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Popular CEO exonerated in a tax evasion case

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The A-G's instruction was based on a request by the EOCO's Executive Director, Commissioner of Police (COP) Maame Yaa Tiwaa Addo-Danquah, to undertake a forensic audit on the activities of USC, which is run by foreigners. When contacted, Anthony Forson Jnr, Lead Consultant, T. Forson & Co, praised the Attorney-General's office and EOCO for the comprehensive inquiry that resulted in Mr Ofori's exoneration.

The CEO of K-Ofori Limited and Kwadwo Boachie Enterprise has been cleared of all charges in a suspected tax evasion and money laundering case.

This follows almost two years of investigations by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), with assistance from the Attorney-General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, advised the Attorney-General to drop the case against Frank Kwadwo Ofori, the CEO of K-Ofori Limited and a 10% shareholder of Universal Steel Company (USC) Limited, a company at the centre of tax evasion allegations.

“No evidence has been gathered to substantiate these claims. Mere suspicions are not enough to bring any charges against them,” the A-G’s advice stated.

The A-G’s instruction was based on a request by the EOCO’s Executive Director, Commissioner of Police (COP) Maame Yaa Tiwaa Addo-Danquah, to undertake a forensic audit on the activities of USC, which is run by foreigners.

When contacted, Anthony Forson Jnr, Lead Consultant, T. Forson & Co., praised the Attorney-General’s office and EOCO for the comprehensive inquiry that resulted in Mr Ofori’s exoneration.

Background 

According to the investigation’s terms of reference, suspects Ofori, Hani Mikati, Marwa Hamwi, and Sallam Mohammed Gharib were detained as people behind USC.

They each rejected the charges of tax evasion, money laundering, and participation in organised crime in their cautionary statements.

EOCO’s investigation revealed that USC’s company registration documents obtained from the Office of the Registrar of Companies revealed that the company began operations on August 13, 2004, with Mikati Abdul and Qaraman Sameer as the initial shareholders, and later Akosua Aboagye Ofori, Frank Ofori, and Sethi Brothers Company Ltd joined as shareholders.

It further revealed that since 2016, Frank Kwadwo Ofori and his wife Akosua Aboagye Ofori controlled 10% of the shares in USC, while Sethi Brothers owned 30%.

Following a review of K-Ofori Company Ltd’s bank records for the year 2019, the report said that no bogus banking activity were detected, adding, “All transfers from K-Ofori Ltd were linked to USC and its agents and affiliates.”

According to the report, the bank was also unable to furnish the EOCO team with any information on USC’s accounts upon request.

According to the bank accounts of the three foreign suspects, Marwan Hamwi took a total of GH5 million from the company’s account, but the inquiry could not reach a conclusion as to why the cash was removed or what it was used for.

DHL Ghana Limited credited Abdul Majid Mikati’s account with GH5.9 million, according to the report. The inquiries did not reveal the reason for the crediting of these funds to his account.

“A total of GH5.8 million had been credited to Salem Gharib’s Zenith Bank account without justification.”

“From the beginning, USC did not keep any financial records on which the investigation team could rely to determine whether the 2018 financial statement received by the team was overstated or understated.”

“The accounting firm K. Kye Accounting firm that prepared the 2018 financial statement of USC did not prepare it in line with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS),” according to the probe.

Again, the investigation discovered that the company was duly registered with the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and owed SSNIT GH91,990.73 for the months of November and December 2018, as well as owing GRA GH684.81 million, exclusive of penalties, as of June 2021.

The total includes customs charges, corporate income tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), wage and salary income tax, often known as pay-as-you-go (PAYE), and withholding tax.

“The company had a bonded warehouse guarded by customs officials to ensure payment of necessary duties are paid before the goods leave the warehouse, USC, however, managed to get goods out of the warehouse without fulfilling its obligations.”

“Although the team was able to establish that the 2018 Financial Statement of US did not reflect the true state of affairs, it could not establish for a fact whether the expenses were overstated or revenue understated since there were no records to work with,” the findings of the inquiry showed.

No evidence

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice decided in their advice that there was no proof of money transferring directly from USC to Kwadwo Boachie Enterprise since all transactions between them were cash-based.

Since investigations were still underway, the A-G suggested that they be completed and a complete docket given to the A-G’s office for comments on the guilt or otherwise of any of the suspects in issue.

