The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) has served notice it will challenge the decision by the Accra High Court to prevent it from freezing assets of the late Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie.
According to a statement signed by the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, the country risks losing the fight against corruption “in unimaginable ways” if the ruling of the Court is left to stand.
An Accra High Court, presided over by Justice Afia Asare Botwe, on Tuesday, July 12 – dismissed a request by the Special Prosecutor to keep Sir John’s assets frozen for further investigation over suspected corruption.
But in a reaction to the ruling, the OSP argued that “the judge, with respect, totally misapprehended the application for confirmation of the freezing order and misdirected herself by characterising the application as that of a confiscation order, which regimes are governed by different considerations.”
Although unhappy with the Court’s decision, the OSP says investigations into the estate of the late Sir John will still proceed unabated.
“The net effect of the ruling of the High Court is that a person may, in his lifetime, gleefully acquire property through corruption and then upon his demise happily pass on the corruptly-acquired property to his beneficiaries for their benefit.
“By so doing, [the person will] extinguish all scrutiny as to the property or otherwise of the acquisition of the property because his corrupt activities were not discovered during his lifetime,” the statement added.
How it all started
Mr Agyebeng froze the assets as part of investigations the Office commenced into the acquisition of state lands and property that were contained in Mr Afriyie’s Will.
In May, this year, it emerged that the Will of Sir John contained some parcels of land at the Achimota Forest Reserve and the Sakumono Ramsar site.
It also contained four parcels of land in the Achimota Forest, which the late politician gifted to some individuals.
The Will also had huge sums of money in both his local and foreign accounts.
As a result of the public uproar that greeted the news, the OSP – in a press statement issued on Thursday, May 26 – said it has commenced investigations into it.
This, according to JoyNews’ checks, has led to the freezing of his bank accounts and all assets. The Special Prosecutor then filed processes in court to extend this order.
Section 38 of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act , Act 959, empowers the Special Prosecutor to direct the freezing of assets if he holds the view that it is necessary for investigations. He is then required to apply to a court within 14 days for a confirmation of the freezing order.
This is what led the SP to file the current processes.
The High Court, however, took the view that the Special Prosecutor should have initiated the process under Section 54 of the Act.
This provision deals with the procedure where a person dies or absconds. This empowers the SP to make a request for confiscation of such a property.
JoyNews’ sources say the Special Prosecutor intends to challenge this decision at the Court of Appeal.