Dennis Adjei-Dwomoh, has been told in the face that he has no legs to stand on in pursuing a complaint he had filed against The Herald before the National Media Commission (NMC).
The paper had in a series of publications, including court proceedings highlighted allegations of professional misconduct against Lawyer Adjei-Dwomoh in the case of Merlin Ghana Limited, a lottery company.
The company's documents at the Registrar General's department, were forged and appointments such as a legal advisor and a board secretary, made for the company without any board meetings and resolutions as required by law.
The owners of the Merlin Ghana Limited, Peter Nkegbe and Eric Gbeho, have in court documents, as well as complaints filed at the Registrar General and Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) denied knowledge of Frank Tachie-Menson, who appointed Lawyer Philip Addison the company Secretary.
The two directors of the Merlin, have alleged fraud against Frank Tachie-Menson and dragged Lawyer Philip Addison and Dennis Adjei-Dwomoh to the General Legal Council to investigate the conduct of the two lawyers, insisting they had stepped out of the ethics of their legal profession.
Interestingly, Dennis, who is a rep of the Trade Ministry on the National Investment Bank (NIB) board, has through his lawyer, Dr. Isidore Tufuor of Law Plus, a law firm owned by Alan Kyeremanten since dragged The Herald before the NMC, alleging attempts to destroy his reputation.
But The Herald's lawyer, Charles William Zwennes of Gaisie Zwennes Hughes & Co. has rubbished the claim of Dennis, whose modus operandi and unethical conduct was a subject at the vetting of Lawyer Yonni Kulendi, his onetime boss who is a Supreme Court judge.
According to Mr Zwennes, Dennis' narrative to the NMC "is littered with falsehoods and inaccuracies, including the Complainants' own contrived and exaggerated postulations about his professional self-worth, and skewed narratives of what he sees as his own professional prowess".
Mr Zwennes, who is very familiar with the Merlin case, described Dennis' claims as "breast-beatings" adding his claims have absolutely no bearing on or relevance to the complaint of "deliberately misreporting court proceedings, aimed at courting disaffection for the Complainant's clients."
Below is what The Herald filed in response to Dennis' complaints to The NMC
We have our clients instructions to respond to a Complaint made at your Commission and sent to them under your Cover Letter dated 3rd March 2021, under the above-captioned heading and title. By our letter to you dated 12th March 2021, we wrote indicating that we have been instructed by our clients to represent them and asked that you afford us a week within which to take fuller instructions to respond. Our response on behalf of our clients is contained herewith, and we do reserve the right to furnish you with further documentation in defence and support of their position on the matter.
The essence of the complaint of the Complainant as we see it and as captured in your letter of 3rd March 2021 is that our clients are said to have "published stories with sensational headlines relating to cases in court and Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited on its front pages and websites, deliberately misreporting court proceedings, aimed at courting disaffection for the complainant's clients as same was intention and actuated by malice."
A number of observations arise at this stage, from looking at the precise terms of the Complaint before you, as you understand it and have captured it in your letter to our clients:
1 The "misreportage" that is complained about supposedly relates to court proceedings. My clients would wish to know precisely the court case or cases which are in court (with full court case title and suit numbers kindly provided), as well as the given day or days of the reportage complained about that this complaint seeks to rely on. This is entirely unclear from your letter.
2 The misreportage is said to relate to the Complainant's clients, and said to be "aimed at courting disaffection for the complainant's clients..". Here again, we would be grateful to be furnished with the precise names of the Complainant's clients to which he refers, as well as the precise statements made concerning them in the said court case(s) on the given dates of relevant hearings in court to which the Complainant's complaint refers. These are neither clearly or precisely made out or referenced to in your Complaint Letter of 3rd March 2021.
3 Despite the fact that our clients do acknowledge that a number of news articles have been published in recent times which relate to Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited and matters involving that company variously, it is not specifically provided for in the Complainant's complaint attached to your letter of 3rd March 2021, precisely which reports in which cases is considered and complained about as "misreporting".
4 Granted that we have indeed published certain articles in recent times in which the Complainant's name has been mentioned, none of these shown or referred to in your letter or in the Complainant's complaint attached refer to a court action, or to a particular date of hearings in which the Complainant's name has been mentioned in the context of proceedings in court which misreported the proceedings. Again, we would be grateful to have specifics of the Complaint in order for our clients to adequately respond.
