Judges Blast NDC Looting Brigade

Supreme Court ruling on the Waterville scandal last Friday has not been charitable to the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration for virtually dashing state resources to individuals and corporate bodies for doing nothing for the state. Justice Jones Dotse, a member of the nine-member panel, put it succinctly when he said some people were raping the country. Justice Dotse described the €40million judgment debt paid to Waterville Holdings Ltd and the GH¢51.2million paid to businessman, Alfred Agbesi Woyome, as a carefully orchestrated plan by some individuals, companies and lawyers, whom he tagged as a “brigade” formed to loot the country. On Friday June 14, 2013, the Supreme Court famously ruled that Waterville should cough up €40million that was wrongly paid in judgment debts over three stadia construction projects in 2006 that was scrapped by the erstwhile John Agyekum Kufuor’s government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). In his opinion, Justice Dotse stated that Mr Woyome and Waterville appeared to have “entered into an alliance to create, loot and share the resources of this country as if a brigade had been set up for such an enterprise”. According to him, from available documents and correspondence, there was a lot of documentary material to the effect that Alfred Woyome in particular had no business or contract with the government of Ghana. “Indeed counsel for the third Defendant (Woyome) would have done himself a lot of good if he, while acting for the third Defendant at the material time had interrogated the issues thoroughly, would have realised that his client was not entitled to what they claimed in the High Court and obtained judgment for,” he said. He added: “No doubt, learned counsel for the third Defendant in the infamous ‘Woyome Payment Scandal’ in the trial High Court, cleverly avoided acting for the 2nd Defendant (Waterville), whose claims against the Government of Ghana were denied at the material time by the third Defendant”. Justice Dotse stated his personal opinion about the raging controversy about the mind-boggling judgment debt after the nine-member Supreme Court panel, chaired by Justice S.K Date-Bah, had delivered its damning verdict on Waterville Holdings, headed by Andrei Orlandi, asking him to refund the money. Initial report suggested that the money was €25million but a statement issued from the Attorney General’s Department and signed by Dr Dominic Ayine indicated to Ghanaians that the money was rather €40million wrongfully paid to Waterville, which the court said it should be retrieved. All the questionable payments were made between 2009 and 2011, during the Prof. John Evans Atta Mills administration with John Mahama as Vice President and Chairman of the Economic Management Team and Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur as Governor of the Bank of Ghana. Incidentally, Mr Woyome is a self-acclaimed financier of the NDC while the official who negotiated the judgment debts was an appointee of the government; a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Betty Mould-Iddrisu, with the support of the then Deputy Attorney General, Ebo Barton-Odro. Betty was later forced out of the government as Education Minister. Bogus Deal The written opinion available to DAILY GUIDE clearly indicated Justice Dotse’s displeasure at the manner in which the Attorney General at the time headed by Madam Betty Mould-Iddrisu, lawyers of Waterville and Mr Woyome conducted themselves in seeing to the state parting away with the enormous judgment debts. For the judge, if Madam Iddrisu had critically ascertained the claims made on government by the defendants, “It would have become very clear to whoever was in charge of directing affairs at the first Defendant’s office [Attorney General], that the claims of the second and third defendants (Waterville and Woyome) against the Government of Ghana cannot hold water.” Justice Dotse also lashed at lawyers of the defendants in the case: Peasa Boadu, representing Waterville Holdings and Osafo Boabeng, who represented Mr. Woyome, in the case that was filed last year by Martin Alamisi Benz Kaiser Amidu, who succeeded Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu and realised that there were some phony dealings in the way the claims were paid by his predecessor. Interestingly, Mr Amidu was relieved of his post by the late President, John Evans Atta Mills, on claims of misconduct, but he maintained he was sacked because of his dogged resolve to get to the bottom of the judgment debt saga which he tagged as “gargantuan corruption”. The Complex Deal In 2006, the then NPP government agreed in principle to build a number of stadia for the African Nations Cup, which the country had won a bid to host. Initially, Vamed Engineering was selected after a competitive bid, but it pulled out, transferring its interest to Waterville Holdings which was authorised in principle to embark on the construction project upon satisfying funding requirements. Waterville, in turn, was said to have contracted Mr Woyome to carry out financial engineering services, but in the thick of the project, the Kufuor administration rolled back its plans with Waterville and handed the contract to construction firms Consar, Michiletti for the Accra and Kumasi stadia and a Chinese construction interest for Tamale and Sekondi. According Kojo Mpiani, the then Chief of Staff in the Kufuor administration, the government took away the project from Waterville and its sub-contractors because they did not demonstrate enough capacity to raise the requisite funds. Some monies changed hands between the parties between 2006 and 2007 for the cancellation of the projects and for the costs covering initial work done. Curiously, Waterville and Mr. Woyome surfaced again in 2009 after the ouster of the NPP government to make certain claims on the project, after a momentary tussle, a High Court granted the claims of Mr. Woyome in a default judgment, compelling the new NDC government to part with a whopping GH¢51.2million to Mr Woyome with no contract, while Waterville received its share without going to the court. However, the Supreme Court ruled that Waterville had no claim on the government, hence, the order for the refund. As for Mr Woyome, the Supreme Court declined to make a verdict because he was facing both criminal and civil suits in the High Court over the same case. “In my respectful opinion, no matter what the monetary attractions are, every counsel owes a duty to the ethics of the legal profession and to his own conscience to ensure that whatever claims are pursued on behalf of his clients are not only legitimate, lawful, just and legal, but reasonable under the circumstance of the case,” Justice Dotse stated. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court judge found issues with the trial judge in the High Court who granted the controversial default judgment. “The duty of a trial court Judge or Magistrate is to ensure that cases brought up before them are not only legitimate, but based on sound principles of law. A trial Judge or Magistrate is not to accept, hook, line or sinker claims brought before it on the basis that the defendants have not put up a defence,” he stated. “There should be no indecent haste on the part of a trial court to rush to deliver judgment on account of default pleadings…trial courts must be on the alert to prevent cases where collusion can occur….”