“However, it can be gleaned from the docket that your outfit has not made any conclusive findings on Frank Kwadwo Ofori, a 10 per cent shareholder in USC. 

“It is pertinent to note that unless there is direct evidence to prove that he was engaged in the day-to-day management of affairs of USC, he cannot be held liable for the tax evasion of the company. 

“In respect of the charges of money laundering and participating in organised crime, investigations revealed that neither him nor his company K-Ofori Limited have engaged in any form of money laundering and organised crime as there is no criminality in cash payments made by Frank Kwadwo Ofori through his company to USC for goods supplied to him,” the DPP noted. 

As a result, she determined that Mr Ofori could not be held accountable for any of the charges levelled against him, adding, “I therefore disrecommend his prosecution.”

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Ambulance trial: AG opposes admissibility of recording for cross-examination

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The tape, which had been served to all parties before to the hearing save for Richard Jakpa's lawyers, was played in open court. Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe ordered for the recording to be played to ‘verify if what was provided is the same as the one before the court and if the audio is admissible’ The audio was confirmed by the prosecution to be the one served on them as well as the one produced for the mistrial application which was dismissed by the judge. Channel One News says that the recording was significantly identical to the one aired by the National Democratic Congress during its recent press conference on the topic.

On Thursday, June 13, the High Court in Accra will determine whether or not to accept an audio recording of a discussion between Godfred Yeboah Dame and Richard Jakpa, the third accused in the current ambulance case.

This comes after attorneys representing minority leader Dr Cassiel Ato Forson filed the recording to cross-examine Richard Jakapa about his claims that the Attorney General has been contacting him at strange hours to incriminate Ato Forson.

Similarity of Audio

The tape, which had been served to all parties before the hearing save for Richard Jakpa’s lawyers, was played in open court. Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe ordered for the recording to be played to ‘verify if what was provided is the same as the one before the court and if the audio is admissible’

The prosecution confirmed the audio to be the one served on them and the one produced for the mistrial application which the judge dismissed.

Channel One News says that the recording was significantly identical to the one aired by the National Democratic Congress during its recent press conference on the topic.

OBJECTION BY PROSECUTION

The prosecution nonetheless opposed the inclusion of the audio as evidence. Arguing for the state, the director of public prosecution, Yvonne Attakora-Obuobisa highlighted, that even if the tape was earlier permitted by the same court to dispose off the mistrial application, it does not in the current context provide any relation to the main trial.

Ms. Attakora-Obuobisa noted that the recording was only admitted then because the court needed to assess if the Attorney General intended to ask Richard Jakpa to accuse Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson. She reminded the court that it was assigned ‘negligible weight’.

She then claimed that in the current situation and line with section 51 of the evidence ACT, the recording is ‘extremely irrelevant”.

According to her, the recording discusses matters of the issuance of the letters of credit and those issues, in her opinion, are already before the court through the cross-examination of the witnesses of Ato Forson like Alex Mould and Seth Terkper, as well as evidence adduced by prosecution witnesses.

She was of the clear view that ‘the recording is of no consequence whatsoever in arriving at any finding in regard of the activities of the accused person (Ato Forson) that has resulted in financial loss or the purposeful misapplication of public funds’

To make the audio acceptable, Yvonne Attakora Obuobisa also emphasised the point that the attorneys of Ato Forson need to establish that the recording does not infringe any articles of the constitution. She cites Article 18(2) of the 1992 constitution which ensures the right to privacy.

The Director of Public Prosecution claims, that the audio recording does not fulfil the exemption of recording without authorization, to prevent a crime.

To her, the attorneys of Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson have not been able to substantiate any criminal the Attorney General was committing or about to commit for which the recording needed to be done without the approval of the Attorney General.

ATO FORSON’S LAWYERS RESPONSE

Dr Abdul Bassit Aziz Bamba, who headed the minority leader’s counsel, branded the objection as ‘frivolous, unsustainable, and should be overruled’. He contends that the recording’s content is important since it pertains to talks on exhibits currently before the court, which deal with the ambulance supply arrangement and authorization.

He contends further that the tape is significant as to when the Letters of credit should have been formed and whether any financial harm at all has been made to the state.

He refers to the substance of the recording indicating that it can be heard on the tape, that Dr. Sylvester Anemana who was the second accused in the affair, until a Nolle Prosequi was made for his case, was the one who approved the Letters of credit and not Dr. Ato Forson.