5 The true fact of the matter is that Mr. Eric Gbeho has a pending action against the Complainants' client. That action is a substantive action which challenges the Complainant's clients' ownership of shares that he claims to hold in the company, Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited. The Complainants' client has to date not been able to answer to that court action on its merits or to respond in any measure shape or form at all. In that court action, Lawyer Charles William Zwennes continues to act as the lawyer for Mr. Eric Gbeho against the Complainants' client, and the Complainant himself remains the lawyer on the receiving end of that pending court action. It is our clients' understanding and firm belief that that action remains unshaken and entirely bound to succeed once the time comes for the merits of that case to be presented to the Court and heard. [WE ATTACH A COPY OF THE SAID LAW SUIT AND MARK SAME AS "EXH1"].
Is it part of the Complainants' complaint that the allegations reported of in our publications relating to the fraud and falsification of public documents by his client, Frank Tachie-Menson (THE Respondent in "EXH1") are a part of his grievance? If so, can the Complainant specifically refer to the reports in question to which his complaint refers, and the dates that they were made, so that our clients can adequately make answer before you here?
The requests itemized above are essential parts of the Complainant's complaint, for purposes of enabling our clients to respond appropriately to the terms and particulars of what you have decided to investigate, as well as to give proper reference and focus to the grievance ventilated before you by the Complainant. We see this as an essential feature in order to give our clients their fair opportunity to exercise their right to be heard fully and fairly.
We intend hereinafter, however, to respond to the Complainant's complaint in the numerical sequence and numbering from paragraph 6, on page 3 of the "FACTUAL BACKGROUND":
6 Paragraph 6 is not denied.
7 The narrative offered by the Complainant in paragraph 7 of his complaint is strongly denied. The narrative is littered with falsehoods and inaccuracies, including the Complainants' own contrived and exaggerated postulations about his professional self-worth, and skewed narratives of what he sees as his own professional prowess. The Complainants' cock-sure breast-beatings in any case have absolutely no bearing on or relevance to the complaint of "deliberately misreporting court proceedings, aimed at courting disaffection for the Complainant's clients."
The Complainant (from even a first reading of the complaint) demonstrates more his ability as a player of distraction in strained attempts to favourably color his complaint with reports of the disqualification of Lawyer Charles William Zwennes from acting for Mr. Eric Gbeho on the basis that he was and is the recognized lawyer of Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited.
The true facts of those preliminary objections raised by the Complainant and the Rulings of the court (in those applications which were not on merits of any case in court) are that they had nothing to do with the merits of Mr. Eric Gbeho's case against Lawyer Phillip Addison, which Lawyer Addison was never able to answer on the facts. Merlin Ghana Limited has later properly disengaged lawyer Addison from having any dealings with the company, and has likewise disengaged the Complainant himself. Despite it being beside the point, it is not at all clear what "brilliant legal scholarship, advocacy and legal service" that the Complainant refers to, or what he sees himself as having achieved under circumstances where both Lawyer Addison and the Complainant himself have been disengaged by the Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited. With his client still facing the Court case brought against him by Mr. Eric Gbeho, with Lawyer Charles William Zwennes still as the lawyer for the Plaintiff against the Complainants' client as the Defendant.
8 Paragraph 8 of the complaint is denied. The Complainant is asked to specify and particularize the specific untruths he claims were published about his client lawyer Phillip Addison in Suit No. CM/MISC/0961/2019. Furthermore, Lawyer Phillip Addison is not the complainant before this Committee. Mr. Addison himself on more than one occasion has exercised his right to rejoinder which was published in our newspaper.
9 Paragraph 9 of the complaint is denied. Phillip Addison is not the complainant before this Committee, and furthermore, the stories published on the dates raised in question were all true and accurate in the sense that:
- 03/02/2020 – "PHILLIP ADDISON UNDER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS" – There was indeed a complaint lodged at the Police CID against the client of lawyer Addison, Mr. Frank Tachie-Menson, for fraud and falsification of public documents, in which Lawyer Addison's name was mentioned for the role he played in aiding and abetment of the criminal offences complained of to the Police CID. The fact that he was under investigation is a matter within the knowledge of the Police CID, and not within the knowledge of Lawyer Phillip Addison himself necessarily to know about. It is not defamatory for it to be said that Mr. Addison, (or any other person) is under police investigation, or is assisting police in investigating the commission of a criminal offence complained of).
- 05/02/2020 – "POLICE CID & REGISTRAR GENERAL CHASING PHILLIP ADDISON'S CLIENT" – Neither Lawyer Phillip Addison nor his client (Frank Tachie-Menson) are complainants before this Committee. Again, there is a complaint lodged at the Registrar General's Department, Accra, against Phillip Addison's client for fraud and falsification of Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited's company documents held there. The complaint is currently under investigation.
