The Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, has once again directed for the freezing and seizure of bank accounts and cash found at the Accra residence of former sanitation minister Cecilia Dapaah.
It comes after the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) invoked its powers to still take custody of the money days after the High Court asked the office to return same.
A statement issued by the OSP on Tuesday (5 September) said it suspects the seized cash amount is tainted hence the decision to refreeze them.
“Consequently, subsequent to the indicated ruling and order of the High Court and the compliance by the OSP with said ruling and order, the Special Prosecutor considers that freezing the bank accounts and investments of Ms. Dapaah is necessary to facilitate the ongoing investigation. Therefore, the Special Prosecutor has invoked his statutory power under section 38(1) of Act 959 and regulation 19(1) of L.I. 2374 by directing the freezing of the bank accounts and investments of Ms. Dapaah effective 5 September 2023,” the statement said.
“Further, subsequent to the indicated ruling and order of the High Court and the compliance by the OSP with said ruling and order, the Special Prosecutor considers that he has reasonable grounds to suspect that the cash amounts seized from and returned to Ms. Dapaah is tainted property and it is necessary to exercise the power of seizure to prevent the concealment or loss of said cash amounts.”
“Therefore, the Special Prosecutor has again invoked his statutory power under section 32(1)(a) of Act 959 by directing the seizure from Ms. Dapaah of the cash amounts previously seized from her. Authorized officers of the OSP have seized the said cash amounts from Ms. Dapaah,” the statement said.
Below is the full statement:
The financial crimes high court presided over by Justice Edward Twum has ordered the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) to return all monies seized from former sanitation and water resources minister Cecilia Dapaah back to her within the next seven days from the date of the ruling.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor on Thursday 17 August, prayed the court to confirm its order freezing two accounts belonging to Dapaah on suspicion that the monies in the accounts may be tainted property. The OSP was also praying the court to confirm its decision to seize some sums of money it discovered after searching the former minister’s residence. The monies discovered were US$590,000.00 and GHC2,730,000.00.
Justice Edward Twum’s court in it ruling on 31 August 2023, held that it finds no reasonable ground for which the applicant, Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), froze the bank accounts of the respondent (Cecilia Dapaah).
The court further held that the freezing of the accounts was done without any legal basis and the court in the interest of fairness, cannot confirm the freezing of those accounts as it was not done fairly.
On the seizure of monies discovered in the home of Cecilia Dapaah, the court held that the OSP did not provide any justifiable grounds for its decision to seize the monies discovered in the home of Cecilia Dapaah.
The court ruled that the OSP appears to have misconstrued possession to mean ownership. The court explained that for the OSP to merely seize the monies it found in the possession of Cecilia Dapaah, on grounds that she owns it because they were found in her possession, amounts to putting the cat before the horse.
The court further noted that the actions of the Office of the Special Prosecutor in freezing the accounts of Madam Cecilia Dapaah and seizing monies discovered in her home was reactionary in response to public sentiments and not based on any investigative done by the OSP.
“The action of the OSP was based on speculations, mere guesses and at best, reactionary to public sentiments and not based on any criminal intelligence gathered as the OSP wants this court to believe” Justice Edward Twum ruled.
Moving the OSP’s motion in court on Thursday, 17 August 2023, Dr Isidore Tufour, the director of prosecutions at the OSP, argued that even though the ownership of the monies discovered at the residence of Cecilia Dapaah still remain in dispute, the OSP has reasonable grounds to suspect that the monies are tainted property.
He stated in open court that the OSP’s seizure was made on the strength of section 32 (1) of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act, (2017) Act 959.
On the prayer of the OSP to confirm the freezing of madam Cecilia Dapaah’s bank accounts, the OSP noted that it brought the application based on section 38 of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act, (2017) Act 959.
“The freezing is justified under Section 38(1) which gives power to the Special Prosecutor to freeze any property which is necessary to facilitate investigation and this is the standard test for validation of freezing under section 38,” Dr Isidore Tufour told the court.
Contention of defence lawyer
Victoria Barth, lawyer for Cecilia Dapaah, opposed the application of the OSP seeking to confirm the freezing of her client’s account and seizure of monies found in her home.
She contended that the application of the OSP must fail on the grounds that the lawyer for the OSP conceded that contrary to section 32(2) of Act 959, his application for confirmation of seizure of suspected tainted property has been brought out of time.
“The language of section 32(2) is very clear and leaves no room for a secondary meaning or waiver. The word ‘shall’ used in section 32(2) puts it beyond dispute that it is a mandatory requirement that must be satisfied to properly invoke this court’s jurisdiction” Victoria Barth stated in court.
The defence lawyer also pointed out that there must be grounds that funds found in the matrimonial home of her client have been used in connection with the commission of an offence or that they were derived, obtained or realised as a result of the commission of corruption or corruption related offence.
“This is why the mere fact of investigating the respondent for a broadly described offence of corruption is not sufficient under section 40(1) as grounds for the confirmation of a freezing order” Cecilia Dapaah’s lawyer stated in court.
“We are relying on the deposition in our affidavit in opposition which speaks to the caliber and work history of the respondent (Cecilia Dapaah) among other facts that would show that this application has been brought [by the OSP] in flagrant of the applicant’s own enabling law and seeks to perpetrate the arbitrary exercise of powers based on nothing more than suspicion fuelled by misrepresentation of facts and resultant media frenzy. We pray the court to dismiss the application” Victoria Barth, Lawyer for Cecilia Dapaah said in her concluding argument.
Reporting by Fred Dzakpata in Accra