anim Yeboah reconstituted the panel but chaired it.
In fact he was the only Supreme Court Judge who remained on the panel. The Court granted the application in a unanimous decision. Not exhausted, a new application was filed again for adduction of additional evidence. Chief Justice Anim Yeboah again reconstituted the panel but remained on it as its Chair. At this stage, Akoto Ampaw represented the Chief at the Supreme Court. Judgment was given in favor of Ghana Telecommunication Company Ltd to adduce fresh evidence.
Interestingly, out of the five Justices who heard this application, it was only Justice Anim Yeboah who dissented and agreed with Akoto Ampaw. The point must be made that, before Akoto Ampaw took over the case, Chief Justice Anim Yeboah sided with his colleagues in the first two applications and thus, both applications were unanimous decisions. It was only when Akoto Ampaw took over the case that the Chief Justice decided to take a different stance on the issue.
The Chief and new lawyer, Akoto Ampaw are seeking to stop Ghana Telecommunication Company Ltd from adducing new evidence to overturn judgment of the High Court.
Chief Justice Anim Yeboah agrees with them but his colleagues namely; Yoni Kulendi, Justice Owusu, Justice Honyenuga, Justice Amadu Tanko disagreed.
The main case is pending at the Supreme Court. It is yet to be established whether the addiction of new evidence will overturn the high Court judgement. But so far, the conduct of the Chief Justice seems to confirm the allegations contained in Kwasi Afrifa's response to the petition before the GLC. The coming days will be interesting.
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah has rejected claims that he demanded an amount of $5 million to supposedly influence a court case and subsequently petitioned the CID to probe the allegation made against him by Akwasi Afrifa, one onetime friend.
"His Lordship has directed that a formal complaint be made to the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service for investigations and the necessary action," the petition signed by the Judicial Secretary, Justice Cynthia Pamela Addo said.
"His Lordship is saddened that, without any shred of evidence, his name has been dragged into this sordid and potentially criminal matter. His Lordship confirms that he does not know the plaintiff and has not met or seen him anywhere, except in the courtroom when he rises to announce his name when his case is called. His Lordship asserts that he has had no personal interaction either with the plaintiff or his lawyer on this matter or in any other matter," the Chief Justice said in the petition.
The Chief Justice has also directed that a petition should be lodged with the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council in respect of the specific matter.
The Chief Justice has also threatened civil action in court to clear his name.