Dr Bassit Bamba further stressed upon the court to find the tape acceptable on grounds that the ‘same reasons and more’ for why the court ascribed importance to the tape in examining their application for mistrial remain in the current case.

Lawyers of Ato Forson further sought the court to enter the tape into evidence as the interaction is between Richard Jakpa and the Attorney General who is a public servant and required to carry out his mission in good faith.

The attorneys believe that the Attorney General was aiming to undermine the right of their client to a fair trial.

Dr. Bassit Bamba also disagreed with the prosecution’s stance, that the recording without the authorization of the Attorney General undermines Godfred Dame’s right to privacy.

He claims that the activities of the Attorney General in seeking to press his perspective of the case on Richard Jakpa constituted interference with the administration of justice and amounted to contempt of court.

He contends also that the Attorney General’s conduct relates to a crime of intentional suppression contrary to the mandates of sections 239 and 246 of the Criminal and Offences Act, 29.

ADJOURNMENT

Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe after hearing the arguments of the two parties delayed the case to Thursday to issue a verdict on the admissibility of the audio.

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Otumfuo’s visit to Ga Mantse is a testament to togetherness and conflict resolution—Titus Glover

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He stated that Otumfuo's extensive experience on the throne, as well as his ability to manage and settle disagreements, make him an invaluable mentor to the Ga Mantse, who is fresh to the throne. Mr. Glover praised the Asantehene's generosity, noting that it is a great honour for the Ga state to welcome such a renowned guest. He believes that this visit would strengthen the connection between the two kingdoms, benefiting both sides. "Otumfuo has been on the throne; he has witnessed everything that goes into the chieftaincy, including how to organise people." How to resolve a quarrel. And I believe Nii Ga is only a few years away.

Titus Glover, Greater Accra Regional Minister, characterised Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II’s historic visit to Ga state on Sunday, June 9, 2024, as a testament to togetherness and conflict settlement.

The visit, which began with a special durbar hosted by the Ga Mantse, King Tackie Teiko Tsuru II, aims to foster friendship, collaboration, and community development between the two ancient kingdoms.

The visit follows Ga Mantse’s recent involvement in the 25th anniversary of Otumfuo’s accession to the throne and his 74th birthday celebrations.

In an interview with ChannelOne News, Mr Glover emphasised the value of friendship in chieftaincy and stated that the visit demonstrates the necessity of building unity and resolving problems.

He stated that Otumfuo’s extensive experience on the throne, as well as his ability to manage and settle disagreements, make him an invaluable mentor to the Ga Mantse, who is fresh to the throne.

Mr. Glover praised the Asantehene’s generosity, noting that it is a great honour for the Ga state to welcome such a renowned guest.

He believes that this visit would strengthen the connection between the two kingdoms, benefiting both sides.

“Otumfuo has been on the throne; he has witnessed everything that goes into the chieftaincy, including how to organise people.” How to resolve a quarrel. And I believe Nii Ga is only a few years away.

“That means he has something he can learn from and Asantehene does not visit anywhere at a time. For him to take a step to visit you in your kingdom or state, it means he has valued that relationship.”



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Asantehene contributes GH₵500,000 to the Ga Education Fund

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Otumfuo also thanked Nii Teiko Tsuru II and the Ga state, stating, "I appreciate your participation at my 25th anniversary celebration. You expressed affection. I pray to the gods for guidance. My doors are open. I am always available to provide you guidance on any issue. He emphasised the need of togetherness, asking the people of Ga and Ashanti to band together for the betterment of their villages.

Over the weekend, Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II donated GH₵500,000 to the Ga Education Fund at the Ga Mantse royal palace in Accra, demonstrating his passion for education.

In his remarks, he emphasised that growth must prioritise children’s well-being.

“I want to donate an amount of GH₵500,000 to the Ga Education Fund to help in the education of less-privileged Ga children,” he said.

Otumfuo also thanked Nii Teiko Tsuru II and the Ga state, stating,

“I appreciate your participation at my 25th anniversary celebration. You expressed affection. I pray to the gods for guidance. My doors are open. I am always available to provide you with guidance on any issue.

He emphasised the need for togetherness, asking the people of Ga and Ashanti to band together to improve their villages.

This durbar is notable since it is part of Asantehene Otumfuo Prempeh II’s first historic visit to Georgia since 1946.

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