€2.37m case: ‘Hate-filled AG abusing power to prosecute robbing me of my liberty’- Dr. Ato Forson
In what appears to be war of words, Former Deputy Finance Minister Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson is fighting back Attorney General and Minister of Justice Godfred Dame, saying the latter is being driven by hatred, prejudice and demagoguery in pursuing the €2.37 million financial loss to state case against him.
Dr. Ato Forson’s accusation follows a statement issued by the office of the Attorney General in which it accused the opposition lawmaker of seeking to expose Mr Dame to “hatred” and “prejudice” with his (Dr Forson’s) claim that the recent charge levelled against him was part of a grand scheme by officialdom to silence him as far as his opposition to the controversial e-levy is concerned.
The Ajumako Enyan Esiam MP, who is also the Ranking Member on the Finance Committee of Parliament, together with two others; Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health; and Richard Jakpa, a businessman, is facing criminal charges for causing the state to lose €2.37 million in a deal to purchase some 200 ambulances for the country between 2014 and 2016.
The trio was dragged to the Accra High Court Thursday, 23 December 2021 by the Attorney General, on five counts of wilfully causing financial loss to the state, abetment to wilfully cause financial loss to the state, contravention of the public procurement act and intentionally misapplying public property.
A day after the charges were levelled against him, Dr Forson told the media at a press conference that: “I have had to call you this morning for the singular purpose of responding to the news doing the rounds on social and mainstream media that certain charges have been preferred against me by the Attorney General of the Republic, the Honourable Godfred Yeboah Dame”.
“Though I am yet to be formally charged in court, I have seen copies of the charge sheet in the media and wish to say without any fear of the contradiction that these charges are nothing but a frivolous and politically motivated attempt by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his hatchet man, the Attorney General, to silence me for performing my duties as the Ranking Member on the Finance Committee of the Parliament of Ghana”.
“But I want to assure the good people of this country, especially my constituents, who elected me to represent them in parliament that I will not and cannot be silenced by the blatant abuse of prosecutorial powers by the Attorney General”, he said.
Responding to Dr Forson, the office of the Attorney General in its statement signed by Deputy Attorney General Diana Asonaba Dapaah, said Dr Ato Forson’s claims were “laden with factual misrepresentations and calculated at scandalising the criminal proceedings pending in the High Court against the Member of Parliament and exposing the Attorney General to prejudice and hatred”.
The statement clarified that “investigations into the financial crimes perpetrated against the Republic of Ghana in the matter of the failed purchase of ambulances for the state began in 2017”.
“Same [investigations] had been ongoing since 2017, with a number of statements taken from various persons at different points in time, including the Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin, former Minister of Health (now Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana); Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Mensah, Madam Sherry Ayittey and Dr Alex Segbefia, all former Ministers for Health as well as the first accused”.
In a counter-statement, however, the lawmaker said the AG cannot dictate his (Dr Forson’s) feelings about the criminal charges brought against him.
“I have noted a statement issued by a Deputy Attorney General claiming that by speaking out against the malice and deliberate political persecution inherent in the decision to prosecute me, I am exposing the Attorney General to ‘hate’ and ‘prejudice’”.
“I wish to state that the Attorney General’s office cannot determine my reaction to the sinister plot to needlessly tarnish my reputation and rob me of my liberty simply because I remain implacably opposed to the poor economic policies of this government and in particular the E-Levy”, he noted.
In his view, “It is the Attorney General who is driven by hate, prejudice and demagoguery”, explaining: “He is the one abusing his prosecutorial powers to silence critical political opponents”.
For instance, he noted, “on Paragraph 7 of the AG’s statement issued yesterday, it was claimed that: ‘As stated in the facts of the case filed in court on 22nd December 2011, the cabinet endorsed an executive approval of a joint memorandum submitted to the cabinet by the then Minister for Health and the first accused Cassiel Ato Forson, then Deputy Minister for Finance, for the purchase of 200 ambulances out of a medium-term credit facility of €15,800,000 between Stanbic Bank Ghana Limited and the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Finance’”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Cabinet memo for the purchase of the ambulances was submitted in December 2011. I became a deputy minister on the 2nd of May 2013. How could I have signed a cabinet MEMO in December 2011?”