The Court of Appeal yesterday cleared the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, of willfully causing financial loss to the state and set aside his conviction by an Accra Fast Track High Court,.
The court consequently, acquitted and discharged Mr. Tsikata of his conviction in 2008.
Mr. Tsikata immediately after proceedings, expressed his appreciation to God, his family and counsel who stood by him through the challenging moment for justice to be restored.
In the judgement, Justice Dennis Adjei said the High Court acted unreasonably and that its action amounted to a miscarriage of justice.
He said for the judge to vacate his earlier decision to stay court proceedings, pending the final determination of the matter involving International Finance Corporation, IFC, at the Supreme Court which subsequently averred that IFC was amenable to the courts of Ghana and that it could be subpoenaed, the court denied itself evidence that could have proved the innocence or guilt of Mr. Tsikata.
It added that the court erred procedurally for setting June 18, 2008, to hear an application to adduce more evidence, only for the parties to turnout to hear the court deliver judgement on the matter without serving the parties any notice.
On whether or not the court had jurisdiction to hear the appeal, Sir Justice Adjei said it was the right forum since the pardon from the then President John Agyekum Kufour did not wipe the conviction.
Mr. Tsikata, who was jailed for wilfully causing financial loss to the state, filed a suit at the Court of Appeal challenging his sentence.
In his grounds of appeal filed at the Court of Appeal on June 30, 2016, Mr. Tsikata averred that the verdict that led to his imprisonment was unreasonable and was not supported by evidence.
He said the trial judge erred in law in deciding that financial loss had been caused simply because payment of monies had been made by the GNPC.
The trial judge, he said, also erred in law in referring to extraneous matter that was not part of the record in her judgement.
“The trial judge claimed that accused was a member of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government, a matter which had no relevance to the case before her and on which no evidence had been led,” he contended.
It was also Mr. Tsikata’s contention that the judge erred in law in pronouncing judgement when she had previously stated that she was awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court on the question of whether the International Finance Corporation (IFC) was amenable to the jurisdiction of the court of Ghana when the decision of the Supreme Court was to be pronounced on June 25, 2008.
He added that the “trial judge showed manifest bias against him in the conduct of the trial and particularly, in proceeding to deliver judgement on the morning of June, 18, 2008. The June 18 had not been set for judgement in the case and no notice had been served on the accused to that effect”.
He also maintained that the judge erred in law in closing the case for the defence, while there was the pending issue of a witness for the defence being subpoenaed to testify and that the judge erred in law in proceeding with sentencing the appellant after the conviction simply on the basis that no appeal had been filed in the circumstance where counsel for the appellant was not present and the appellant clearly sought to remain on bail till an adjourned date.
Tsatsu Tsikata was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on June 18, 2008 by the Accra Fast Track High Court for causing financial loss to the state through a loan that the GNPC guaranteed for Valley Farms, a private cocoa-growing company.
He was found guilty on three counts of wilfully causing financial loss of GH¢230,000 to the state and another count of misapplying public property.
His trial started in 2002 and travelled back and forth the court ladder until his sentence, which generated a lot of controversy.
Valley Farms contracted the loan from Caisse Francaise de Development in 1991 but defaulted in the payment and the GNPC, which acted as the guarantor, was compelled to pay it in 1996.
Mr Tsatsu Tsikata was unconditionally pardoned by former President J.A. Kufuor on his last day in office but he rejected the pardon and insisted that he would continue to pursue justice in the court of law.
By Edem Mensah-Tsotorme