Pressure Mounts On Chief Justice To Step Aside For An Independent Probe Into US$5 Million Bribery Allegation Against Him

Chief Justice Anim-Yeboah, Lawyer Kwasi Afrifa,  Lawyer Akoto Ampaw and Ace Ankomah Chief Justice Anim-Yeboah, Lawyer Kwasi Afrifa, Lawyer Akoto Ampaw and Ace Ankomah

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has called on the Chief Justice, Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, to step aside for independent investigations into allegations that he demanded a US$ 5 million bribe for the verdict of a Supreme Court case to go in favour of the giver.

The allegations were made by renowned lawyer Akwasi Afrifa, against his former client Nana Ogyeedom Obranu Kwesi Atta VI, who had petitioned the General Legal Council (GLC) over the conduct of the former.

Interestingly, the Chief Justice is being thought of as a man who has something to hide with respect to the 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) of the Ghana police, 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 of the Australian Visa scandal, Samuel Jinapor and Asenso Boakye vs. Kwame A-Plus, Kwasi Nyatakyi and the Anas' Number 12 documentary among others, saying the CID, cannot do a good job 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 GLC.

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 lawyer, 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 that 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 commence, 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 the Chief Justice.

Firstly, 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 a 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 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 supports 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, GhanaTelecommunication 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, 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.

"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 GLC, in respect of the specific matter and threatened civil action in court to clear his name.

A "saddened" Justice Anin-Yeboah on Monday, July 12, denied the allegations and requested the Criminal Investigations Department to investigate the matter for further action to be taken.

The request to the CID, contained in a letter signed by Judicial Secretary Justice, Cynthia Pamela Addo, also indicated that the Disciplinary Committee of the GLC, has been petitioned to look into same.

But addressing journalists in Accra yesterday, Tuesday, July 13, General Secretary of the NDC Johnson Asiedu Nketia, stressed that recent history of the CID makes it incompetent to handle an investigation involving a high-profile person like Justice Anin-Yeboah.

"In this regard, and without taking sides or commenting on the merit or otherwise of the said allegations of bribery against the Chief Justice, we believe that an investigation by the Police CID would be woefully inadequate to assure the Ghanaian public that a thorough inquiry has been conducted into the matter," Mr Asiedu Nketia said.

"We are of the considered view that the recent history of the Police CID with respect to investigations into allegations against high-ranking officials of the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government would not afford the sort of confidence that must be engendered in an investigation such as this considering the elevated position of the person against whom these allegations have been made."

He cited the Australian Visa Scandal, the 500 missing excavators, and the galamsey fraud scandal as some of the cases poorly handled by the CID.

As regards the GLC, and even the Judicial Service, the NDC scribe said since a justice of the Supreme Court, and, for that matter, the chief of those justices is involved, the truth can only be proven by an independent body.

This, the party claims, will ensure the sanctity and independence of the judicial arm of government.

"Best practice would require that the Chief Justice steps aside temporarily until the matters are looked into and a clear outcome emerges and we believe this instance calls for such an action.

"Friends from the media, in making these calls, we are guided by the supreme interest of governance and the preservation of the image of critical state institutions like the Judiciary and its leaders, especially the Chief Justice.

"No iota of doubt must remain about its integrity and credibility and it is absolutely imperative that everything is done to guarantee this."