Court holds video conference hearing of $40,000 fraud case

A Circuit Court in Accra yesterday held the first ever video conference hearing of an alleged US$ 40,000 fraud case involving a Ghanaian and a Norwegian.

Ms. Anita Dustermente, the Norwegian widow, gave an account of her transactions with Christopher Animako, who is said to have defrauded her of the amount.

Mr. Francis Obiri, the presiding judge, sat among state prosecutors and counsel for the accused, while the complainant responded to questions by Charles Wilkox Ofori, an Assistant State Attorney.

Ms. Dustermente said she borrowed the money from a bank and sent it to the accused to service tax on a purported dollar account belonging to her late husband.

“This was a loan I took from the bank which I cannot afford to pay,” she told the prosecutor in her evidence in-chief.

The almost one-and-a-half-hour virtual court hearing was to elicit responses from the complainant as she could not travel to Ghana to testify in open court.

The latest technology, also called telepresence system, installed by the National Technology Agency, made it possible for witnesses and interested parties from different locations across the world to be heard.

The case has been going on since the latter part of 2014, with two witnesses from the Economic and Organised Crime Office and the Financial Intelligence Centre being invited by the prosecutors to testify in open court.

The complainant said her husband worked in Africa for 15 years and died in 2009.

During cross-examination by counsel for the accused, Ms. Dustermente said she dealt with the accused for between six months and a year.

Meanwhile, Mr. Robert Cudjoe, the Director of ICT at the Judicial Service, says similar facilities would be installed in Kumasi, Tamale and Takoradi to facilitate court proceedings.

He said the Accra Centre serves other purposes like training and distance learning.

He said the system was test-run two-weeks before use.

By Malik Sullemana & Mavis Menano  

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