- 05/08/2020 – "SUPREME COURT THROWS OUT PHILLIP ADDISON" – The story carried in our 05/08/2020 edition is entirely accurate in its reportage, since the Supreme Court did indeed dismiss a Certiorari Application brought by him seeking to quash the proceedings before Justice Koomson in the High Court and have an Injunction Order awarded in favour of Mr. Gbeho against Phillip Addison and his client restraining them from holding a meeting in an attempt to make themselves signatories to the company's bank accounts. The Complainant himself was the lawyer for Mr. Phillip Addison on that day and his Certiorari Application was dismissed. The phrase "thrown out" is ordinary language usage for the better understanding of our readership. In any case, the reporting of a decision of the Supreme Court to "throw out" an unmeritorious application brought or argued before it cannot be said to be reportage that is "aimed at courting disaffection for the complainant's clients." That would be tantamount to saying that any litigant who is unsuccessful in an action before the court faces disaffection from the public. A most puerile and immature outlook on the law and on the adversarial system of justice, to say the least.
- 25/11/2020 – "PHILLIP ADDISON DRAGGED BEFORE CID FOR ALLEGEDY DEFRAUDING GAMING COMPANY." – The management, directorship and shareholders of Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited have indeed reported Phillip Addison to the CID for allegedly defrauding the Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited. These are a series of complaints founding the basis of various investigations into the affairs of lawyer Phillip Addison and his client, Frank Tachie-Menson reported to the Police.
10 Paragraph 10 is answered by our Clients by
reference made to paragraphs 8 and 9 herein. The part of the report as captured in true and accurate in all respects. It is factual and true and a neutral report in all respects. Furthermore in answer to paragraph 10, the Complainant or his clients were always at liberty to send us their rejoinder, if they felt that the reportage was false or misleading in any way. Had they felt that they ought to have been heard on the report by our readership, they were always at liberty to send to us their rejoinder with a request that we publish same with the same prominence given to the original story. Neither lawyer Addison not the Complainant ever took any steps to avail themselves of this right of theirs on every occasion of report, although as already stated, Mr. Addison has done so on occasion, and same was duly published in our clients' Newspaper.
11 In response to paragraph 11 of the complaint, our clients state that the manager, directors and shareholders of Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited state that on 17/02/2021 they did indeed lodge a complaint to the Bank of Ghana (BOG) and to the Police CID against the Complainant for attempted stealing. The said complaint is receiving attention. Again, if either party had cause to refute or explain the complaint lodged by the Respondents, they were at liberty to avail themselves of their rights.
12 The implied meanings referred to in paragraph 12 of the Complainant's complaint are imputations which if the Complainant did not wish or intend the readership to make could have easily called on the respondents our clients to publish their rejoinder.
13 The Respondents deny that they in any way acted in breach of the Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists).
14 The sentences of paragraph 14 are argumentative and entirely unhelpful for bringing out the precise terms of the Complainant's complaint.
15 The Respondents our clients state that although a journalist may contact the subject of a story before publishing it, it is not a mandatory requirement of journalistic ethical standards that he necessarily must speak to the subject of every story first. There is no basis for making the assertion that the journalist is acting in dereliction of journalistic principles by choosing not to. The journalist however is duty bound to publish a rejoinder if given one by the subject of the story giving it the same prominence as the story itself. The Complainant neglected to avail himself of this right to a rejoinder. Again, the Complainant's uses of this Committee's platform for spouting gloating self-praise can only be described as delusions of grandeur and allusions of classicist victory in the Court house, neither of which are of any relevance to complaints made to this Committee. This is especially so, since when observed under the stark light of day, neither of the Complainant's clients, - Lawyer Addison nor Frank Tachie-Menson - have won any of the substantive matter in Court. Indeed they have been entirely unable to answer any case on the merits, and whilst court cases have remained pending, both Addison and the Complainant have been disengaged by the company. Mr. Frank Tachie-Menson has also not been able to respond to the Section 38 lawsuit pending against him in Court in which Declarations are being sought to have him declared as not being a shareholder of the company. Again, legal valour, (whether doubted or not), has nothing to do with the Complainants complaint before this Committee.
16 Again, paragraph 16 and the rulings in the various contempt proceedings are mere distractions by the Complainant and have no relevance to the complaint before the Committee.
17 The partial facts asserted in paragraph 17 by the Complainant can only necessarily be answered and responded to by Mr. Peter Nkegbe and Mr. Eric Gbeho, the directors and shareholders of Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited, and if at all these matters were within the knowledge of the Complainant, they ought to have appeared in a Rejoinder, which he would have had every right to call on us to publish, and which we would have had no objection to so doing, in regard for his right to a rejoinder.
18 The complaint made by Mr. Nkegbe and Mr. Gbeho, would be that the Complainant intentionally attempted to have his client who is not a shareholder, recognized as a majority shareholder for purposes of embezzling the company's funds. The Complainant, makes no mention of the most important issue surrounding the case of Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited, which is that his client, Frank Tachie-Menson is being accused of fraud and of falsifying company documents. These are offences which if found guilty of, would earn the Complainants' client an adverse judgement and potentially a consequential criminal prosecution.
What is even the more shocking and therefore of public interest, is that the Complainant is being found as a lawyer at the Bar, to be complicit in assisting his client from facing the case and answering same before a Court of law.
The fact is that where a lawyer is found guilty of such conduct, it is of interest of the public to know about, and the responsibility of journalists to report of such conduct.
OUR CLIENT'S JOURNALISTIC OBLIGATION AND ETHICAL OBLIGATIONS TO THE PUBLIC, AND THE SERVICE OF THE MEDIA TO THE SOCIETY WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF FREE PRESS AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH.
Our clients see their duties to report matters of serious public interest through their publications. To the extent that the truth or otherwise of matters that they report about are matters pending in Court, which are yet to be determined by the Court, our clients see their duty to report on court proceedings as a duty to do so accurately. The Complainant before your Committee has not canvassed and demonstrated any facts of inaccurate reporting of a pending court case in his complaint before you.
It is also premature for the Complainant at this time to ask from your Committee findings to be made in their favour, when the merits of the case before the court are yet to be gone into and are pending final determination and findings to be made as to the truth or otherwise of the aggrieved Plaintiffs, who are the directors and shareholders of Merlin Gaming Ghana Limited. The instant complaint is therefore basically an attempt by the Complainant to overreach the decision-making authority of the Court, which rather would be a manifest contempt, by seeking to prejudice the fair and objective findings of a court that is properly seized with the hearing of the matters currently before it.
The fact is that matters pending before the court which refer to allegations of such serious cases of fraud and stealing are newsworthy to the extent that they are of interest to the public to be made aware of.
The propositions of our clients of their journalistic obligation to make such cases known to the public are based on the following:
1. It is newsworthy to the public that someone (in this case, the Complainant's client) who has allegedly falsified public documents and forged others in order to steal ownership of a company is using lawyers to achieve that purpose. Stealing in this country is still a serious criminal offence and lawyers who might intentionally be using their professional license to actively conceal such attempts at stealing for their personal ends stand the natural consequential risk of being exposed to the public, and earning the status of infamy in the eyes of the Ghanaian public. Such a consequence is the legitimate price that they are liable to pay.
2. It is newsworthy to the public that a man in the person of the Complainant's client has found two practicing lawyers who feel that their professional calling allows them to shield and protect the criminal acts of their client from answering for his crimes.
3. It is newsworthy to the public that some holders of legal practitioners licenses have given themselves to the practice in this country of manufacturing technicalities as a means of enabling persons alleged to have stolen the property of others to avoid the hearing of a case on its merits, and breast beat in passing off acts of "aiding and abetting" as the latest form of "legal genius".
4. It would not be the place for the National Media Commission to shield professional who are alleged to have engaged in acts of wrongdoing with their clients from the light of probity and accountability, or from being exposed to the disapproval and opprobrium of the general public. Their remedy if the consider themselves falsely reported of is always available to them in the form of a rejoiner for their right to a hearing to be regarded.
5. It is newsworthy to the public under these circumstances on the basis of protecting public morals and aversion to stealing for the Ghanaian public themselves to judge and to disapprove and to put to shame such conduct when reported.
6. It is newsworthy to the public that in Ghana today, ones' ownership of a company can be so easily tampered with at the Registrar General's Department.
7. It is now also newsworthy that the audacious and shameless acts of the Complainant's client can now be relied upon as the set of facts for which the National Media Commission can be sought to be relied upon as an instrument to endorse fraud and stealing.
Our clients reserve their right to produce further documentation on this matter as and when the information requested for is produced.
Charles William Zwennes Esq.
Head of Chambers
Gaisie Zwennes Hughes & Co.
Solicitors for the Respondents.